Friday, September 28, 2007

My little ROBO SURVEY

1 comment(s)
I'm running this by my students, and some of you may find it in your email inboxes soon enough. On the printed version there is more space for writing between the questions. I've already done nearly 200 of them, so it's too late to ask for ideas as to how I can change it. Even so, I'm very open to suggestions for future versions of this quiz, so, fire away!

(Below is a version of the poll that uses a more easily quantifiable response parameters, with integers ranging from -2 to 2, but it's still in rough draft form, so I welcome your suggestions.)

I may work the data up into a report on "Perceptions of AI in Taiwan", maybe something for The New Atlantis or some such. Incidentally, Taiwan seems to be as much into biotech as Japan is into robotics. If you'd like some tunes to groove to while perusing the survey(s), I highly recommend Volta's "Robot Needs Oil", as performed by a quartet of Sony's QRIO robots.

[One other important class project I want to work on is getting my students to write short letters to the President on behalf of the people suffering in Darfur.]

Oh, also, I did recently finish Rodney Brooks's Robot and Steve Grand's Growing Up with Lucy, both of which found refreshing for their frankness about the so to speak impressive failures of the last decades of AI research. Moreover, I fully agree with their emphasis on the importance of embodiedness and situatedness for AI systems (viz., relying on sensory processing more than abstract reasoning codes and using social interactions rather than idealized problem goals). They are of the opinion that the best way to approach AI is via AL (artificial life), which is to say that if you make a system biomimetically dynamic enough, it will eventually produce what we call a mind. Grand sees GOFAI (good ol' fashioned AI) as trying first to program a mind, as a set of logical operations, and then plug that software into hardware to make a brain, an approach Grand considers a dead end. Better, he says, is to first make a brain (by producing "virtual neurons" on with the convolution of numerous parallel processors), which will form its own inner parameters based on real interaction with a real environment. Depending what the assigned goal is, the numerous substructures will mutually alter each other so as to achieve that goal within a certain "yin/yang" action potential, much like a servo motor will adjust its own gears to maintain a certain acceleration, torque, or angle, or a thermostat will adjust the AC and heater to keep within a certain specified temperature range. Indeed, a hierarchy of servomotors could all collaborate to maintain a much higher-level goal, like a plane heading for a certain bearing and adjusting lift, rudder, speed, etc. all towards that one meta-goal on the horizon. The minded brain, Grand might say, is but one complex of biological servomotors that all collaborate to achieve larger goals, like getting food, sleep, etc. Hence, an artificial mind can only best come about by working up from simple neural patterns formed in contact with the world, along with higher programmed goals. As a connectionist SAIer, Grand wants, unlike a serial SAIer (i.e., mind first, then hardware brain), to make a brain first and let the mind emerge. He is honest time and again you can't say his Lucy really thinks or understands, but who cares, he asks. Why need we make a thinking robot when a responding robot will do just as well for its own given action potentials and goals?

Interestingly, Lucy started out as a model airplane (hence all the servo motors), and this only adds a poetic endorsement of my basic take on AI: robots are and always will be toys, tools, or works of art (and maybe a blend of those three). And anyone that thinks toys, tools, or works of art think, is just playing around with good thought. Just say that out loud, and pause to let it sink in: "Toys can think. Tools can think. Works of art can think." These are absurd claims once they are finally put in such clear terms, but such sobering clarity is exactly what an appraisal of AI requires. AI gizmos, like Aibo and Asimo, seem as real as they do precisely because our own human brains are designed to respond to coherent, dynamic, intentional behavior, which is to say, most of AI's public appeal is but a function of the human public's instinctive appeal for all things dynamic-within-limits. In this sense, AI is the most impressive optical illusion ever crafted by the very species designed to fall for it. It may take a bit of shaking to clear the anthropomorphic fog from your head when you see Asimo scamper here and there, but the fact is, behind his mysterious (and therefore mysteriously defensible) face plate is nothing but more circuitry. No thought. No feeling. No mind. No one there at all. He is a scampering shadow of the bright light of human reason, which is itself, a candle lit by the sun of divine wisdom.

In any case, I don't deny SAI because robots are said to think; I deny it for anterior philosophical reasons concerning the very nature of thought and language. I come to the table denying SAI (but not AI in the sense of animalistic response toys and non-intellectual goal-seeking devices) because I come to the table believing mental operations are inherently meta-physical actions, whether mediated by silicon or synapses. I don't claim only human brains can think precisely because I don't even claim human brains can think. Humans think, not things! Our brains do not think; we use our brains to think. The difference is as elementary and crucial as realizing that, on the one hand, we cannot see without our eyes, and, on the other, that our eyes do not see. We cannot walk without feet, but that does not mean our feet walk. And so for brains. I don't deny SAI for anthropocentric reasons, but because I reject the philosophy (or cluster of philosophies) on which SAI is predicated, namely, materialism, physicalism, epiphenomenalism, etc. I don't deny SAI because of technological limitations, but because of philosophical objections to the very idea of "constructing thought", an aim which immediately reveals a confused and impoverished understanding (oh the irony) of what intellection per se is. The immaterial and universal nature of thought precludes not simply the idea that machines could think but also, more fundamentally, the entire idea that material entities, like our brains, generate immaterial thought. An immaterial effect requires an immaterial cause. Thought is a specifically human function of the human soul, and it only makes sense that this capacity (as a formal power) is manifested in a suitably complex neural medium, the brain (as a material bases).

This is not to say the mind is some "ghost in the machine", for that view is Cartesianism. What I am arguing for is, as I wrote about earlier, classical Catholic (Artistotelico-Thomistic) hylemorphic anthropology (or ATA). ATA in no way denies the intimate and practically inseparable union of mind and body. It simply claims that the principle that gives coherence and vitality to the body, is the soul, and that, further, the highest power of the human soul is the intellect, a power which does not extract the soul from the body, but raises the mind to realities outside the strictly corporeal/sensory range (things like concepts beyond what is immediately perceivable and mental operations that definitionally overflow their physical instantiations, e.g., how many ways can you imagine completing the operation "p + q = r" or "If p, —» q. p, —» q"?). In ATA, the mind is a manifold reality. Intellect, as the power of abstraction to meta-physical and therefore supernatural reality, is the highest power of the soul, but hardly its only power. The soul expresses as well a sensitive (or sensory) mind, an appetitive (or emotional) mind, and a basic somatic (or homeostatic) mind, all or some of which are also expressed in the vast majority of living beings. ATA thus allows the soul to operate as a fully and continuously somatic mode of being -- we are not spirits in bags of skins, which strangely enough is what Minsky-style AI reduces us to: an omelet of abstract conceptual drives in a meat suitcase! -- but does not trap the mind within purely empirical, sensory data. Thus, I am free to agree with Grand and Minsky and Brooks, et al., on the mosaic-like nature of the majority of our neurological abilities, a mosaic that constitutes the bulk of our mental lives as basically automatic servo-neural networks in the symphony of the modular brain; and I can fully affirm the evolutionary "layering" evident in the brain as we move up from the basic reptile brain, to the woolly mammal brain, all the way up to the hominid cerebral cortex; and I can easily concur that without somatic input our mental life would be virtually nil -- even so, despite all this, I can in no wise agree that such neurobiological facts (or, I should in some cases say, conjectures) refute the existence of a power by which all such powers and modules are harmonized and, more importantly, by which the very concepts I'm discussing are grasped, analyzed, synthesized and articulated, namely by the intellect which elevates man, in material continuity with his somatic being, to contemplate all such ideas with transcendent self-awareness.

