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Author: sofaking6 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 377  
Subject: Mind as machine Date: 8/10/2005 12:07 PM
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There's a lot of referring to the brain as a "formal system" going on at the Troll Board.

I don't see how the brain is a formal system at all. It make its own rules as it goes along. It's a biological entity which is never the same from one instant to the next. Can that jibe with the definition of a "formal system"?

6
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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 327 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/16/2005 6:00 PM
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There's a lot of referring to the brain as a "formal system" going on at the Troll Board.

I don't see how the brain is a formal system at all. It make its own rules as it goes along. It's a biological entity which is never the same from one instant to the next. Can that jibe with the definition of a "formal system"?


Don't make the mistake of confusing the "process of thinking" with the underlying laws defining the way this process happens. It's sort of like confusing letters on a page with the story that is told in a book. All books written in English are made with the same set of less than 100 characters (upper and lower case letters, and some number of standard punctuation marks). But you couldn't claim to know what, say, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is just because you know the precise distribution and location of all the letters in the book.

What we see as thinking is pattern recognition on our part. But what goes on inside the brain is a bunch of neurons firing electrical impulses and bumping into each other and so forth. Individually, the neurons have patterns of behavior that might be very easy to decode. Like "If you get hit by this signal but not these other two signals, then fire; otherwise do not fire." These patterns of action may be very basic, and yet they are strongly influenced by input from the outside world (via your five senses) and they can change over time because past experiences get imprinted in your long term memory. But the neurons are still just doing their thing based on the memory, the inputs, and the basic instructions about what they are supposed to do with them.

Douglas Hofstadter has a great essay in the form of a dialogue, which I recommend highly. Next time you're at a bookstore or library, pick up either "Godel, Escher, Bach" or "The Mind's I". Search the contents for an essay called "Ant Fugue" and then just take some time to read the whole thing.

In the essay Hofstadter pretends that an ant colony is an intelligent being. Not the individual ants, mind you, but the entire colony as a whole. An anteater who is a friend of the colony explains the nature of his relationship. He said "When I come over, all the little ants scurry around in a panic thinking I'm going to eat them. What they don't know is that they are forming patterns that communicate the idea, 'Oh, welcome back Mr. Anteater! Please help yourself to the tastiest ants!'" The other characters ask why the ant colony would want to kill itself, and the anteater says "I'm not destroying the colony. It's maintenance. Like getting your hair cut or trimming your nails."

The colony as a whole "thinks" and "communicates", but the ants that make up the colony aren't doing the thinking. They are engaging in ant-like behavior that just happens to have a larger pattern to it.


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Author: going2win Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 328 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/16/2005 6:04 PM
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Douglas Hofstadter has a great essay in the form of a dialogue, which I recommend highly. Next time you're at a bookstore or library, pick up either "Godel, Escher, Bach" or "The Mind's I". Search the contents for an essay called "Ant Fugue" and then just take some time to read the whole thing.

Thanks for the suggestion; it's time to get out the old GEB and see if it makes any more sense now than it did when I first tried to read it. :O)

g2w



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Author: feedmeNOWhuman Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 329 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/18/2005 4:43 PM
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When I was a kid, I remember chomping on something in my mouth that tasted kind of sweet and sour at the same time. I finally pulled it out with my finger, and it was an ant.

He could have used a lot of maintenance at that point.

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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 330 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/22/2005 12:29 AM
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When I was a kid, I remember chomping on something in my mouth that tasted kind of sweet and sour at the same time. I finally pulled it out with my finger, and it was an ant.

He could have used a lot of maintenance at that point.


once read about a guy who said he made a sandwich by spreading a bit on butter
on a slice of bread and leaving it out till the it was covered by Ants stuck in the
butter.


-
...... only slightly tempted to try someday

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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 331 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/22/2005 3:16 AM
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There's a lot of referring to the brain as a "formal system" going on at the Troll Board.

I don't see how the brain is a formal system at all. It make its own rules as it goes along. It's a biological entity which is never the same from one instant to the next. Can that jibe with the definition of a "formal system"?


doesn't entirely make sense to me either.....

here's a def. from Wiki

1) A finite set of symbols which can be used for constructing formulae.
2) A grammar, i.e. a way of constructing well-formed formulae out of the symbols, such that is possible to find a decision procedure for deciding whether a formula is a well-formed formula (wff) or not.
3) A set of axioms or axiom schemata: each axiom has to be a wff.
4) A set of inference rules.
5) A set of theorems. This set includes all the axioms, plus all wffs which can be derived from previously-derived theorems by means of rules of inference. Unlike the grammar for wffs, there is no guarantee that there will be a decision procedure for deciding whether a given wff is a theorem or not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_system

IF the brain is a Formal System, what are the symbols? What are the WFFs? What are the Rules?

ONE way to maybe look at it ....
the symbols (the alphabet) are the possible states of a neuron (firing, not-firing, ???)
the WFFs are any Possible set of states of all the neurons
the Rules are all the various things of the form, "if neuron X is in state A and recieves
input J, it will change to state B"


-

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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 332 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/22/2005 2:17 PM
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IF the brain is a Formal System, what are the symbols?

