Zealots gain the upper hand

The surge of religiosity in the US continues unabated. A survey from NEWSWEEK is the current cause of distress – apparently over 90% of Americans profess to be religious, and almost half reject the findings of science. Alarmingly, 35% of college graduates (the most educated of Americans) accept the bible as fact and believe that mankind sprung mysteriously into existence less than 10,000 years ago.

Less than one in ten Americans was willing to own-up to being an atheist – I suspect that as at other times when religiosity was in the ascendant, like the dark ages, there has been a danger of civic censure and communal intolerance of the atheist. It is already an established fact that government office is dependent on public displays of piety, and government policy is also dictated by various religious or ethnically religious groups.

It fills me with dread to think of the single largest military power on planet being held under the sway of religious fundamentalists. Of course for those of us in the west – Christianity is (laughably) regarded as the religion of progress and multicultural tolerance and democracy. Those from christian cultures feel threatened by firebrand religious fanatics of Islam. Those of us, who are atheist, regard any kind of christian ascendancy as equally undesirable.

Even the spell checker on this god-damned word-processor wants to capitalise the word ‘christian’.

What can we do to stem the tide of this religious anti-renaissance?

Wiki Royale with Cheese

For the edification of the collective attentionstream, I have decided to quote for you the ineffable value additions and polysyllabic formulations of the “System One” post-microchunked formats – with a translation.

Our services strategically develop your organization’s knowledge as a production factor in order to make optimal use of it. The core of our service portfolio is a technological platform,   that consistently makes available innovations in the areas of Social Software,  Semantic Web  and  Information Retrieval.

This is undoubtedly groundbreaking stuff. In case you didn’t catch it the first time round: “we’ve got a website. You can use it. People can read it.

Awesome. Really.

Needless to say, it’s french – they first brought us post-modernist analysis, and now they have brought us post-technological production factors.

From Derek…

Do you suppose silicon based life forms construct computers from carbon and then agonize over whether they will become intelligent?

A 100% crime detection and solving rate is clearly not compatible with most people’s notions of civil liberty. This implies that there are certain types and levels of crime that we are tacitly prepared to tolerate. What are they and how much. If you are still in doubt, how would you react to being compelled to provide a DNA fingerprint for a national database?

The greatest failure of science has been its inability to stamp out religion (and astrology).

Humankind does not have free will. The underlying causes of our behaviour are [too] complex and insufficiently understood to give the impression of being spontaneous.

What society judges as moral and ethical lags behind,and is ultimately dictated by, technological progress and scientific discovery. Human cloning will ultimately be regarded as no more remarkable than textured vegetable protein.

Genetically modified food will become as widely consumed and popular as battery farmed chicken because it will be cheap. Cost is the final arbiter of consumer acceptance.

Not only was Diana Precious of Wales self obsessed and sentimental she was also a perfectly vacuous cloths horse.

A cult becomes a religion when it graduates from killing its members to killing non-members.

If there is nothing in the universe that is not matter or its momentum, is information (as distinct from its representation) merely matter in motion? Does information exist in the absence of minds?

Life is an emergent property of complex autocatalytic systems the rest is just natural selection. In an AI context what is the equivalence of autocatalysis?

On God and other weird ideas

I subscribe to the idea that religion is a kind of dangerous but eradicable kind of cultural virus.

If people give in to the temptation of the aesthetic criterion for truth, then Science should not blame itself for the continued existence of Religion. People are not yet strong enough for the “truth”. The problem still remains – some of the worst doxological aesthetes are philosophers. If they are not going to do the persuading, then we shall have to rely on the pathos of religious life outweighing the desire for self delusion in the common man.

Would you judge that the following is a well founded argument?

If a proof for the non-existence of an improbable state of affairs cannot be found, then the probability of the state of affairs must be greater than objective evidence indicates.

If you judge it to be unfounded, then tell me why so many (otherwise intelligent) people believe in GOD?

It would be a worse to believe in something I knew to be false, than to live in a world with no fixed reference points.

There is no good, and no bad
There is no white or black or blue.
There is no reason to do anything, as there is no reason not to do anything.
Therefore I believe in GOD to rectify the problem.
Problem is – in rectifying the problem I place my naked aggression at the disposal of people who bid me perform
acts that I now have come to think of as BAD.