The soul, and thus the mind, is not floating "out there" outside the body -- it pervades the body as the wave pervades the undulating water or the impressed mold forms the wax. This is why all attempts at localizing consciousness -- whether in the pineal gland (à la Descartes), or in the frontal lobes (sort of à la Baars and his workspace of the mind), or in somatic sensory markers (à la Damasio), or in quantized microtubules (à la Penrose and Hameroff), or in synaptic bottlenecks (à la Grand and Edelman), or in any constellation of modular functions (à la Stanovich and Minsky and Brooks), or in genetic loops (à la Baum), or, indeed, in the nervous system itself (à la the reigning materialism of contemporary neuroscience) -- all such localization is a wild goose chase because the mind, being immaterial, is not localizable: pervading the "field of a person", the soul is everywhere and yet not in any place (in which case I am a noologial nullibilist [hat tip to Thomas More], but that's quite literally "neither here nor there", haha!). At every level, the evident mental power of a person can be traced up a level, not stopping at the rising (and ever hipper) tide marker of Heideggerian AI (à la Dreyfus), nor even at the imaginary heights of the self-as-narrative-fiction (à la Dennett), but rising infinitely to the intrinsic goal (nisus, entelechy) of human nature: perpetual and total relatedness in analogous glorification of the triune God and in mystical communion with Him. The mind is always shifting its position on the stage of cognitive research because it is always shifting its position closer to its final goal, the beatific vision, and the glorified transformation of -- not escape from! -- the body. The soul is sacramentally present in the body as Christ is sacramentally present in the Eucharist. Once the free person, then, freely encounters this hidden presence with its own hidden self, there is a union which not only draws the immaterial capacities and tendencies of the soul to contemplate thr divine, but also incarnationally draws the person into the social and ecclesial web of embodied existence.

Clearly, you can guess how I might answer my own surveys, but don't let that bias your replies heheh!


  • Results will remain anonymous. 結果會保密的。
  • You may continue writing on another sheet of paper, if needed. 如果在這紙上寫不下,就可以在另外一張繼續寫。
  • DATE 日期:
  • NAME 名字:
  • AGE 年齡:
  • NATIONALITY 國家:
  • OCCUPATION 職業:

1. What is a robot? 你覺得什麼是機器人?

2. What is a human? 人類是什麼呢?

3. At this time, are there things humans can do that robots cannot do now? 現在有什麼事情是人類可以做,但是機器人不行?

4. Are there things humans can do that robots will never be able to do? 有什麼事情是人類可以做,但是機器人絕對不可能做?

5. At this time, are there things robots can do that humans cannot do now? 現在有什麼事情是機器人可以做,但是人類不行?

6. Are there things robots can do that humans will never be able to do? 有什麼事情是機器人可以做,但是人類絕對不可能做?

7. Do you believe robots can or ever will be able to i) think (i.e., be conscious), ii) understand, iii) feel, iv) love and/or v) sin? Why or why not? 你相信機器人有一天能夠 i) 思考(有意識), ii) 理解 , iii) 感覺 , iv) 真愛/情感和 v) 罪惡感嗎? 為什麼?

8. Do you hope humans can someday make real artificial intelligence robots? Why? 你希望人類能夠發明人工智慧的機器人嗎? 為什麼?

9. Do you think robots will make human life better or will they be a threat to humanity? That is, will robots be useful pets/toys or will they take over humans? 你認為機器人會對人類有利或者造成威脅? 換句話說,你認為機器人會成為人類的寵物/玩具或者取代人類?

10. If you had a robot, what would you name it? 你擁有機器人的話,會幫它取什麼名字呢?

Ω Any additional comments? 還想說的話?






Friday, September 21, 2007

Let's go out to the movies...

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Or just stay in and watch them.

In the last week at home I've watched three great movies: The Wizard of Oz, Clockers, and The Maltese Falcon (TMF). (A smidgeon of their greatness lies in the fact that I acquired all off them either for free or for about a dollar.) The first is great just because it's so imaginatively rich and cinematically lush. The second is great because the camera work and themes keep your eyes locked in. The third is great for its dialogue and especially for its cinematography. Cinematography is one of the most important aspects in my appraisal of a film. I regard film as an especially visual art form, so, even though I realize Story (à la Robert McKee) is what film is, or should be, about, I insist the telling of that story be a principally visual act. This doe snot mean film is a visual art in the same way as photography, since the former is exactly a moving (narrative) art, unlike the latter, which really is contained in the composition of the pixels and frame alone. Good cinematography uses the images themselves to create mood and implicit content. Bad cinematography either handles the camera un-self-consciously (straight shooting) or stumbles into photography. Most flicks commit the first error. In them there is nothing intelligent in the movements and angles of the camera. We are just being given a stream of neutrally, blandly filmed sensory data.

As for the latter error, where the director is confuses visual richness with cinematic visualism (by which I mean the properly cinematic uses of images as a narrative device), you can see this all throughout M. Night Shyamalan's films. The worst example of it I can recall (indeed, cannot scour from my memory) is in Unbreakable. About halfway through the film, we are presented with an overhead still-shot down onto an office desk. The lens does not move for several seconds, but then pans lugubriously to the right and finally catches sight of actual actors. This is bad cinematography. Nothing in the shot adds to the mood (other than boredom with Shyamalan's chronically baffled characters), nothing enhances insight into a character, and nothing about the shot moves the story. It is dead screen time, not because it is a purely visual demi-scene, but because it's use of visualism as more photographic than cinematic.