A, T, C, G.

Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine.

Everything that we are, which a slug is not, is a result of the way those chemicals are combined differently in us than in the slug.

What are the WFFs? What are the Rules?

The laws of chemistry.


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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 333 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/22/2005 2:39 PM
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IF the brain is a Formal System, what are the symbols?

A, T, C, G.

Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine.

Everything that we are, which a slug is not, is a result of the way those chemicals are combined differently in us than in the slug.

What are the WFFs? What are the Rules?

The laws of chemistry.


maybe that answers 6's question ....

then analogously, a digital computer is a FormalSystem because it's transistors and follows
the laws of physics?

using the same symbols and laws of chemistry, we also have the Formal Systems of
trees and Slugs and piñatas?


=
...... not convinced, but not sure why it matters

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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 334 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 8/22/2005 10:48 PM
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IF the brain is a Formal System, what are the symbols?

A, T, C, G.

Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine.

Everything that we are, which a slug is not, is a result of the way those chemicals are combined differently in us than in the slug.

What are the WFFs? What are the Rules?

The laws of chemistry.


Kazim,

I think that is just wrong. Everything that we are (at the DNA level), which a slug is not, is a result of nucleic acids and mutation and selection, if you want to speak from the standpoint of genetics. But if you wish to say that WFFs are A,T,C, and G, why stop there? WFFs are the laws of C,O,N,H,S, or going a little further, the laws of particle physics. It becomes absurd. It's like saying your mind was planned at the Big Bang.

The mind's development and activity is not only determined by DNA sequences. It is also determined by experience/environment. A child that learns violin by the Suzuki method is exposed to music daily at a young age in an environment where the parents are active participants. That 5 year old child has a better chance of becoming a decent violinist than the one who is forced by his parents to practice violin beginning at the age of 12. A monkey stuck alone in a cage without parents from birth has no social skills. Lorenz's geese followed his boots in place of their mother. A kitten that is put in an environment where it is exposed only to vertical stripes has a brain that barely responds to horizontal stripes when it is developed. Chinese speak Chinese. Most Mainers speak English.

The mind's rules (WFF if you want to stick to that, but AFAIK they aren't allowed to change in a formal system) for responding to the next stimulus are in constant flux. Neuronal connections come and go according to what some call neural Darwinism. Some synapses are strengthened short-term or long-term, depending on experience.

Whether I live in China or in Maine has as much to do with the "rules" of my mind as nucleic acids.

I don't think you need to invoke anything like dualism. But materialism doesn't lead necessarily to mind as a formal system.

Bob

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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 335 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/2/2005 10:13 PM
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Kazim: IF the brain is a Formal System, what are the symbols?

A, T, C, G.

Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine.

Everything that we are, which a slug is not, is a result of the way those chemicals are combined differently in us than in the slug.

What are the WFFs? What are the Rules?

The laws of chemistry.


---------------------------------------

Zim14 Kazim,

I think that is just wrong. Everything that we are (at the DNA level), which a slug is not, is a result of nucleic acids and mutation and selection, if you want to speak from the standpoint of genetics. But if you wish to say that WFFs are A,T,C, and G, why stop there? WFFs are the laws of C,O,N,H,S, or going a little further, the laws of particle physics. It becomes absurd. It's like saying your mind was planned at the Big Bang.

The mind's development and activity is not only determined by DNA sequences. It is also determined by experience/environment. A child that learns violin by the Suzuki method is exposed to music daily at a young age in an environment where the parents are active participants. That 5 year old child has a better chance of becoming a decent violinist than the one who is forced by his parents to practice violin beginning at the age of 12. A monkey stuck alone in a cage without parents from birth has no social skills. Lorenz's geese followed his boots in place of their mother. A kitten that is put in an environment where it is exposed only to vertical stripes has a brain that barely responds to horizontal stripes when it is developed. Chinese speak Chinese. Most Mainers speak English.

The mind's rules (WFF if you want to stick to that, but AFAIK they aren't allowed to change in a formal system) for responding to the next stimulus are in constant flux. Neuronal connections come and go according to what some call neural Darwinism. Some synapses are strengthened short-term or long-term, depending on experience.

Whether I live in China or in Maine has as much to do with the "rules" of my mind as nucleic acids.

I don't think you need to invoke anything like dualism. But materialism doesn't lead necessarily to mind as a formal system.

Bob


Kazim's attempt to limit the mind's alleged formal system to DNA sequences might be shortsighted, but to conclude that materialism itself can't cut the mustard doesn't naturally follow.

It is also determined by experience/environment.

These are also materialistic determinations. What is experience/environment in its basic manifestation if not the materialistic activities of the mind?

When I say "mind" I am referring to the functions that are regularly attributed to the mind, even though they don't all happen in the brain. Emotions, experience, and memory occur throughout the body. All are mechanizations that occur within the realm of materialism.

It's like saying your mind was planned at the Big Bang.

