Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Neurotic Computers?

Nick Carr:

Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom, of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, have published an in-depth roadmap for "whole brain emulation" - in other words, the replication of a fully functional human brain inside a computer. "The basic idea" for whole brain emulation (WBE), they write, "is to take a particular brain, scan its structure in detail, and construct a software model of it that is so faithful to the original that, when run on appropriate hardware, it will behave in essentially the same way as the original brain." It's virtualization, applied to our noggins.

The catch:

They deal with the problem of free will, or, as they term it, the possibility of a random or "physically indeterministic element" in the working of the human brain, by declaring it a non-problem. They suggest that it can be dealt with rather easily by "including sufficient noise in the simulation ... Randomness is therefore highly unlikely to pose a major obstacle to WBE." And anyway: "Hidden variables or indeterministic free will appear to have the same status as quantum consciousness: while not in any obvious way directly ruled out by current observations, there is no evidence that they occur or are necessary to explain observed phenomena."

Back in college I had once thought to build a “free will” machine. I was going to use the radioactive decay of an isotope as the source of what I thought would be a truly random number generator. But then I realized at some point that there really is nothing random. Even the “noise in the simulation” for the WBE is not random; it is just that the sources of such noise are sufficiently complex that we can’t predict what such noise would look like. But it is not random or chance. Everything is deterministic, whether we know the determiner or not. Our own thoughts and will are a complex of internal competing desires and outside stimuli which are well beyond our ability to grasp. But the choices we make are not random. Just imagine: could any person reasonably be held responsible for making choices that do not arise from their desires?

Further, could any random choice be thought to be rational or reasonable? In constructing a computer with seemingly random decisions, it seems far more likely that the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute would create a computer exhibiting all manner of mental disorders than to replicate a creative consciousness.

In constructing a “free will” machine my hope was to create a creative computer. But if human creativity is not the result of chance, where does creativity come from? Interestingly, in Exodus 28:2-3 and 31:1-6 we are told that the first person(s) to receive the Spirit of God were artists. They were given the spirit of skill to devise artistic designs, for glory and for beauty. Even our creativity finds its source in God, not indeterminate chance. Praise God!

1 comment:

  1. Mental disorder computers...haha. Sometimes you crack me up brother.



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