I can put it this way: good directing is directing which I can tell "is there", much as a good fish is one that tugs on the other end of the line. If I can see intentional themes and techniques in the film, I can "feel" the director's tug on the other side of the screen. (It may, of course, be that I am the fish and the director my hook-dangling hunter, but the point is the same: a dead filament is a dead film.) At the most basic level, it's as simple as getting an A for effort. If I see the director is consciously, and conscientiously, manipulating the camera and the motifs and the scenery, et c., then I can respect the film that much more as WORK of art. (Whether I like the work produced is a different story, but at least I can be engaged by a film with directorial pulse.) If a scene is shot so strikingly as to call attention to its own visual composition, as opposed to simply "capturing" (as if on home video) the content of the scene, then I know I am in the precincts of an intelligent, mindful filmmaker.

In any case, TMF is a good film largely because it has such compelling cinematography. There are no dead moments on-screen. Every scene adds to the mood or actively moves the telling of the tale. For example, the film opens by showing us Spade & Archer in reverse stenciled on the office window. Then, shortly before Archer is shot, Huston (the director, John Huston) shows us the same names legible on the floor in a shadow. Then, shortly after Archer is in his office again, he tells Effie, his secretary, to remove "Archer" from the window and replace it with "Samuel Spade." By the next scene in the office, a man is re-stenciling the names on the door, and then, only a scene or two later, we see Samuel Spade complete on the original office window. Brilliant, constructive, intentional scene construction. And while I realize that such elements are not technically cinematography, yet Huston's care to make sure such details are visible in each scene, add to his cinematographic prowess.

A second, quite famous, example is when Spade is talking with "the Fat Man", Casper Gutman, played in his film debut by Sydney Greenstreet (the rotund English actor also famous from his work with Bogart in Casablanca). Huston shoots Gutman, seated in a chair, from below, which visually describes him as a "Fat Man," massive, greedy, literally a gut man. The sculpture of the shot jumps at at the viewer, making for great photography.

It turns out my theory of the “tugging line” (i.e., the idea that so to speak palpable cinematography is an indication of intelligent directing) is borne out by the film's history. According to Wikipedia,

During his preparation for TMF, first-time director John Huston planned each second of the film to the very last detail, tailoring the screenplay with instructions to himself for a shot-for-shot setup, with sketches for every scene, so filming could proceed fluently and professionally. Like other directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Huston was adamant that the film keep to schedule, and that everything was methodically planned to the fullest....

(The Maltese Falcon (1941), accessed 21 Sept 07)

That's what I call conscientious directing, and it shows when you watch TMF.

Incidentally, I learned a new word, and one new cultural arcanum, from the film. First, I ask you, what is a gunsel? Well, according to Michael Quinion, although a gunsel has come to mean a “gunman” in modern slang, originally it meant a young homosexual partner, a raw youth, a Gänslein in German or a gendzel in Yiddish. The arcanum I picked up was, after a little Googling, the Ronson touch-tip lighter, which is what you see numerous characters using in numerous old movies to light their numerous old cigarettes. It's cool beans.

One last observation I'll make is about the marketing of TMF in its day. Look at these promo posters:





What are their only common visual elements? Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and... a handgun or two. Even so, Spade says explicitly in the film that he doesn't carry guns because he doesn't like them, and in fact, the only time he really handles two guns is when he slips them off Elisha Cook, Jr.'s Wilmer, the very gunsel in question, in a deft quasi-gooseberry lay (a term edited out of Dashiell Hammett's works, according to Earle Stanley Gardner). Indeed, throughout the movie it's Spade who is always getting guns pointed at him, not the other way around. Clearly the ironic glorification of violence as a sleek lubricant for ticket sales goes back longer than Tarantino.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Unreal...just unreal...

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Especially if you can follow the subtitles... and all their Taiwanese profanity... heheh...

I give you...

The Indian Thriller!

The Absolute Beneath the Relative by Stanley L. Jaki

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I own several, in fact, nearly all, of Fr. Jaki's books and I consider «The Absolute Beneath the Relative» (ABR) to be one of his best essay collections (others include «Chance or Reality?», «The Only Chaos», «Limits of a Limitless Science», «Patterns or Principles», «The Gist of Catholicism», et c.). The contents of ABR are as follows:

1. The absolute beneath the relative: Reflections on Einstein's theories
2. The impasse of Planck's epistemology
3. The metaphysics of discovery and the rediscovery of metaphysics
4. God and man's science: A view of creation
5. Brain, mind and computers
6. The role physics in psychology: Prospect in retrospect
7. Order in nature and society: Open or specific?
8. Scientific ethics and ethical science
9. The physics of impetus and the impetus of Koran
10. The last century of science: Progress, problems, and prospects
11. Science and censorship: Hélène Duhem and the publication of the Système du monde
12. Monkeys and machine guns: Evolution, Darwinism, and Christianity
13. The demythologization of science
14. Science and hope

I consider chapters 1, 3, 5, 9, 11 and 13 to be among the best in the book, and not simply for their own merits but also because they capture some important insights of Fr. Jaki's works perhaps easily missed in his larger books (or, indeed, hard to find simply because the books themselves are rare!).

If you're interested in cognitive science issues, and want a thorough Jakian take on it, for diachronic consistency you should first read «The Relevance of Physics», then the first four chapters of the 1989 edition of Jaki's «Brain, Mind, and Computers» (BMC), then chapter 5 of ABR, and then the last (fifth) chapter and the epilogue of (BMC).

ABR's chapter 9 is particularly intriguing not only, again, for its contents, but also because when Fr. Jaki read it at a Middle Eastern university, he was shouted at on stage and threatened by audience members (faithful adherents, all, of the religion of peace, mind you).

Chapter 10 in ABR throws light on an obscure and curiously neglected matter in the history of science, namely, the efforts of Hélène Duhem to get published her late father's magnum opus, the ten-volume «Système du monde». (The chapter title is a slight play on another of Fr. Jaki's books, «Uneasy Genius», about the life and work of Msgr. Duhem himself.) This episode is important not only because it deals with the scandalous neglect of one of the most important contributions to the history of science, ever (viz., Duhem's «Système»), but also because it gives lots of potential fodder, in our increasingly feminized age, for a heroically feminist historiography of science.

Be advised that my paperback copy of ABR has a grave printing error, to wit, every two pages of the last chapter are blank. I don't know if this is the case for (m)any other paperback copies or for hardback copies, but the cost of a hardback copy is, right now (19 Sept 07), prohibitively expensive, so if you have a problem, just do as I did: photocopy the missing pages, cut them to size, and glue them in the book.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You may notice...

