Author Archives: whpearson

The self-hood stance

Let us expand upon the self-hood stance a bit and contrast it to Dennet’s Stances. From the all-knowing wiki

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  • The most concrete is the physical stance, which is the domain of physics and chemistry. At this level, we are concerned with such things as mass, energy, velocity, and chemical composition. When we predict where a ball is going to land based on its current trajectory, we are taking the physical stance. Another example of this stance comes when we look at a strip made up of two types of metal bonded together and predict how it will bend as the temperature changes, based on the physical properties of the two metals.
  • Somewhat more abstract is the design stance, which is the domain of biology and engineering. At this level, we are concerned with such things as purpose, function and design. When we predict that a bird will fly when it flaps its wings on the basis that wings are made for flying, we are taking the design stance. Likewise, we can understand the bimetallic strip as a particular type of thermometer, not concerning ourselves with the details of how this type of thermometer happens to work. We can also recognize the purpose that this thermometer serves inside a thermostat and even generalize to other kinds of thermostats that might use a different sort of thermometer. We can even explain the thermostat in terms of what it’s good for, saying that it keeps track of the temperature and turns on the heater whenever it gets below a minimum, turning it off once it reaches a maximum.
  • Most abstract is the intentional stance, which is the domain of software and minds. At this level, we are concerned with such things as belief, thinking and intent. When we predict that the bird will fly away because it knows the cat is coming and is afraid of getting eaten, we are taking the intentional stance. Another example would be when we predict that Mary will leave the theater and drive to the restaurant because she sees that the movie is over and is hungry.

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The self-hood stance nestles between the design and the intentional stances. It is a entity whose parts all seem designed at least somewhat for the preservation of that entity. So part of the entity is injured we might expect another part of it to repair it. When a part of an entity is running low on a resource to perform functions that help other bits of the entity we might expect that resource to be transferred from another part of an entity. Parts might clean other parts. The self is in general homoeostatic and is  what it make sense to consider preserved by autonomic systems.

We get surprised when bits of an entity don’t help out itself. When an ant’s brain and legs conspire to sacrifice it attacking a predator. At least until we make sense of it as part of a larger self, the gene’s that make it up.

Omohondro’s drives suggest that any AI will develop a self-hood.

Now it is late. I shall come back to this another day

Origin of Identity

I think I have to back it up a little. I’ve jumped halfway into my argument about identity and not given a firm basis. So let us go back to the beginning, the origin of identity.

Where does it come from?  It is not obvious.  So let us ask our friends the sciences what they think of identity.

Particle Physics: I’ve no idea what you are talking about. There are no objects, no people. There are simply atoms, the things you describe might be made of atoms, but I just don’t care about them. They may as well not exist for all I care. I can predict everything without having to reference these things, ockhams razor suggests I get rid of these things.

Well not a good start. But we mere mortals cannot predict everything with particle physics, so we have to go up the scale.

Engineering : We we have bodies so that is a good start. However they aren’t really associated with people per se. We can cut them in half and get two bodies. And then predict Or join them two bodies together to get one, like the beast with two backs.

Beasts, eh. Maybe biology will be more helpful.

Biology : I know all about the self. One of my most important tenets is self-replication!

Finally! So how do you determine what is a self? Everything in a continuous body? Everything with the same genome?

Biology: Not so easy. You might have viruses in your body. They may even insert themselves in your genome and then preferentially self-replicate themselves. Cancer cells start off as normal cells part of your self, working towards normal goals then slowly get their genetic code subverted. Ants/Bees in a colony aren’t 100% identical DNA but all tend to work as one entity

So we have to do adopt something similar to the intentional stance, something is a self if it helps us to think of it as a self. By a self, I mean something with a coherent identity and goal. Including ourselves! Evolution will tend to produce things that are have an identity of self-hood, a thing that is replicated. It may even come to know itself and recognize what is itself vs what is other, so it can then protect itself.

Personal Identity

I’m loosely associating this with survival, but I am really just going back to some philosophy that I’ve looked at before. It is also somewhat playful. I take an idea and run with it for a while. I’m not sure if I am going to keep it with me forever.

There are various interesting ideas about the future such as emulated humans and AIs that copy themselves. Emulated humans are people that have had their brains scanned and then computers run an emulation (one of the biggest proponents of the idea is Robin Hanson, his scenario may be found here). Emulated humans are also implicit in some peoples thoughts on cryonics. People contend that if the emulation has the same responses to the same stimuli, or output to input, they are the same person. It doesn’t matter if they have a body or are a brain-in-a-vat they are still the same. It is a functional/computational view of self-hood.

So what happens if you copy someone? Lets assume they are atomically identical, just in a different space. By this view you have two of the same person. Both have the same function, both are the same person! What do you do with their bank account? What would their lovers do (this would depend a lot upon the people involved!)?