Just as every document produced by Microsoft Word were determined by the program that wrote it, so, also, were all products of the mind determined by the materialistic mechanisms of the mind.

Input may be diverse, but processing is done in the same way across the medium. Individual experience may create individuals, but all process sensory input in the same way.

k














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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 336 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/3/2005 11:17 AM
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I forgot about this discussion. Meant to respond a long time ago.

The mind's development and activity is not only determined by DNA sequences. It is also determined by experience/environment. A child that learns violin by the Suzuki method is exposed to music daily at a young age in an environment where the parents are active participants. That 5 year old child has a better chance of becoming a decent violinist than the one who is forced by his parents to practice violin beginning at the age of 12. A monkey stuck alone in a cage without parents from birth has no social skills. Lorenz's geese followed his boots in place of their mother. A kitten that is put in an environment where it is exposed only to vertical stripes has a brain that barely responds to horizontal stripes when it is developed. Chinese speak Chinese. Most Mainers speak English.

The mind's rules (WFF if you want to stick to that, but AFAIK they aren't allowed to change in a formal system) for responding to the next stimulus are in constant flux. Neuronal connections come and go according to what some call neural Darwinism. Some synapses are strengthened short-term or long-term, depending on experience.

Whether I live in China or in Maine has as much to do with the "rules" of my mind as nucleic acids.

I don't think you need to invoke anything like dualism. But materialism doesn't lead necessarily to mind as a formal system.


But computers do that too. They have input devices for bringing in external stimuli, and they have a variety of storage media (such as flash memory, RAM, and hard drives) for "remembering" the various things that have "happened" to them during their "lives." The information comes in as a stream of bits, but what the computer does with that stream depends on how it was programmed to begin with.

There are complicated programs that can "learn" over time and change their rules based on what's in that storage.

So you're saying that humans are not entirely determined by their DNA, but also get information from outside. That's absolutely true, but it doesn't make them different from a computer.

Proof that the DNA matters: if you teach a human child and a bonobo child how to play the violin using the Suzuki method, one will probably learn to play the violin and the other definitely will not. Guess why.

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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 337 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/6/2005 1:24 PM
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Me

I don't think you need to invoke anything like dualism. But materialism doesn't lead necessarily to mind as a formal system.


"k"halou ;-)

Kazim's attempt to limit the mind's alleged formal system to DNA sequences might be shortsighted, but to conclude that materialism itself can't cut the mustard doesn't naturally follow.

Agreed. That isn't my argument. What I said was that denying dualism does not the mind a formal system make.

Kazim

So you're saying that humans are not entirely determined by their DNA, but also get information from outside. That's absolutely true, but it doesn't make them different from a computer.

Correct, but it does, IMO, create problems for any notion that the mind is a formal system.

Proof that the DNA matters: if you teach a human child and a bonobo child how to play the violin using the Suzuki method, one will probably learn to play the violin and the other definitely will not. Guess why.

Dude. You think I don't count DNA into the equation of what makes us human? Of course. On the other hand, a stem cell, which contains a full complement of DNA, is most definitely not a human. Is a stem cell conscious? I doubt it, but you'd have to ask a stem cell. ;-)

I think there are a few questions being addressed here.

1. This thread is an extension of Kazim's AF thread where he says that he is a formal system, and that he cannot know the true-false value of his Godel statement. Question 1 is: is a human individual (and I think we're talking about the mind/consciousness) a formal system?

I think not. My (simplistic) understanding of a formal system is that it is composed of marks or symbols (i.e. 1's and 0's, + and -, a,b,c,d), axioms that are given and not proven, rules of inference that draw true conclusions from axioms and true premisses, theorems that are obtained through inference (conclusions). AFAIK, if you change the rules of a formal system, then you have a new formal system.

Godel's Theorem states that a formal system cannot be both complete and consistent. In order to use GT to "prove" that the mind is not a formal system, one would have to argue the opposite -- that the set of beliefs occupying a human mind CAN be both complete and consistent. I regard this as an extraordinary claim. To have beliefs that are "complete" would require that you have knowledge of everything that is true. And as for consistency, I doubt there is a single person in the world who is fully consistent in everything. Everyone who is honest has experienced that moment of cognitive dissonance in their life, saying "Hey wait a minute, if that's true then what I thought can't be right..."

I'm not sure, but I suspect that there is a fallacy of ambiguity going on here. I think that when a formal system is *consistent*, for example, it is a fixed system that given the same question, will always give the same answer. The mind, consciousness, on the other hand is a state of matter and energy, and, provided you take a deterministic view, it is precisely for this reason that the the mind is consistent. Given the same initial conditions, the minds answer to a question posed twice will remain *consistent*. The mind is inconsistent because its substance is never in the same state twice.

2. Can humans/brains be characterized as machines?

To the extent that humans, brains and machines are composed of matter and energy, yes, of course. A glass of water can also be characterized as a machine or computer that calculates whether the ambient temperature is above or below 0 Celcius.