1 comment(s)
...especially now that I'm dragging your attention to it, that I have added a small quotation next to every combox link:

«Мир спасёт красота.»

It means, "Beauty shall save the world," and is pronounced "Mir spahsoyt krasota."

This is a famous line credited to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, uttered by Prince Myshkin in The Idiot, and given its greatest notoriety when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's discussed it in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. It is a quotation certainly made more attractive to me when I read it in a bilingual edition of that speech, for I love Russian simply as a thing of beauty and, thus, love this aphorism as a concentrated word of truth, a three-word hymn, in an age that confuses fitness with beauty, or perhaps, beauty with apathy. Hence, it shall be a small anchor for each post at FCA. It is, by the way, the only thing I've ever considered getting tattooed onto myself.

How to make...

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I shamefully admit I got all these ideas from Shooting Eggs Production at Metacafe and Myspace and just wanted to pass along their awesomeness.

I already tried making the glowing tomato, but since I guess I got low- or nil-phosphorus matches, that project was a bust. But the burning money was a hit (especially when the jar of alcohol caught on fire)! I went on a Real Man crusade Friday evening and bought all kinds of cool stuff (like a blow torch, a black lamp, a UV bulb, fire crackers [for cannibalizing their flash powder], Marilyn Monroe and Bruce Lee matches, et c.). I just about shot myself in the upper toenail when time and time again I could not buy matches. What kind of country has hardware stores that don't sell matches! I've got all I need lined up for a couple Ninja bombs and next week is the Autumn (Moon) Festival here, so there could be some good incendiary fun.

I and my girlfriend prepared the goodies while watching The Wizard of Oz (綠野仙境), an experience which delighted her (it being her first viewing of the classic) and sent waves of goosebumps over me as I realized how great a film it is, and how important it was for my imaginative formation to watch Oz many times as a child. It's true movie magic. But I do go on.

Ну-с, так за дело! (Nu-s, tak za delo! Now to business! [cf. Crime and Punishment Part II, Chapter III])

FLASH POWDER
a) KCLO˘4 powder (potassium perchlorate)
b) Al powder (400+ mesh, i.e., as fine as cooking flour)
c) 70g KCLO˘4 + 30g Al, mix well in plastic bag
  • in USA one may not own more than 2lbs. at once

IMPACT FLASH BOMBS
a) Ping pong ball, cut to hinge half-open
b) Strips of sandpaper, glued crosswise inside each ball orbital
c) Non-safety match heads (≈many), half in each orbital
d) Flash powder tissue ball
e) Scotch tape to seal ball shut
f) Throw ball hard to ground
  • Don't look at the light!
g) Kill ninjas or run away


SMOKE BOMBS
a) KNO˘3 (potassium nitrate = salt peter)
b) Sucrose
c) NaHCO˘3 (sodium bicarbonate = baking soda)
d) Organic powdered dye
e) 60g KNO˘3 + 40g sucrose
1. Stir at low heat until sucrose caramelizes
2. Add spoon NaHCO˘3 (to slow reaction)
3. Add 3 spoons dye for smoke color
4. Mix well (i.e., until like colored peanut-butter)
5. Set mixture in paper tube to harden about an hour
  • Place thick pen or stick in the middle to form fuse-hole
6. Remove pen/stick and insert fuse
7. Pad fuse in with cotton
8. Wrap tube in duct tape, leaving opening around fuse at top
9. Ignite
  • Don't inhale too much smoke!

SMOKE GRENADES
1. Fill 3-inch piece of plastic straw with match heads
2. Seal off with a tissue covering
3. Tape a ring of large matches around the tube
4. Cut off matchbox striker pads
5. Open large paper clip and bend into a hoop (twist ends to close the hoop)
6. Tape strikers together, face inward, at the hoop's junction
7. Place strikers on the ring of matches and secure tightly with rubber band
  • The fuse/pin is ready
8. Insert fuse/pin into hole of smoke bomb tube (as described above)
9. Place bomb/fuse unit inside larger tube and pad interior with tissue
10. Wrap larger tube with tissue and duct tape (leaving escape hole for smoke)
  • Tape and tissue protect hands from heat produced by smoke bomb
11. Pull pin out quickly and use smoke as signal in distress... or shield in paintball


A THERMITE BOMB (great for bank heists and subsequent prison breaks)
a) Al powder
b) Fe˘2O˘3 (iron oxide = rust)
c) Mg strip (fuse)
1. Mix Al and Fe˘2O˘3 well in a plastic bag
2. Pour mixture into an ordinary soda can
  • contents should form a small mound at the can mouth
3. Insert Mg fuse into the mound
4. Ignite Mg (with blowtorch)
5. Stand far back, as temperatures reach 4400ºF


GLOWING TOMATOES
1. Shave high-phosphorus match heads off wood into matchbox
  • High-phosphorus content can be detected with UV light (the brighter the glow, the more phosphorus)
2. Pour match head shavings into tube
3. Add small amount of bleach and mix thoroughly
4. Let solution stand for 20 minutes
  • Two layers will form, the upper liquid, the lower more solid
5. Extract upper layer with syringe
  • It should glow faintly in darkness
6. Inject fluid into tomato every inch or so along circumference
7. Inject H˘2O˘2 into center of tomato
8. Soon the tomato will be glowing
  • Do not eat it!

INDESTRUCTIBLE BURNING MONEY
1. Pour a good amount of isopropyl alcohol into a small bowl of water
2. Dip bill of money into solution with tongs
3. Place wet bill in flame
4. It will ignite but not burn
  • The paper/nylon fibers absorb the water so they don't burn while the alcohol goes up in flames
  • This can be done with your hand too, but be careful!

"Where does he find the time...

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...to write all that?"

"He doesn't find the time -- he makes it."

The dialogue I must rehearse at regular intervals in order to make great writers less intimidatingly great and my excuses for procrastinating less excusable.

Brain, Mind, and Computers by Stanley Jaki

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[I posted this review of Stanley Jaki's Brain, Mind, and Computers at Amazon recently...]