My view is more pragmatic. Self-hood is fragment-able and pragmatic. You are the same person when it helps to think of yourself as the same person as you were. That you still prefer certain foods, other people have certain dispositions to you,  you have skills at certain video games or the way you handle your money are moderately stable and help you predict yourself and your world. If these things stay the same, then you are the same person. The sum of the way you think about yourself defines your personal identity. Creating another exact copy of you won’t change things too much, except how the rest of the world relates to you.

It will vastly change the social aspect of your pragmatic identity. As well as personal identities, we all have identities in other peoples minds that they use to predict us. Part of the identity of other people is the number of bodies they have! So copying me would change a very large aspect of peoples conception of me.  Due to the way fact that they interact with me is part of my identity, so my self-identity would have to change. I would now have to be whpearson1 or whpearson2 so that other people could relate to the mes.

Another aspect that might change is your relation to the physical world. If you own only one pre-copying you suddenly find yourself having to share or steal a car. If you found it useful to define yourself by your possessions before hand, then you would lose that ability to predict yourself.

People grieve about lost possessions and relationships, so I don’t think it too much of stretch to say they represent small parts of your personal death. Grieving being a period of reconfiguration of what it means to be you.

So ironically copying me functionally would in some ways make me cease to exist. It depends how much of my identity was wrapped up in social or physical interactions.

By the pragmatic view

Brave Mechanised World

–Warning spoilers for Brave New World follow.–

I was thinking about how to engage people in social change without forcing them to watch news which is unpleasant for some people and may or may not be bad for you.

This got to me thinking about making activism fun or at least not preachy, which has been a theme of a couple of my friends recently. And I got to wonder why Brave New World hasn’t been given a recent cinematic airing recently. So perhaps a re-visitation is in order? So here is my movie idea. n.b. I am not a movie maker, so it is unlikely to happen, just my playfulness kicking in. Continue reading

Cats vs Dogs

I roughly classify people into Cat or Dog people. This is not necessarily about the animals they like but about their approach to friendship groups.

Dogs – They have a pack. They want to stay with their pack.  These people stay in their home towns and have the same friends forever.

Cats – They roam where they wish, keeping whichever company they choose. They don’t have the same friends over time, they switch friendship groups easily.

I am some what between the two. I don’t need friends around me at all points but I do want to have the same friends over time. I have dubbed my close friends my Clan, rather than my pack. People I will help be they be far distant or not seen for a few years. I’m guessing people were more dog-like in the past but have been becoming more cat-like as people become more mobile and independent.

I’m not sure where I am going with this. But it is important for view of Clan and community.

Configurable computing

Fitting in with RINA is the idea of configurable computing TM (working title). A future of computing where people can link together computer components in a visual programming model. These links may be local or span networks.

In the beginning was the command line, where programs can be combined together to do complex and varied task.

Next came the Application where apps are generally islands of their own perhaps sharing some libraries.

A brief trip to mobile app land (at least the android country) where programs can ask other programs to do things for them.

Now what next? Let us look go in to the stark utilitarian world of servers for some hints. Here programs setup long term communications channels between each other. Different programs can communicate in the same way and be swapped out. Most websites are built this way of components, the so called technology stack.

Can each person have their own stack? Controlling flows of information between multiple computers, devices and systems like digital wizards?

Apps are okay for the moment, so what will drive this future? It will be the personal capture of information and annotation of visual feeds. If people start life-logging, they will want and need to control what information goes where, what information is processed and how. Let us say there is a new component that processes video and extracts the text around you to be searchable, would you trust it with your video feed? To collect all your  personal moments? If you could give it a doctored feed, one that detected faces and removed them? If you could see what other information flowed out from this component you may then trust it. Or this may be the comments of a very private man.

If nothing else it will be needed for efficiency. Different Augmented Reality apps need different information flows, however they share some pre-processing steps.  They need to be able to merge these information flows so that more can be done with the processing power. Ideally doing such things in next generation fpgas for ultimate power/performance ratio. 

A few design ideas

  • Configuration should be separate from programming – This will align the operation of the computers with the users needs.
  • Configuration should be visual
  • Operation should be inspectable – You should be able to look inside any connection between component and see something
  • Configuration should be copyable
  • Configuration should be partially copyable (diffs and patching in programming)
  • Configuration should be revertible (some form of git?)
  • Configuration should be parameterised. You shouldn’t have to repeat yourself.

This post will be a work in progress. But I doubt anyone will read this for a while.

 

Recursive Internetwork Architecture – Introduction

People need to be able to communicate together. They also need to be able to control the way they are allowed to communicate together, rather than being having to use a specific technology with the naming controlled by other people.

This is where the recursive internetwork architecture comes in. Rather than having a central authority on how things are named, numbered and messages moved around, Recursive Internetwork Architecture (RINA) allows a bunch of networks to come together and each control their own patches how they would like, but still be able communicate.

More on this later.