3. Is the mind a machine?

I think the mind can be characterized as the instantaneous configuration of the matter and energy in the brain (or computer for that matter). Give a dose of phenobarbital to a brain, and awareness temporarily ceases. Ablate the reticular activating system, which keeps us alert, and you have a mere clump of cells. Yes, ATCG, and the laws of physics are still present, but the mind is not. Turn off your computer, and it stops "thinking". Human brains, however, are millions of miles ahead of AI. AFAIK, a computer scientist could pretty much map out on paper any "thought" of a computer. I believe that even if you could write out on paper a full description of the state of every electron, proton, and neutron in my brain at an instant in time, you could not then read everything on that paper and conclude that I was feeling "bored", or "amused in recalling a joke by Steven Wright". Don't know for sure, but I doubt it.

Is it possible to make a computer that replicates a human brain? What makes computers and brains different. This is a total hunch, but I think the difference may have somthing to do with the fact that human brains function with signals and values that are on a continuous scale. For example, action potentials are graded according to the principal of mass action. Increase the concentration of sodium on one side of the membrane -> increase (or decrease) the voltage across the membrane in direct proportion, and increase in direct proportion the liklihood that an action potential will propogate down an axon. I don't think computers yet (?) work this way. Computers, when examined at the finest level, contain cells with discrete packets of information (1,0 or yes,no, etc.) Am I wrong?

Let me know what you think! I'm interested. Don't make me wait 3 months. <G>

Bob

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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 340 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/8/2005 4:01 PM
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So you're saying that humans are not entirely determined by their DNA, but also get information from outside. That's absolutely true, but it doesn't make them different from a computer.

Correct, but it does, IMO, create problems for any notion that the mind is a formal system.


I don't see how. A computer's logic is based on a formal system; if a computer can do something then by definition a formal system can do it.

If you could find some sort of low level operation that a human mind can perform, but a computer cannot, then that would disprove my hypothesis that the mind is a formal system. I don't believe that you've identified such an operation, which tends to confirm my hypothesis, though not prove it.

Are you familiar with the notion of a Turing Machine? The TM was Alan Turing's idea of the sort of idealized "essence" of a computer. A TM uses an infinite tape to read from and write to. The TM reads the tape and performs one instruction at a time. The instruction may be to read something from a certain tape location, write something to a tape location, or jump to a different part of the tape for the next instruction.

The interesting thing about this model is that what the machine does is based on the its internal rules about how to interpret the instructions, and based on what's available to read on the tape. However, by processing input from the outside, the TM can potentially "learn" things and apparently modify its behavior based on them. For instance, if there is a letter Q written at tape location 5,293,193, the TM may behave very differently from that point than it would if there were a W or some other letter.

But it doesn't "jump outside" its own instructions. It's just that within the instructions that it follows, it can change the rules of what to do next.

Now, somebody like Sandy believes that this makes us different from a TM, because we CAN "jump out of the system" by changing our own logic. I say this is as absurd as claiming that we have changed the laws of gravity by inventing airplanes. We haven't changed the laws of gravity; we still work within the physical laws of our universe. We just discovered a way to fly up in the air while still working under that constrictive set of rules.

The same is true of a brain. You can change your approach to a problem; but you can't change the fact that your behavior is ultimately confined to the way your brain works, which is restricted to obeying physical laws.

When we learn things, we are literally rewiring our brain to make different kinds of connections. But that's no different from changing the data on a Turing Machine tape, instructing the program to go this way instead of that way. It doesn't mean that you can eliminate or jump out of the tape.

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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 341 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/8/2005 7:45 PM
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I had a feeling this was the turn the discussion would take. I intentionally stayed away from it because it's the hardest spot to address with a simple and cogent argument. I'll do my best to explain to you what bothers me about opening mind as a formal system to all sorts of influences from outside. Hopefully, at the end of this post, it will have made some sense to you.

So, we're discussing whether the brain or mind is a formal system. You and I are pretty much agreed that whatever goes on in our skulls is not supernatural. Why do you and I care whether the brain is a formal system? I'm not terribly sure except that it's just something fun to argue. But I'm willing to bet you're batting for the AI team, and I'm on the other side just for the hell of it. It's not important to me that we have feelings and computers don't, and I'm not (yet) afraid of an intergalactic computer tyranny, or losing my job to a Dr. Flat Screen.

First, I'll say that not having read Turing's and Godel's actual works (and doubting I know the math to digest them), but rather having read the "Cliff Notes", I get pretty nauseated by my own "speaking as if I understand Turing and Godel"-ness. But hey, there are a lot of people out there who talk about relativity and space-time with some ease even though they don't know the math. And I do listen to them....

It was a fallacy to say: No formal system is both consistent and complete; No human is both consisent and complete; Therefore, all humans are formal systems. So you're stuck with the argument that computers are formal systems-humans are computers-humans are therefore formal systems.

Computers are formal systems: no argument.