If you read enough of Fr. Jaki's works, or at least enough of the right ones, you see certain themes emerge time and again. One of the most important of those "Jakian" themes is the irreducible ontological gap between "the quantitative and the qualitative." Fr. Jaki explicitly cites an early source for this distinction as Aristotle (cf. Categories 16a). What makes physics the chief of natural sciences is its ability (sometimes envy-producing for other sciences) to isolate minute areas of material reality and explain them to an exhaustive quantitative degree. However, given the gap between quantities and qualities, this limits physics to quantitative concerns (when physics brings in literally meta-physical perspectives and assumptions, it makes proper use of the realm of qualitative reality). Given the nature of reality, you could call physics the supreme, because supremely limited, science. The disparity between quantities and qualities is the thesis of Fr. Jaki's first book on the history of science, **The Relevance of Physics** (TRP, 1966), its relevance being but the narrowly defined flip-side of its Irrelevance in many areas of life, an irrelevance acknowledged by many of physics' brightest lights.

The quantity-quality theme is also the driving force behind **Brain, Mind and Computers** (BMC). Indeed, Jaki mentions he originally intended to make BMC a closing chapter of TRP, but, upon reading M. Taube's **Computers and Common Sense**, he decided the cognitive/AI issue needed a lengthier, manifold treatment on its own. Ideally, then, BMC should be read in conjunction with, and perhaps only shortly after, TRP. BMC originally (ca. 1969) consisted of four chapters (each averaging 160 footnotes) and an epilogue, but in 1989 Fr. Jaki reissued BMC with a new fifth chapter (sort of like H. Dreyfus did with his **What Computers STILL Can't Do**, though Fr. Jaki thinks not very highly of Dreyfus's phenomenological arguments against strong AI), so be sure you get the newer paperback edition from Regnery.

Not only as a "Jakian" Catholic myself, but also as a believer in academic rigor -- one of Jaki's great strengths -- I am constantly miffed and surprised not to see this book cited in the indices or bibliographies of books dealing with the philosophy of mind and cognitive sciences. (An exception is D. Hofstadter's annotated bibliography in **Gödel, Escher, Bach**, but even then he brushes BMC aside as mere polemics, albeit with some "interesting" points ... yet he never engages those interesting points.) Certainly BMC is dated in terms of its contemporary analysis of AI. Even so, the gaps it fills in the historical record and the emphasis it lays on key issues -- such as 1) the futility of a physicalist reduction of human consciousness, 2) the important (rather Gödelian) discrepancies between human cognition and computerization (i.e., between language-as-understood and terms as formally describable), and 3) the crucial difference between computational results and intellection per se (i.e., the immateriality of thought per se). This last point deserves some elaboration. To borrow one of Fr. Jaki's own metaphors, just as two rivers may combine molecules when they converge but do not thereby perform addition, as a formal mental operation, so a computer may produce an algorithmic solution without thereby grasping the problem. The immateriality of intellection is understood by Fr. Jaki in terms of all words being universals and all meaningful discourse being predicated on methodical realism.

For these reasons alone, BMC should not be so consistently ignored by supposedly well read scholars in the field. The praise the book earned when it first appeared, coupled with the status of its author, should make BMC more prevalent in the discussion, even if only as a matter of academic thoroughness. BMC should remain especially significant in the AI/cog-sci debates since it is argued in tandem with TRP, a book no scholar of science can do without reading.

Of course, I am inclined to believe that, despite his accolades on a formally academic level, the priestly collar so proudly worn around Fr. Jaki's neck has led, even if unconsciously, to chronic disparagement of him on a personal level, moreso than some academics might care to admit.

Works that could profitably be read with BMC include:

  • M. Adler's **The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes** and **Intellect: Mind over Matter**
  • J. Maritain's **The Degrees of Knowledge**
  • E. Gilson's **Linguistics and Philosophy** and **Methodical Realism**
  • M. Taube's **Computers and Common Sense**
  • Fr. Jaki's Real View Books pamphlet, "The Brain-Mind Unity" and **The Relevance of Physics**
  • J. Ross's essay, "Immaterial Aspects of Thought"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pop Culchure Survey

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Without Googling for help, please mention as many allusions as the following line evokes for you:

"Whatever happened to Leonard Parts One to Five?"

(And yes, in the title I mean to type "culchure".)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who can say?

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Who can say that life's bitterest nightmares are not but its sweetest dreams unfulfilled, that life's darkest nights are not but its brightest horizons viewed as through a photo negative? Who can say that the heart of most lives is not but a series of loosely joined decisions made to justify one inescapable past decision, a mosaic of tiles aligned by all means with one primordial, now nonnegotiable, tile on the path of life? Who can say that this step, and the next, and then the next, are not just premeditated shadows of a stance, even a happenstance, portrayed, in resolute retrospect, as a wise and lasting decision? Who can say when looking at life through windows stained with a beautiful dream ends, and looking at life through a hallowed photo-negative from the past begins?

And who can say that pinpointing the past's one submerged anchor, the one ever-sinking, never-shifting tile, is not the key to unlock the secret of each present moment? Who can not see that everything following that one inalterable footprint in our past is but one complex maneuver to justify its placement in stone? Who may not find in the awareness of a granite past the first lesson in unraveling the intricate yet monomaniacal series of actions we call daily life? Who will fail to see that long knot of forward leaps and backward staggering is but one long argument to lionize, or at least to exonerate, the fabric out which it is spun and to glorify, or at least to shroud, the hook on which it sways? Exhausted and humiliated by constantly revising our lives, we may suddenly begin devising our lives based on a shrouded image we choose to call self-respect.

Our freedom, foibles, taste and terrors are but the images that best align with, and brighten, that smoky negative image we call regret. The ego is but that image projected in reverse from the past into the future, moment by moment, frame by flickering frame. We choose to play on a large, enduring scale -- on the big screen of life -- the role, which the microcosm of a decision cast for us. What the moving image reveals is the dual error of confusing being good with having a good life and, in turn, having a good life with making good on every part of our lives. Seated in the dark theater of our souls, we become hypnotized by the images of a past that we insist should have a better, more explicable place in our lives. Once a point of regret, or even of initially insignificant circumstance, is transmuted into a matter of principle, then even a skipping record can be called melodious and even vice can be labeled as goodness. For what really counts under this baffling spell is authenticity and consistency, as long as they apply to one's self. The magical error is rectified by remembering that regret is sometimes a healthy purgative, indeed, sometimes a means of liberation from what too easily becomes a hegemonic, self-justifying act of sheer will once upon a time.

