Monday, October 31, 2005

Feedback To Nova Origins

Feedback To Nova Origins

2005.09.06.Tuesday - Thoughts after watching Nova Origins

One thing to consider when thinking about; life, consciousness, and intelligence is to consider emergent properties of complex systems.

My observation is that it may turn out to be the case that all 'sufficiently complex' systems will 'self organize' (or exhibit emergent behaviors) that in turn cause to come into existence self replicating systems, like the carbon based life we find. Then given such a sufficiently complex 'life-like' system consciousness will arise (or emerge) and with it intelligence.

I think it could very well be the case that we will find 'first-contact' with alien life/consciousness/intelligence in a completely different venue than the carbon based double helix type life we find here on earth.

I think that it may be the case that all sufficiently complex systems that have some sort of 'feedback-system' will exhibit self organization and that self organization will eventually lead to consciousness and then to intelligence.

If this is so then our challenge then becomes to just look in the right places with the right filter to find it.

It may even be the case that we wind up 'inventing' the first contact in our quest to create Artificial Intelligence.

The point here is that just restricting ourselves to carbon based DNA based life may be way too selective. The universe may be teaming with alternate forms of life, consciousness, and intelligence.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Debating Intelligent Design

Debating Intelligent Design
(Mail To The New Yorker 7/25/05)

While modern proponents of intelligent design tout it as a new scientific theory, it is in fact a very old idea, dating back at least to William Paley, who argued, in 1802, that complex biological structures such as the vertebrate eye are no more likely to have originated in the absence of a designer than a pocket watch is likely to originate in the absence of a watchmaker ("Devolution," by H. Allen Orr, May 30th). Yet, throughout its long history, I.D. has failed to be adopted by the vast majority of working scientists because it does nothing to advance scientific understanding. To hypothesize that some biochemical pathway is "irreducibly complex," and thus intelligently designed, as the biochemist Michael Behe does, adds nothing to our understanding of that pathway. The revolution in molecular biology, for example, would not have occurred if scientists, beginning in the nineteen-fifties, had simply hypothesized that cells or genes were irreducibly complex. Despite protests to the contrary, modern I.D. theory is not a scientific movement but a front for a religion-political movement whose primary goal is the replacement of science as currently practiced with a research program based on Judeo-Christian values. Proponents of this movement know that they cannot achieve this revolution from within the scientific community. Instead, their aim is to manipulate public opinion and exploit the political process, with potentially devastating consequences for how science is practiced, taught, and funded in this country.

Donald H. Freener, Jr.
Salt Lake City, Utah

Hitting The Nail On The Head

The above letter to The New Yorker can be properly characterized as "Hitting The Nail On The Head". In this BLOG I have talked about things that could be characterized as "irreducibly complex" but they do NOT encompass anything to do with biology. Instead they encompass limitations of logical systems that are invented by the human mind. When I was a sophomore in college Mr. Thomas McCall taught me that the Christian concept of "Original Sin" could be related to the Greek idea of "Hubris" which was "The Sin of Pride". To the extent that humans think that they somehow enjoy a more privileged place in the universe than, say for example, a tree, or a dog, or a bacterium or alga then we suffer from Hubris. Because we do NOT enjoy a more privileged place in the universe than these things is why parts of the universe appear "irreducibly complex" to us. And such complexity does in fact even include things like Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem and emergent properties of complex systems since these are things that the human mind has
perceived and or invented about the universe. We are part of the system we are not some how disjoint or distinct from it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Future Of Digital Content

The Future Of Digital Content

The US Court ruling that file sharing software providers can be held accountable if they enable people to exchange copyrighted information without paying for it is not surprising.

I think this is another step along the way to how people will eventually consume digital content.

Eventually (within the next few years) digital media whether it be audio, video, text, software or whatever will be encapsulated into "Rights Management Blobs".