I still think it's a stretch to compare the brain with a Turing machine. The symbols that are permissible on the tape are finite in number, I think even for the universal Turing machine (correct?). The correlate would be a finite set of symbols in a formal system. I can't see that being the case for a brain, thought I don't propose to know what a symbol for a brain would be. Action potentials, inhibitory potentials (whose magnitudes are on a continuum), synaptic potentials (again on a continuum), gap juntion conduction (again on a continuum)? The continua bug the hell out of me because every symbol (i.e. 1,0,a,b,c) in every cell of that tape is a discrete value, and there is a finite set of values allowed on the tape. Doesn't that bug the crap out of you? I guess the question is, do you really believe that the universal Turing machine could replicate the brain? That the Turing machine, even if allowed to work with infinite speed, could replicate the seemingly infinite continuous variables using its handicapped discrete variables? Now, add to that the effects of light/radiation on DNA structure, function and integrity, chemicals that influence membrane fluidity, receptor function, ion channel function. And these external influences have variable and interacting dose-response relationships that the brain "knows" nothing about, that it doesn't "plan for", that it isn't created to "read". The Turing machine is out the window for me....... It makes the Turing machine a mouse trap in comparison.

I don't think it will take a lot of explaining to get to the crux of where I get squeamishly uncomfortable with the concepts. I think you've already said it, in fact: computers and brains have to work within the confines of what matter and energy can do. That is the only level at which you can hope to compare them and come to the conclusion that since a computer is a formal system, and since the brain is a computer, then the brain is a formal system. I think you can rephrase your argument as : Since brains and computers obey the laws of physics, and since the laws of physics are a formal system, then brains and computers emulate (are) formal systems. Do you agree with this summation?

If you agree, then I have a hard time understanding where you set up boundaries. Is the hydrogen atom then a formal system unto itself? Is a quark? Does this not become absurd?
What are the symbols, rules, WFF's?

Are the laws of physics inconsistent and/or incomplete as must be true for a formal system? (of course, our *understandings* of those laws are both, but that is not the same).

Did Godel or Turing ever comment on these sorts of questions?

Last question: have I gone way out on a tangent here? Does this represent your view?

Finally, don't feel compelled to keep up your end of the conversation if you poop out. I'm aware you've done this before, in some form or other.

Bob

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Author: going2win Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 342 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/8/2005 8:54 PM
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Computers are formal systems: no argument.

Aren't formal systems, by definition, abstract ?

The computer attempts to manifest a formal system, but because it can make errors will always fall short of the ideal formal system. Otherwise, why do they have parity checking functions, which are also subject to error ?

g2w


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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 343 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/8/2005 9:52 PM
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Computers are formal systems: no argument.

Aren't formal systems, by definition, abstract ?

The computer attempts to manifest a formal system, but because it can make errors will always fall short of the ideal formal system. Otherwise, why do they have parity checking functions, which are also subject to error ?


hmmmmm...

a Formal System is an abstraction;
so's a Turing Machine ( & iirc, it's provable that a TM 'is' an FS)

but provable that the modern computer "is" a Turning Machine ...

....the proof probably assumes No Error, so the possibility of error adds an interesting wrinkle.


-

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Author: going2win Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 344 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/8/2005 9:55 PM
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but provable that the modern computer "is" a Turning Machine ...

....the proof probably assumes No Error, so the possibility of error adds an interesting wrinkle.


Precisely.

g2w, error generator

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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 345 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 1:30 AM
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...the proof probably assumes No Error, so the possibility of error adds an interesting wrinkle.


Precisely.

g2w, error generator


ditto.

of course most of what gets called 'computer error' is really human error....

and the source of human error?
god only knows.


-

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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 346 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 4:48 PM
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The continua bug the hell out of me because every symbol (i.e. 1,0,a,b,c) in every cell of that tape is a discrete value, and there is a finite set of values allowed on the tape. Doesn't that bug the crap out of you?

Actually it does not bug me in the slightest, any more than it bugs me that:

* Every text written in English is fully composed of less than 100 symbols, figuring 52 upper and lowercase letters and a variety of punctuation marks.

* Every piece of recognizable music within can be expressed in combinations of 88 discrete notes or less (assuming they don't go outside the range of a standard piano). The notes, of course, vary in length, volume, and the object that is used to produce the sound. But there are also a finite range of those too.

* Every beautiful painting, photograph, and movie you have ever seen can be represented as individual points of light with discrete intensity, and stored on a piece of plastic the size of a tea saucer.

In your earlier post, you said,
This is a total hunch, but I think the difference may have somthing to do with the fact that human brains function with signals and values that are on a continuous scale. For example, action potentials are graded according to the principal of mass action. Increase the concentration of sodium on one side of the membrane -> increase (or decrease) the voltage across the membrane in direct proportion, and increase in direct proportion the liklihood that an action potential will propogate down an axon. I don't think computers yet (?) work this way. Computers, when examined at the finest level, contain cells with discrete packets of information (1,0 or yes,no, etc.) Am I wrong?

I think you might be wrong. Don't overlook the fact that the things which we are used to thinking of as having a continuous range, like images, temperature, and sound, really do enter our brains in discrete packets. We have millions of little light sensitive nerves in our eyes, each of which either registers a photon or it doesn't. 1 or 0. It's purely binary. We get information about brightness based on how many of those light sensors are active simultaneously. Same story with the nerves that give us our sense of touch, and so on.