We are, most of us, living desperately to explain, understand, unearth -- or, then again, perhaps to dilute and annihilate -- decisions we no longer have a choice but to make our own. It only takes one decision, of a certain intoxicating quality, falling in a certain fertile time, striking at a precisely crippling angle, to set in motion the remainder of a life, whereupon one is thenceforth committed with blind ambition to prove, to one's self as much as to others, how his life is not explained by, not subject to, a past decision, but rather is committed to reconstituting it, in clever hindsight, as one's intention all along. May it not be that from our most mundane scrabbling to our most valiant achievements, we are in fact simply trying to look ourselves in the mirror with a lens that finally unscrambles the image we bent into a certain shape some time before, some because-and-thus ago? Gazing into this mirror, who can regard any action as empty and meaningless when it is bursting with the desire to explain itself, and, if not the whole world, at least a whole life, in light of an irrevocable shift in the winds that we chose to follow long ago? Then again, who can see in any human action but a hollow, dessicated corpse of freedom, when we realize every moment is vampirized by the haunting awareness that you are what you, you do what you do, you reject what you reject, simply in order not to retrace your way and not to have to replace that incorrigible, inaugural tile?

The sense we make of our lives may not in fact make sense, given the sometimes arbitrary bases it tries to build from, but making sense of our selves -- predicating our purpose on our predicaments -- is unavoidable. One may either direct life towards a pristine, but indefinitely delayed, goal . . . or lead it out, like a rope unfurling, frayed, into the briny depths of mortality, as consistently and with as much decorum as possible from a starting point one feels obliged to make one's own. At some point, a decision, or even a failure to decide, takes on disproportionate significance in the story of our lives, and every page after that cannot but be embossed with the same theme, the same image, if only that we can read our life as one, coherent, progressive tale. Pick your plate, and press, then, with care.

-- Elliam Fakespeare

Sunday, September 9, 2007

So this is a count-up

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4+ years in Taiwan, not so long in some ways, but terribly long in others.

I hung out with some friends this evening in a park. We (well, that is, I) drank a little beer, sat on some boulders, looked at the world upside down lying back on the boulders (and wow Taichung looks so much cooler at night upside down, a truly needed change of perspective!), did some rock jumping, got into a really animated discussion of car wrecks and physics, and then I topped it off by climbing a tree. I used to climb trees all the time in middle and high school (Isaac and I once even put safety cone on the tippy top branch of a tree at our high school), but it had been probably 2 or 3 years since I climbed one. My one friend said he'd never climbed a tree before, which stunned me, and then got me thinking about all the trees I myself had climbed, so, as we were walking back to our scooters, I just went for it. And it felt simply great.

Once I was back on the ground, I could feel the muscles tree-climbing used most, and I realized that despite gaining sheer mass and total power over the years, I have lost my supple, unthinking, youthful monkey-power, since my wrists and biceps, and partially my lats and calves, were sizzling. I was sweaty, my forearms were dirty and scraped, and sap was all over my legs, but then again, as I assured my friends, "A real man has calluses on his forearms." What a great blast from the past. I need to climb trees more often (albeit without any beer in me bludstreem next time and something better than Diadora sandals on my feet!). I have got to get my juices going from time to time, which is why I did 50 pushups straight in class this past Wednesday, at the eventually astounded behest of my students.

I'm not bragging -- a decade ago, at the peak of my fitness, when I could hammer out three sets of 20 pullups, toss miles over shoulder running, crank out a set of 200 pushups without ever standing or kneeling, I might have boasted, but now -- well, I'm just saying how good it feels sometimes to be alive. Sometimes I think if my life could be more or less comprised of reading and writing and tree climbing and judo, grounded in Mass every morning, I'd be a happy man.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What is Darfur dying for?

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I want to publicize a book I've recently begun reading, Don Cheadle's and Ron Prendergast's Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. It's an advocacy book trying to raise awareness about the horrors in Darfur, what Elie Wiesel calls "today's capital of human suffering", and to motivate people (how) to push for diplomatic interventions. According to a note on the bottom of the front cover, "A portion of the proceeds is being donated to ENOUGH, the project to abolish genocide and mass atrocities (www.enoughproject.org)."



Find out about the atrocities in Darfur and please do what you can to stop it. For example, check out the International Rescue Committee.

One other "plug" I'd like to make is for my friend Terri Hewitt's book, The Rock Which Saves. I, among others, helped her get the thing done and so, even apart from enjoying the book as a true, personal story, I'm happy to see it finally on the market.



Pull de string! Pull de string!

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A small burst of classic zaniness and cinematic excellence.

Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi as Creepy Host Guy in Tim Burton's Ed Wood.

"Bullshit! I'm ready now. Roll de camera!"



Speaking of creepy entertainers, check out this 15-second video clip from a guys' 15-minute DVD highlighting his gyndroid singing (Real Player file). I dare you to turn off the lights and watch it alone.

When I was a kid, exposed to a nascent MTV on long summer days, I found Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" as disturbing as it was magnetizing, as revolting as it was captivating. Perhaps that is the seed, and the best metaphor, for my interest in robotics, AI, etc. Despite my misgivings about SAI (not to mention my all but utter ignorance in electronics, computer programming, etc.), I admit I've long wanted to build my own robot. (Hence, I've got Steve Grand's Growing Up with Lucy placed warmly albeit dustily in my TO READ box.) My favorite movie is Blade Runner and I love 2001: A Space Odyssey, especially its more "HALish" features. My affection for robots is ambivalent, though. I admit I look at the android movement and the robotics frenzy with a kind of morbid fascination. I see people, highly creative and intelligent people, throwing so much effort into making things they actually hope can replicate and then perhaps even "surpass" human achievements, affection, wit, etc. I watch and I marvel. For no matter how eye-catching, and eyebrow-raising, the bots in "Rockit" are, any sane person will see what actually makes the video worth watching: Herbie Hancock, a human, playing solid tunes (ironically displaced off-screen, of course, by being seen repeatedly and only on-screen). That's just what fascinates me about the contemporary robotics movement: no matter how "impressive" the advancements, there is still a thick current of creepiness in it, and, more important, a human foundation for all that progress. Making robots is only instrumentally, or formally, about the robots; ultimately, fundamentally, it's about ourselves, about the inventors themselves. The excellence of robots, then, is a complex, confusing expression of a basic human desire for artistic excellence.

Or maybe I'm wrong. I know just as well as anyone how works of art can take on "a life of their own," which is exactly the point of "From the Forest Itself". Given my ambivalent feelings about these matters, it's very hard to articulate, much less arrive at, a fixed position. For the moment, I'm pulling a Forrest Gump: "That's all I have to say about that."

In the meanwhile, I leave you to enjoy the mellifluous murmurings of HAL himself, singing "Daisy, Daisy", the first song ever sung by a robot (c/o kottke.org).

