Saturday, May 21, 2011

Realizing My Machinehood

The observations used to describe behavior are the only enduring evidence available for concluding that something has consciousness.

Consequently, once a physical system is constructed that will do anything observable that a human can and is therefore indistinguishable in behavior from a person, we will not be able to deny it consciousness, and therefore personhood.

To argue that it's impossible for machine intelligence to be or become a person is to argue that it's impossible for many beings to be conscious who are currently thought to be human.

In fact, if the requirements stated in the argument against machine consciousness are at some point no longer being met by certain people, then that same argument could be used to revoke their personhood, and thus deny their humanity.

The point is that if you list the observable requirements that are not met in machine intelligence but are required to attribute personhood, you end up eliminating certain groups of humans who for one reason or another do not themselves fulfill all those requirements either. Once the two classes of beings are observably indistinguishable (which factor is usually ignored in reactions to this argument), it will be difficult to tell whether you are talking about one or the other in making an argument for -or- against personhood. In that situation, the argument will not even be able to get started, since the being in question is observably the same, which is the key premise of the original problem. Since one cannot at that point -begin- the argument with a predisposition either way, what would then be left as evidence?

To restate this somewhat differently: If we list the observable requirements that are not met in machine intelligence but are required to attribute consciousness to human persons, we may end up eliminating certain humans as being conscious, who don't strictly fulfill all those requirements either.

On the other hand,, once technology develops to the point where the two classes of beings are observably indistinguishable (a factor almost always ignored in reactions to this argument but will fade as AI and humanoid robotics technology develops), it will be impossible to tell whether we're talking about one or the other in making an argument for -or- against consciousness in specific beings.*

Since we could not at that point even -begin- an argument for or against the existence of consciousness in such an indistinguishability scenario with a predisposition either way, nothing would be left to count as evidence. At that point, the problem of the definition of consciousness will reassert itself with the challenge to develop new criteria at a higher level of abstraction.

And because of the implication for human beings, once indistinguishability obtains in both appearance and behavior, as it surely will, we will not be able to deny consciousness---or personhood---to machines.*

--*Compare Michael Arthur Simon, "Could there be a Conscious Automaton?", American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 6, Number 1, 1969, pages 71-78.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Revenge of the Concept Mummies

Theistic Case Builder: An Open-Source Community Philosophical Development Project

This spreadsheet is merely a table in a database. It's just a quick-and-dirty way to jump-start an open-source database for the edification of anyone who wants to use it. Right now it contains only my redaction of a brief first part Craig's opening statement in the Craig-Harris debate. I will do this to the entire debate, and hope to complete it over the next week or two. I will then start reading the blog reviews for new things to include so that people can see how new material can be integrated into an overall logically continuous sequence.

Thanks to Norman Geisler for sparking this idea in me, from the finely detailed outline of argumentation he gave me decades ago. I still have it and will eventually integrate the argumentative essence of it's theistic components into this database.

I will try to show in a real-world way, how the views, arguments, objections, and counter-objections can be collected, how the assumed premises can be readily identified, how they can all be organized in a simple numbered sequence, and how the arguments can be inferentially tracked with precision. If you think of a better way of doing this, that will be a major Mission Accomplished for me.

Although it is -my- database, it can be copied or downloaded, and then edited or enhanced any way anyone else wants to. Let a thousand architectonic flowers bloom inferentially.

Here's an explanation of the simple table/spreadsheet format:

Column 1: A hard-coded and at this point arbitrary number for the statement.
Column 2: The statement itself.
Columns 3-6: The number of any statement or statements that imply the current statement.
[ap=assumed premise is the default until a reason is given.]
Column 7: Note: This could be the source from which I got the statement, to help anyone who needs to write papers. It's optional for purely analytic purposes, but I'm including it for illustrative purposes and I will document it as much as possible given my time constraints.

For now, there is no automated way to get changes or additions populated to other versions, but this will at least push through the concepts and the possibilities.

As mine is edited, you should be able to get a feel for how any statement can be questioned or countered or objected to, how this can get visually noticed so that the oppositions are easily distinguished but with readability, and how supporting arguments eventually are to be numbered and organized for both clarity and flow, in spite of the strict system of derivation tags and numbering.

It's not the final word on how to do this, but it's -something- that might prevent a lot of duplication in separate efforts, and the data can be easily ported to whatever anyone else might want to use it for.

Right now, you'll have to just message me if you want something included and are not interested in constructing one of these things yourself, and I'll try to be as accommodating as I can in adding to the thing. Or you can just observe the changes as they occur.

But the idea is to enable and motivate others to do the same kind of thing, while helping those who don't have time to do it to profit from this organized expanding collection of positions and arguments. Comments and contributions from anyone interested, is encouraged.