Even time, which might be continuous, is not perceived by us continuously. Movies are chopped into 30 frames per second and it looks like continuous motion. I think there is actually a threshold above which you can't distinguish, say, 200 FPS from 1000000 FPS. Don't know exactly where it is, but I think it's there.

My opinion about how we are different from a computer is largely a matter of degree; we have massive numbers of these nerves and massive numbers of neurons firing in our brain, and they all work in parallel. We can design parallel computers, but so far nothing approaching the raw processing power of the human brain.

Even so, you can't do anything with a parallel computer that couldn't be done with a Turing machine, given a lot of speed or an infinite amount of time. Instead of calculating a million things at once and coming up with a complex result of all of them, you could do one thing at a time, wait for the answer, and then figure out the answer afterwards. It would just take a million times longer.

It was a fallacy to say: No formal system is both consistent and complete; No human is both consisent and complete; Therefore, all humans are formal systems. So you're stuck with the argument that computers are formal systems-humans are computers-humans are therefore formal systems.

I'm not making that argument, because I know that would be a fallacy (converse fallacy, I think). I don't think I can prove that minds are formal systems, given the limitations of my knowledge. What I am trying to do is develop a theory that they are formal systems. The reason I made the original post was to lay out why I think the default position, for someone who agrees that minds are composed exclusively of matter, SHOULD be that a mind can be represented as a formal system. I want to develop this theory by examining counterarguments and discarding them. IMO, the arguments against the theory seem to be based on either misrepresentations of understood principles (Godel's Theorem) or general squeamishness.

I think you can rephrase your argument as : Since brains and computers obey the laws of physics, and since the laws of physics are a formal system, then brains and computers emulate (are) formal systems. Do you agree with this summation?

Mmmmm, no, not exactly. I wouldn't go so far as to call "the laws of physics" a formal system. Yes, I realize that this appears to contradict my older glib response to "What are the Rules?" "The laws of chemistry." That is only because I'm inconsistent. ;)

What I would say is that evolution generates formal systems in the form of DNA. A genome is discrete. It has four symbols and a pattern comprised entirely of those symbols. Just the same way that books have 100 symbols, melodies have 88, and computers have 2. You can get an astronomical amount of variation out of different arrangements of those four symbols, but not an infinite amount of variation, no matter how much it sounds infinite to us.

Remember that the genome is actually a set of formal (?) instructions about how to build the body -- what chemicals to put together, in what order, and how many times.

Finally, don't feel compelled to keep up your end of the conversation if you poop out. I'm aware you've done this before, in some form or other.

Actually, not so much. My opinions are mostly cribbed from reading Dennett and Hofstadter, and I've read counter-arguments but rarely had much in-depth discussion. The closest I came was arguing with Sandy, but she wouldn't get on past Godel, which I think is a very poor argument.

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Author: feedmeNOWhuman Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 347 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 5:11 PM
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Even time, which might be continuous, is not perceived by us continuously.


Even time has a smallest unit, like a photon is the smallest unit of light. So time is not continuous. Planck time, they call it.

http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae281.cfm

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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 348 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 5:37 PM
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Even time has a smallest unit, like a photon is the smallest unit of light. So time is not continuous. Planck time, they call it.

http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae281.cfm


Hey, you made me learn something. I must persecute you now.

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Author: feedmeNOWhuman Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 349 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 6:31 PM
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We may be in Austin in early January to see the in-laws. You may get a chance to persecute me in person. I hate when people buy beer for me. The more they buy, the more persecuted I feel.


More info on base and derived Planck units at the bottom of this page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_time

Seems you can compute the quantum unit for just about anything.




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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 350 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 7:46 PM
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Even time has a smallest unit, like a photon is the smallest unit of light. So time is not continuous. Planck time, they call it.

But just because the Plank length is the smallest amount of length with any significance, being defined by the fact that any lesser length would be within the realm of Quantum laws, does it follow that time isn't necessarily constant?

Or does it just help to better define time incrementally?

In other words, is it wrong to say that time is not constant because we have this smallest measurement?

k (just curious about that one thing- the ongoing conversation is going on at just about the limit of my ability to follow, but not grasp. I'm off to find a reasonable definition of "formal system". :o))


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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 351 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 8:18 PM
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In other words, is it wrong to say that time is not constant because we have this smallest measurement?


do you mean 'constant' or 'continuous'?

iirc, one [old] interpretation of Planck-length is that when stuff moves, it moves discontinuously --jumping from ,say, X to X+p without ever being in between.


k (just curious about that one thing- the ongoing conversation is going on at just about the limit of my ability to follow, but not grasp. I'm off to find a reasonable definition of "formal system". :o))


try Wiki.

(>


...... the conversation has me almost totally confused

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Author: feedmeNOWhuman Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 352 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 8:30 PM
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In other words, is it wrong to say that time is not constant because we have this smallest measurement?

I think you meant to use the word "continuous." Because it has a fundamental "particle", I think it would be inaccurate to say that time is continuous.

I read about this last month in Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, so I'm clearly an expert now. Plus, I saw the DVD.

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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 353 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 8:32 PM
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iirc, one [old] interpretation of Planck-length is that when stuff moves, it moves discontinuously --jumping from ,say, X to X+p without ever being in between.

Sounds like the Quantum world. I believe (and may be wrong) that the plank length was established by the fact that it was the shortest distance that wouldn't include such magic. :o)

k


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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 354 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 8:36 PM
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iirc, one [old] interpretation of Planck-length is that when stuff moves, it moves discontinuously --jumping from ,say, X to X+p without ever being in between.
>>>>>>>>
Sounds like the Quantum world. I believe (and may be wrong) that the plank length was established by the fact that it was the shortest distance that wouldn't include such magic. :o)


definitely quantum stuff.

what it might have to do with Magic, i knoweth knot.



=

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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 355 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 8:42 PM
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do you mean 'constant' or 'continuous'?

I guess constant would mean "maintaining the same rate". No, I don't think I mean that.

What I mean is, while time may be experienced in intervals, does it occur in intervals?

I don't think it does- not like music or words in a book, and so don't believe (while it was a pretty cool thing to learn about) it has any bearing on the conversation.

k (certainly not condemning bringing it up, nor was I convinced that the poster who did so thought that it would. :o))


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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 356 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 8:50 PM
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What I mean is, while time may be experienced in intervals, does it occur in intervals?

I don't think it does- not like music or words in a book, and so don't believe (while it was a pretty cool thing to learn about) it has any bearing on the conversation.


hmmmm.....

i think our experience of time *seems* continuous (not discrete intervals or skips)
but the theory is that it ,in fact, does occur in discontinuous skips ( a Planck-length of time )



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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 357 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 8:54 PM
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I think you meant to use the word "continuous." Because it has a fundamental "particle", I think it would be inaccurate to say that time is continuous.

Yes. I meant continuous.

But isn't this fundamental "particle" defined by an arbitrary measurement that is only achieved by our limited knowledge of quantum measurement?

When I was learning to be a carpenter, I learned about all those small lines on the tape measurer. I never needed thirty-seconds of an inch before.

Before my training, those increments did exist, but their importance wasn't perceived by me. Once I'd learned the concept and cut the wood, the true length of that wood in reality became of utmost importance. In other words, I needed a means of measuring a continuous piece of wood for my own purposes, but neither the existence of those increments, nor my understanding of them, ever influenced the wood before I cut it.

I think science needs to measure time in the smallest increments (just like carpenters need to measure wood) because their field requires more precise measurement. What I'm asking is- has TIME read the memo that it occurs in increments? And, perhaps more importantly, are there really smaller increments of time in reality that we just aren't capable of discerning? Yet?

k


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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 358 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 9:02 PM
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i think our experience of time *seems* continuous (not discrete intervals or skips)
but the theory is that it ,in fact, does occur in discontinuous skips ( a Planck-length of time )


So the "invention" of that length, according to the smallest distance we can currently count on, is not only just a measurement, but describes an actual aspect of time? and how it works?

Incredible.

k







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Author: feedmeNOWhuman Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 359 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 9:23 PM
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What I'm asking is- has TIME read the memo that it occurs in increments? And, perhaps more importantly, are there really smaller increments of time in reality that we just aren't capable of discerning?
So the "invention" of that length, according to the smallest distance we can currently count on, is not only just a measurement, but describes an actual aspect of time? and how it works?


I believe the answer is yes, time functions that way. This is derived from physical constants. It's been a long time since college physics, but (correct me if I'm wrong), you can look at it this way:

There are certain absolutes, like the speed of light which is the fastest speed attainable. We also have the Planck length, which is the smallest length. It is derived from a physical constant. The period it takes light, the fastest speed, to travel the smallest length would therefore be the shortest time.

That's the way I understand it. You can plug some of these findings into each other and derive other fundamentals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_units


You have to remember, however, that none of this is true in Kansas. It's magic and no one understands it.



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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 360 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 9:40 PM
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I believe the answer is yes, time functions that way. This is derived from physical constants. It's been a long time since college physics, but (correct me if I'm wrong), you can look at it this way:

There are certain absolutes, like the speed of light which is the fastest speed attainable. We also have the Planck length, which is the smallest length. It is derived from a physical constant. The period it takes light, the fastest speed, to travel the smallest length would therefore be the shortest time.


Geeze, I don't know what to tell you. I'm having trouble with the "shortest length" thingie.

Every time I hear that phrase, I'm thinking "Shortest Currently Measurable Length".

In my carpentry story (in this thread, but maybe missed by you) I expressed that my own "Shortest Currently Measurable Length" got quite smaller as my requirements for such a thing expanded.

If you can tell me that the Plank length will always be the shortest measurable distance, then I will call the whole thing off.

k




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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 361 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 10:02 PM
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You have to remember, however, that none of this is true in Kansas. It's magic and no one understands it.

That really got me laughing.

Maybe in Kansas they say that Planck length and Planck time are so irreducibly irreducible that god had to have made them.