P.S. Here is a random anonymous comment about Greek Orthodox crib notes. Can you trace out the actual Greek?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Quailing at qualia?

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To quail means to cringe in fear.

Qualia is the plural of quale, which basically means "the quality [or 'feel'] of an experience" (e.g., the redness of red).

In Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness -- by the way, you can remember which Churchland is which, Paul or Patricia, by noting Paul has M. for a middle initial and he is the M(ale) Churchland -- while he does not quail at qualia, he does display a refined contempt for them as a muddled throwback to "folk psychology." According to fold psychology, what makes consciousness so unique, and therefore (so to speak) non-artificible, are its rich qualia. We may able to describe red in words, or even program "recognizing redness" into a computer, but only the raw immediate feeling (quale) of redness in our minds can properly be called consciousness. And it just seems impossible to build that feeling up from scratch or put it into other terms; you either get it or you don't.

A connected aspect of consciousness is the apparent infallibility of our conscious states. While we may be tricked or confused by grammar, complex propositional statements, difficult logical puzzles, frenetic bursts of activity, and so forth, we simply can't be deluded about what we experience "on the inside." There is an infallible immediacy to conscious experiences, vivid in their qualia, which nothing but "feeling it firsthand" can produce. No verbal description or logical consideration can match the raw, infallible certainty of how we perceive something.

As a leading "qualophobe" Churchland is, of course, critical of all this. He examines a number of problems with the claim of conscious infallibility, criticisms which I feel are quite weak. His main argument against (so to speak) qualic infallibility is that we often in fact do err about what we perceive. When we glance at our friend's new shoes, at first we see them as purple, but then suddenly they shift into a deep blue. Or, for example, we reach for a glass of milk, take a gulp, and then suddenly nearly choke when we suddenly taste the fluid is actually water or orange juice. In such case, Churchland says, we're obviously victim to an all too fallible consciousness. If we can be wrong about our own qualia, then surely there's nothing so unique or special about qualia.

As I say, I find Churchland's criticisms weak, mainly because he seems not to grasp where the qualic immediacy actually lies. He seems to be confusing objective misperception with what I am here going to call subjective transception. (Here, about Hana Gitelman, and here, about the word itself, are two short discussions of the word "transception" in other senses than I intend, yet which do illuminate some of what I'm trying to say.) By subjective transception I mean the state of a qualia 'coming across' to a person subjectively. It is, in other words, just the action of qualic consciousness. It is perceiving, feeling, an experience's or object's qualia for ourselves. The difference between objective misperception, which Churchland raises as an objection against qualic infallibility, and subjective transception is crucial, but Churchland seems insensitive to it. (Is there a quale of qualophilia?) Even if we experience things incorrectly, we still do so immediately and infallibly. Even if our mistaken perception of the purple shoes shifts aright to seeing them as blue, we are still immediately aware of this shift by virtue or subjective transception. It is precisely subjective transception that allows us to notice our shift from misperception to accurate perception. Even when I mispronounce the word "equilibrium", say as "equilibrium", I still do so in exactly that way, with exactly that feeling of mispronunciation. Even when I am perceiving blue as purple, I am still immediately and infallibly perceiving purple as purple, and then, in a flash, blue as blue. Objective misperception stands between that qualic shift but, crucially, not between the subjective transception of the qualia themselves.

This may seem to undermine the reliability of qualia, and perception generally, since apparently even if we have it, we still could be dead wrong about what it is presenting to us. But this problem is no more troubling in my mind than what optical illusions do for perception. Consider my favorite example, the (so to speak) two-way box:



It may take a moment or two for you to see it, but at some point something will click for you visually and you will see this box can be seen in two ways. In one way, as from above, like down and left at a shoebox. In another way, as from below, as looking right and up into a transparent house. Once you grasp the illusion, you can even flip between the two perspectives. What does this mean? The perspective-flipping is an analogy for qualic-shifting (which we find in cases of objective misperception). If two people looked at the box at the same moment and said what they saw, one might see it from above while the other might see it from below. In this case, they would disagree about what's being seen (objectively), but in neither case would either deny what he's seeing subjectively. Further, once they'd come to agree the box can be seen in two ways, they'd still have an immediate awareness of which quale (or which angle) they were perceiving. Since, objectively speaking, they both couldn't be right about a box being in two different positions, would we be right to say one person was wrong (i.e., misperceiving reality)? No. The objective error or seeing the box "wrong" would have to be sorted out as an objective ambiguity; meanwhile though, the subjective transception of the box, as from above or from below, would not be subject to any "correction." So, even when I misperceive a C for an E (I have a mediocre musical era and little grasp of musical notation), I am still doing so "infallibly" in terms of what I am experiencing.

Churchland thinks that consciousness is adequately described by the role it plays in a causal network (viz., if "red" gets you to stop at the intersection, then it just is red, regardless how each driver subjectively experiences the light's color). I disagree, since the ambiguity of colors only amounts to objective errors, which would have to be sorted out with an objective optical apparatus, and does not count as evidence against the existence of qualia in conscious experience. When a bee looks at a flower, it perceives a swirl of chemicals and ultraviolet landing markers. When I look at it, I see petals, pistils and stamens. From one objective perspective -- depending on who wins the coin flip, the bee or me, for perceptual dominance in the thought experiment -- one of us is wrong: the flower is either a petal-pistil-looking thing or it is a glowing-swirling-ultraviolet-looking thing. While I may be wrong about how I see the flower (in bee terms), I am never wrong about how I perceive it as a discrete, vivid qualic encounter. Qualia are important because if I didn't 'have' them, I'd never know how to respond to objects. If all I had was objective data about what the object should look like, or about what response it should elicit, I would never have a subjective ability to form my own responses to objects.