Eventually (this will take longer) these "Blobs" will be expanded to encompass everything that is sent around the net; Email, Web Pages, every packet.

Once you have one of these "Blobs" you can do with it as you please up to the rights associated with the blob.

Here is a set of rights that I can see that may work:

[0] Unsigned - This is the content that is typically associated with electronic content today. Who knows where it came from or who created it.

[1] Unrestricted - The Blob basically only has a signature that indicates where it came from and perhaps a trail of signatures that indicates where it came from most recently. You do not have to authenticate yourself to consume the content of the Blob.

[2] Sold - The Blob is 'keyed' to a unique individual or entity. When the Blob is to be 'consumed' then an authentication event must take place by the individual or entity that is 'keyed' to this Blob.

[3] On Loan - Works just like 'Sold' except that the Blob will 'decay over time' where 'time' may be calendar time or number of uses.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Some More About: Life, The Universe and Everything

Some More About: Life, The Universe and Everything --- An excerpt from an email to Philip And Michael

Zach's Web Log

What with the ID (Intelligent Design) folks in Kansas carrying on and the folks in Afghanistan upset about someone in Guantanamo Bay flushing a copy of the Koran and others what we need is a new look at religion.

I've been thinking about this and here is where I am so far.

I recently purchased a copy of "The Question of God" a PBS DVD of a program of the same name (an absolutely fantastic program that should be required viewing by anyone who has a brain and thinks about religion, here is a link).

Also, I am currently reading a popular physics book by Noble prize winning physicists (Robert B. Laughlin) who did his work in quantum physics . The book talks about emergent properties of complex systems. This idea is basically the carry on self organizing systems which come from chaos theory which is rooted in nonlinear dynamical systems.

To make a long story short emergent properties/behaviors of complex non linear dynamical systems are being talked about more and more formally.

The bottom line here is that sufficiently complex systems exhibit behaviors that can not be explained from first principals or reductionism. What is coming out of all this is that this (emergence) is just how the universe and reality work.

It can be proved that reductionism fails to scale up to what we see around us. One way to put this is to repeat that the old saying "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." and to say that all this is being studied in a more formal way by the scientific community.

All this can be thought of as less of a proof of the existence of the Almighty and more of an absolute proof of the limitations of human intelligence (and for that matter any intelligence that one can think about in any formal way, as opposed to an informal, imaginative or faith based way).

The idea that humans are not at the top of the intelligence chain is a very old idea it goes back to the Greeks and the meaning of the word hubris. This word means pride or belief that you are better than the stuff around you. It is even interpreted by some religious scholars as the being equivalent to the concept of "Original Sin".

Another way to put all this is to say that science is starting to formally put man in his place in the universe and to show that the universe really is much more complex that we can possibly imagine. This is because we are part of it (the universe) and you can show in a formal way that no sufficiently complex system can ever understand itself. This last bit comes from Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem which is a mathematical result.

Because there is a fundamental disconnect between folks who do not understand the difference between faith based philosophies and scientifically based philosophies we still have a long long way to go.

I feel very strongly that these sorts of ideas are in no way whatsoever damaging to faith based philosophies what they do instead is to throw into sharp relief the fact that faith based and scientifically based philosophies are different.

To say that science explains the faith based philosophies is not correct. It is better to say that science talks about such things. Scientific inquiry can suffer just as much as non scientific inquiry from "The Sin of Hubris". I am ok with saying that faith based philosophies are an emergent behavior of human intelligence and they (these emergent behaviors) are unavoidable. The human mind is somehow hardwired demand an explanation of its surroundings.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The 2005 Edition of "The Tour de Pickle"

The 2005 Edition of "The Tour de Pickle"

Here is the web page that I created from some pictures and childhood memories of bicycle ride around my home town. Enjoy.

2005 The World Year of Physics

2005 The World Year of Physics

2005 is the World Year of Physics and I had an opportunity to hear Brian Green speak at a Smithsonian Institution Lecture: