Saturday, June 15, 2013

Machines That Think

  

- Turing, the theorist of the computer, famously said that people will start thinking machines can be conscious when they stop being conscious themselves. That in fact is what is happening.
- So you think the machine metaphor is illegitimate?
- I think it is right to say that as our bodies are imperfectly constructed machines, so are our minds.
- You mean that old stuff of sexual and destructive energies, complexes of self deception?
- No. That is seeing the mental machine operating like a physical machine, with the unintelligible, invisible physical things of "matter" and "energy".
- Then how does a mental machine operate?
- With the intelligible things accessible to consciousness.
- Like what?
- Like the purpose of life. What to live for.
- To be or not to be.
- No, Will I do good or not? To be or not to be is a physical machine question: do we make use of the body or destroy it?
- How do we know what is good?
- We don't deliberately learn. The mind is a badly constructed machine liable to break-downs, so we operate a routine to keep it in repair. The mind machine breaks down, roughly, in this way (from J.J. Rousseau):
A child seeks to get what it wants. The child learns what actions will result in his guardians giving what he wants. The child, instead of learning about the world to get what he wants, now learns how to manipulate his guardians. Child and guardians produce a society which is stable: the image the child produces complements the image the guardians produce, like actors with their different roles in the same play. All this happens automatically, is learned by the child without awareness.
- You're saying we should break that machine of unconscious image making? But security is good.
- Security based on individual experience is good, and absolutely necessary. Security based on unconsciously learned image making is the machine error that needs to be fixed if we are to do as well as we can.
- How fixed?
- When we act with passions, out of fear and anger, we are attempting to protect the operation of the machine of image making. So the first rule is, stop acting out of fear and anger. Alright?
- Yes.
- The second rule, following from the first, is don't attempt to change the world into any particular arrangement of things. Don't demand the "fruits" of our action be a dependable relation of things in the world.
- How does that follow?
- Because having things kept the same is an attempt to protect the machine of image making. Consider what me mean by property. If we think of some thing as ours or anyone's we break both rules at once: we demand that things of the world remain near by and threaten violence out of our fear or anger if they are not.
- How does the machine operate without image making?
- When speaking, we know when the sentence finishes well: it feels beautiful, true, good. Three mental things we can't define, like we can't define the physical things matter and energy. It's mysterious. We don't know where we are going when we speak. We can't identify the rules of what we are doing when we are doing it. But we do know when to speak, and when speaking has concluded. We know when to stop, and where to start.
- Doesn't seem like much.
- Knowing when to start and to stop is enough to decide the question, to do good or not to do good.
- How?
- We don't do good, when that good is supposed to be an arrangement of things in the world. We do do good when obeying our corrective rules we allow ourselves to act.
- Like children, trying to get what we want.
- And adults too, who have some security in what they have learned about life.
- The adults I know are broken mental machines who, like you said, think computers can be conscious. They don't have consciousness because their mental machine is turned off and on by fear and anger, not by their own choice. Will the majority ever repair themselves?
- Do we have to know? Demanding that knowledge is being attached to results, insisting the world of people become a crowd of well operating mental machines. That is ruled out, like being afraid of failure is ruled out, and being angry at the people who fail is ruled out. If we care to talk about these things with people then we talk to people about these things.
- Children try to get what they want and so should we.
- Children who've learned what good things they can have.