We face an unpallatable pair of alternatives:

Either – The church is ruled by a degenerate bunch of spineless appeasers. These bastards will tell us anything that we wish to believe in order to keep the church alive and to cling on to the glory of times gone by.

Or – Or the church is ruled by a bunch of scheming villains who have hidden their ferocity in order to ride out the change in society that is occurring in the 20C.

I’m inclined to believe the former.

arguably, statements made in natural language don’t correspond to facts about the world.
Dr. C. Boyne

It is the possibility for people to make statements of this kind without real fear of refutation, that enables the sort of specious assertions to be made that bolster the groundless authority of the church.

So much froth

Your unfounded beliefs are the reason why my unfounded opinions seem jaundiced.

If you don’t have unpallatable ideas, what does that say about you?

Self reliance is not synonymous with Fascism.

The purpose of speech is to cause increased activity in certain conceptually specific regions of the listener’s brain. Does this imply that the command is the basic logical form of natural langauge?

Swords are more frightening than Atomic bombs. Atomic bombs show evidence that some people are unwilling to fight in person. Swords show the reverse and thus point to the brutality in the human psyche.

Self preservation is an organic thing that keeps our bodies in good working order. At the same time it gives us the sensation of self. After all, what would be a more efficient mechanism for a chunk of protein to preserve homeostasis?

Whilst I am compelled by my biology to think in terms of pretty and ugly, that does not mean that I wish to be thought of as Arty.

Whatever it is that humans do when they understand something, it is certainly not what computers do…

Such feelings are motivated by the simplicity of AI systems. We would hate to find out that we were so transparent and mechanical. Many researchers either avoid thinking about the prospect or deny it flatly. One could say that people such as Searle and Penrose deny it first and then base a thesis on the denial.

People have treated each other as if they were mindless beasts whilst declaring the beauty of life, existence and freedom. A good dose of self understanding might be the antidote to such hypocrisy. I don’t mean that [Winograd] is guilty of this but I do think that there is a parallel in the widespread kneejerk reaction to behaviourism.

It is obvious that there are some strict limits to human behaviour. Far from being a cage which blights our existence, this psychological determinism enables us to communicate and interpret the communications of others. It frees us from the shackles of randomness. If there are such rules to our behaviour, is it a good thing to pretend that they are not there, or that they cannot be found and should not be thought about?

Most artificial Natural Language Systems model understanding in apparently complex knowledge domains in simple ways. Our expectancy of the domain complexity leads us to assume that complex understanding must be taking place.

Likewise, ants behave in complex ways because of their complex environment. They are simple creatures. Perhaps the same is true of us, only compounded by the added complexity of our memories. Our context gets increasingly complex and so do we.

Just because laws are stated in computer programs does not make them true or powerful.

AI has been long on practice and short on theory.

The “children of the sixties” are solipsists, and would seek to drag us into the abiss of ontological relativism.

Information is not “what is informative”, it is a constant quantity in the universe. Information is the universe’s structure.

Information can not therefore increase or decrease because the structure of the universe cannot increase or decrease, it can only change. Could some physicists out there tell me if I’m wrong, because I still don’t ken the difference between matter and energy (or the similarity.)

C. Shannon was only dealing with channels, not making epistemological statements. Therefore we should not allow the utility of his ideas to lead us on a downward spiral into solipsism.

Cybernetics, information theory, chaos theory and complexity theory are all based on the same fundamental ideas. Chaos is a state in which the Shannonesque information content is large. That is – the number of possible states into which a causal chain could lead a system are larger than on a system in which the structure is less complex. In a chaotic system – control of the system, and feedback from the system, have a richer structure, and are thus less predictable.

Any study of information theory, and related disciplines, is bound to be cross-disciplinary.

The consciousness that we attribute to ourselves, is a product of our tendency to attribute it to others. Have you, gentle reader, been able to successfully point to some aspect of your subjective life that is definitely conscious? If so could you mail me and describe it to me, because I can’t seem to pin one down, and I wonder if there is a such a thing. Perhaps we are looking for such a feeling because we seem to see it in others. We wonder where it is in ourselves. Is it really so slippery? Can we prove that it is slippery with strange loops

The AI context of autocatlysis is autocatalysis.