Bob

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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 362 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 10:05 PM
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the ongoing conversation is going on at just about the limit of my ability to follow, but not grasp.

Are you familiar with the phrase, "He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about"? <G>

Bob

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Author: khalou Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 363 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 10:16 PM
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Are you familiar with the phrase, "He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about"? <G>

Heh.

Not in my vocabulary, sir.

When it is, I will have at least learned enough to know what I don't know.

Not even THERE yet!

k :o)


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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 364 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 10:23 PM
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Even time, which might be continuous, is not perceived by us continuously. Movies are chopped into 30 frames per second and it looks like continuous motion. I think there is actually a threshold above which you can't distinguish, say, 200 FPS from 1000000 FPS. Don't know exactly where it is, but I think it's there.

Somebody, when I was about 10, told me this is why we see wagon wheels spin clockwise, then counter-clockwise, then clockwise again. Our retinas act like strobes for our brains. Never looked any further to see if he was right. He was a tennis pro, FWIW.

The reason I made the original post was to lay out why I think the default position, for someone who agrees that minds are composed exclusively of matter, SHOULD be that a mind can be represented as a formal system.

I don't understand why mind as matter implies a default of mind as formal system, especially if your not saying the formal system is the laws of physics. Is my glass of water, then, a formal system since it is composed of matter? Not being flippant - seriously.

Bob

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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 365 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 10:28 PM
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I will have at least learned enough to know what I don't know.
Reminds me of a little joke - which apparently is an old one that I should have heard a long time ago.

I asked a colleague something he didn't know the answer to. He said, "That's one of two things I don't know." I totally fell for it and asked, "What's the other". He replied, "I don't know."

Bob

(sucker)

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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 366 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 11:27 PM
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Every time I hear that phrase, I'm thinking "Shortest Currently Measurable Length".

In my carpentry story (in this thread, but maybe missed by you) I expressed that my own "Shortest Currently Measurable Length" got quite smaller as my requirements for such a thing expanded.

If you can tell me that the Plank length will always be the shortest measurable distance, then I will call the whole thing off.


that IS, as i understand it, the Theory.

but it (and i) could be wrong.

( not that long ago that a proton was A thing, now it's a bag of quarks )


-

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Author: 0x6a74 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 367 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/9/2005 11:28 PM
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Reminds me of a little joke - which apparently is an old one that I should have heard a long time ago.

I asked a colleague something he didn't know the answer to. He said, "That's one of two things I don't know." I totally fell for it and asked, "What's the other". He replied, "I don't know."


i've never heard it before .... i like it.


(>

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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 368 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/14/2005 1:36 PM
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I've heard of the concept of a quantum computer. This guy David Deutsch in 1985 suggested the possibility of a "Quantum Turing Machine". I don't think I'd ever understand what exactly that would be. But for anyone interested who is not a quantum physicist, there may be a site that can help you get a sense for it.

http://cam.qubit.org/

also, http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge173.html

Bob

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Author: going2win Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 369 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/14/2005 4:43 PM
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http://cam.qubit.org/

The Centre for Quantum Computation


I don't trust anyone who can't spell "center" correctly.

g2w


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Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/14/2005 7:46 PM
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The Centre for Quantum Computation

I don't trust anyone who can't spell "center" correctly.


yup. them Brits are slickery bastids.....


(> b

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Author: zim14 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 371 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/14/2005 8:10 PM
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I don't trust anyone who can't spell "center" correctly.

That, g2w, is an excellent point. AND, these are people who wait in "Q"s. They can't be that smart. Quantum shmantum.

Bob


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Author: Lightforge One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 375 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/5/2008 1:51 PM
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I agree that the mind seems to operate as a formal system, though this may be difficult/impossible to see on the lowest levels (i.e. machine language). However, it is also not a closed system in itself. The formal system of the mind is truly formal, but not consistently in effect. A misplaced neutron from an outside or inside particle could break a single atom/molecule/protein, and the rules may change to some extent. The mind is only a truly formal system when scope is limited and events are restricted. Basically, all minds and all matter are just bits of one formal system, and while levels above that of quantum physics (i.e. a mind) mimic the same formal system within themselves and abide by its laws completely, they are not truly formal in the end, because they are not in themselves closed systems from other influences.

So yeah, a mind operates formally, but in practice, this never really happens, except on levels that would not distinguish a "mind" as an independent object in the first place. I would say that calling the mind a formal system is the same as calling the process of evolution a formal system. Perhaps legitimate, but, like quantum physics, statistics is probably the best or only kind of tool available for making valid predictions.

In sum, the mind as an independent object is a formal system with some informal rules for changing based on lower-level events. Sort of a crappy chaos-theory-spectrum qualifier, but "in practice" is what is always going to be observed, so I consider it crucial to a scientific understanding. A perfect mind, I think I concede, is formal.

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Author: Lightforge One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 376 of 377
Subject: Re: Mind as machine Date: 11/6/2008 2:15 PM
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Hmmm...somehow, I missed the whole "this discussion took place in 2005" thing.

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