I was agitated to write about all this not only because Churchland's qualic criticisms had been itching my brain for a few weeks, but also because, just last night, I heard of a fascinating (though tragic) case. A good friend of one of my good friends was in a serious motor accident several months ago. She suffered serious brain damage but, praise God, made surprising recovery. She can now walk, and talk and listen and function -- but she can't feel. She has no happiness, no stress, no anger, no fear, etc. If you invite her to join you for ice cream, your treat, she can only say, in a complete monotone, "Sounds good." If you threaten to take all her money and burn it right then and there, she can only say, in a complete monotone, "No, please don't." While this woman can produce the right verbal and behavioral responses (in a causal network), still she has no emotional feeling for anything. Her case is fascinating to me because it seems to be a crucial study for the consciousness debate. Does it count against qualia that a person can live without them (at least in emotional terms, though not in perceptual terms)? Or does it not count as evidence for the reality of qualia that they can exist separate from, and with causal powers distinct from, verbal and behavioral causal networks? Churchland, and other qualophobes, would seem to be inclined to say this woman is as conscious as conscious can be, since there is no metaphysical mystery to consciousness other than how it emerges as the interplay between stimulus and response. But surely just because she can recognize, and respond to, the appropriate causal triggers, does not mean she is truly conscious. Surely her lack of a qualitatively emotional life shows there is more to consciousness than its functions.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Suspension of disherence

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Some days ago I was riffing on the "one-wayedness" of the Turing test, in the sense that an adequate criterion for intelligence would seem to include detecting error not only in one's own reasoning, but also in another's. In other words, a truly smart bot should not just be able to "chat" with a human without being called out as a robot, but should also be able to challenge logical and semantic claims of the human tester herself.

Apparently, one of the most famous chatbots, known as Eliza, is designed to do this sort of thing. Is Eliza a "Rogerian therapist", as she tries to sound like, or is she just a deluded algorithm? Eliza ostensibly challenges her interlocutor, much like a therapist might. Here's a sample of a "conversation" I had with here:

> Hello
* Good morning
> Don't you say hello?
* Hello and good morning
> So what do you want to discuss
* I'm in Taiwan
> Do you like being in Taiwan?
* More or less
> Can you tell me more?
* How about not?
> Why do you ask?
* You've already failed using intelligible English
> What does that suggest to you?
* You're a bot and Turing is still a dreamer
> Do you sometimes wish you were a bot and Turing is still a dreamer?
* How prescient of you!
[Here I left the chat box to blog]
> You're not really talking about me, are you?
> *** Are We going to Chat? ***
> I can't help you without a dialog!
* Sorry I was distracted
> What feelings do you have when you apologise?
* Anxiety and self-loathing
> I see.
* See what?
> Have you asked such questions before?

I quickly grew tired of this "test" and can see going through it towards "intelligent" dialogue only by suspending my disbelief, indeed by suspending my awareness of just how disherent Eliza is (which is not to say incoherent, just tellingly not coherent enough). SAIers (i.e., advocates of "strong artificial intelligence," like Alan Turing, Rodney Brooks, Marvin Minksy, Douglas Hofstadter, Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Dennett, Andy Clark, et al.), sometimes complain their opponents are always moving the goal posts instead of equitably accepting the progress AI has made and will make. For example, if expert chess was once the challenge to be met, and a robot meets the challenge, the goal post is just moved back to something more challenging, something more enigmatically and truly intelligent, such as vectorial face recognition. My own complaint, as an opponent of SAI (what you might call a Naysaier, like John Searle, Mortimer Adler, Roger Penrose, John von Neumann, Kurt Gödel, Hubert Dreyfus, Stanley Jaki, et al.) is that SAIers do just the opposite by widening the goal posts. An analogous trend is how SAIers claim that within, for example, 50 years, we will have such and such splendors or AI, only to see that, within those 50 years, the next generation is now saying that, within another 50 years we will have those long-sought splendors. (This temporal slippage occurred within Alan Turing´s own short lifetime; in the 40´s he expected robotic success in half a century but only years later he had dilated the time to a century.) If Naysaiers are accused of moving the goal post back farther from the kicker each time he succeeds, SAIers I think are just as guilty of narrowing the idea of intelligence to something almost definitionally possible for AI systems. Once you start saying human intelligence is "really just" this or that algorithm, and those many algorithms in concert, then you´ve eo ipso defined your way to success by narrowing the meaning of intelligence to something so basic (the "stupid homunculus" of the literature) that it turns out in one move that not only robots can attain intelligence but people themselves never really had it to begin with! Demystifying "natural intelligence" is a slippery but very popular way of perfecting artificial intelligence. If basically any problem-solving algorithm can be found for any problem even loosely construed, then of course anything can just as easily pass for intelligence.

My complaint is not that SAIers target specific human goals and conquer them one plank at a time, nor, more crucially, that they redefine intelligence in non-anthropocentric terms (this was very much Alan Turing's approach in the 1940s and 50s). My complaint is that precisely by redefining intelligence in terms amenable to robotics, SAIers forfeit the entire project of "artificial intelligence" as generally understood. The key hidden premise of the SAI project is not that AI amounts to the mere computerization of basic tasks -- which we have in spades, so here's to weak AI! -- but in fact the hominization of computerized cognition. The goal has always been to see robots that "can do everything humans can do, only better," so I find it curious to see both claims being pushed without much awareness of the tension. If on the one hand computers are designed to attain human (anthropocentric) intelligence, well, that still leaves a long empirical road ahead, and one heavily opposed by metaphysical concerns (such as the immateriality of thought and the [Gödelian] incompleteness of any logical system). If on the other hand AI is redefined for properly robotic intelligence, without denigrating it based on inappropriate human standards, then it seems we´ve got a fundamentally different project. The intrinsic embodiedness of intelligence (which is exactly what Aristotelico-Thomistic anthropology entails), and spirit´s transcendent relation to matter, forces a choice for SAIers. Either take human intelligence serious in its totality or take robotic intelligence seriously in its own terms without using it as a "threat" against the "special dignity" of humans. (This dilemma for SAI, which rests on the horns of biological ineluctability and conceptual redundancy, is what I was getting at in "Mother, may I?".) In the first case, SAI will ultimately amount to cloning, since human intelligence, in its current mode of being, can only properly exist in a human body. Designing computers to "pull off" human intelligence will just amount to cloning and manufacturing human intelligence (à la Brave New World).

In the second case, making properly robotic intelligence a reality will just be another case of intelligence being analogously understood from an already anthropocentric perspective. Only because we grasp what we mean by intelligence, do we see in an analogous way that animals "have it too." Now that we can manufacture electropets, AI will just become another case of finding intelligence in the world but still only in an analogous way. All such talk of, and reliance on, analogous levels of being is of course part and parcel with orthodox Catholic theology. What may be troubling for some Christians, namely, to find analogies of will, thought, and feeling in non-human subjects, pales in comparison to the startling awareness for a materialist that mind is a driving force in the universe at all levels. We find meaning in our own intellects because they are analogous reflections of God´s own intelligible personal being-in-relation. We find demi-meaning in beings beneath us because they too partake analogously of God´s being. Man, for his part, is the microcosmal mediator of the sensible and the immaterial, the sub- and the superhuman, which is what saints like Irenaeus, Maximus, Augustine, and Bonaventure have long been talking about.