Thursday, December 23, 2010

They're made out of data - Boing Boing

They're made out of data - Boing Boing

"They're made out of data."
"Data. They're made out of data."
"No doubt about it. We picked them up as holonomic extrusions, sent in an amnesiant isomorphic scout party, and checked them out up close. They are completely data."
"That's impossible. What about that page?"
"The page didn't come from them. The page came from a machine."
"So who made the machine? That's who we want to contact."
"I'll get to that in a minute. But they're definitely data. Bits and bytes. Running on a machine."
"You're asking me to believe in sentient data."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Barry Loewer and Tim O’Connor: Philosophy TV

Barry Loewer and Tim O’Connor Philosophy TV

O’Connor defends, and Loewer opposes, strong emergentism: the view that there are properties and laws beyond those which can be captured by any fundamental physical theory. After clarifying their positions, they discuss (starting at 30:01) whether quantum mechanics supports or undermines O’Connor’s view. Then (starting at 43:27) they turn to phenomena of consciousness, and consider whether the immediacy and simplicity of conscious experience provide evidence of strong emergence.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Egregore - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Egregore - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Egregore (also 'egregor') is an occult concept representing a 'thoughtform' or 'collective group mind', an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme."

Vernor Vinge's sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep coming in October!

Vernor Vinge's sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep coming in October! No word yet whether the Tines will be in it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Peter Watts (author)

I've just started reading Peter Watt's freely available novel, Blindsight. So far, it's terrific. And, as Charles Stross blurbs,:

"Imagine a neurobiology-obsessed version of Greg Egan writing a first contact with aliens story from the point of view of a zombie posthuman crewman aboard a starship captained by a vampire, with not dying as the boobie prize."

Naked Hypercube

Naked Hypercube

Tesseracts can be made from, among other things, the unclothed. NSFW? Don't know/don't care.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Andy's Anachronisms -- Time Travel Reviews

Andy's Anachronisms -- Time Travel Reviews: "On the net since 1999, Andy's Anachronisms is devoted to exploring the themes of time travel and alternate history in books, movies, television, and pop culture in general."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Is this evidence that we can see the future?

Is this evidence that we can see the future?: "A controversial paper claims to provide experimental evidence for human precognition – and it's been accepted by a leading social psychology journal


Learning in Non-superpositional Quantum Neurocomputers

Learning in Non-superpositional Quantum Neurocomputers

Ronald L. Chrisley


A distinction is made between superpositional and non-superpositional quantum computers. The notion of quantum learning systems - quantum computers that modify themselves in order to improve their performance - is introduced. A particular non-superpositional quantum learning system, a quantum neurocomputer, is described: a conventional neural network implemented in a system which is a variation on the familiar two-slit apparatus from quantum physics. This is followed by a discussion of the advantages that quantum computers in general, and quantum neurocomputers in particular, might bring, not only to our search for more powerful computational systems, but also to our search for greater understanding of the brain, the mind, and quantum physics itself.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Philosophy Talk: The Blog: Digital Selves

Philosophy Talk: The Blog: Digital Selves

Conjoined twins...with a twist

Conjoined twins...with a twist: "
Tatiana and Krista Hogan are conjoined twins who not only share a bit each other's skulls but also parts of their brains. So are they two people with two brains & personalities or one person with one brain and two (split) personalities?

Adding to the conundrum, of course, are their linked brains, and the mysterious hints of what passes between them. The family regularly sees evidence of it. The way their heads are joined, they have markedly different fields of view. One child will look at a toy or a cup. The other can reach across and grab it, even though her own eyes couldn't possibly see its location. 'They share thoughts, too,' says Louise. 'Nobody will be saying anything,' adds Simms, 'and Tati will just pipe up and say, 'Stop that!' And she'll smack her sister.' While their verbal development is delayed, it continues to get better. Their sentences are two or three words at most so far, and their enunciation is at first difficult to understand. Both the family, and researchers, anxiously await the children's explanation for what they are experiencing.
Tags: brain neuroscience science"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eric Steinhart, Supermachines and superminds | PhilPapers

Eric Steinhart, Supermachines and superminds | PhilPapers

Eric Steinhart (2003). Supermachines and Superminds. Minds and Machines 13 (1).
ABSTRACT: If the computational theory of mind is right, then minds are realized by machines. There is an ordered complexity hierarchy of machines. Some finite machines realize finitely complex minds; some Turing machines realize potentially infinitely complex minds. There are many logically possible machines whose powers exceed the Church–Turing limit (e.g. accelerating Turing machines). Some of these supermachines realize superminds. Superminds perform cognitive supertasks. Their thoughts are formed in infinitary languages. They perceive and manipulate the infinite detail of fractal objects. They have infinitely complex bodies. Transfinite games anchor their social relations.

New in CogSciFi 09/29/2010

  • It is not too hard to construct "minds" that cannot be reconstructed easily from outputs. Consider a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator: watching the first k bits will not allow you to predict the k+1 bit with more than 50% probability, until you have run through the complete statespace (requires up to ~2^(number of state bits) output bits). This "mind" is not reconstructible from its output in any useful way.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010


Tuesday, May 25, 2010



Nick Bostrom
Future of Humanity Institute
Faculty of Philosophy & James Martin 21st Century School
University of Oxford

Marcin Kulczycki
Institute of Mathematics
Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science
Jagiellonian University

(2010) [under review]

This article reports on a newly discovered bug in the original simulation argument. Two different ways of patching the argument are proposed, each of which preserves the original conclusion.

The bug
An earlier paper by one of us (N.B.) argues that, having accepted some plausible assumptions, one must conclude that at least one of three propositions is true:

(1) The human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a posthuman
(2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running a
significant number of ancestor simulations is extremely small.
(3) We are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

This paper has generated several commentaries from the philosophical and scientific community and has drawn considerable interest from the wider public. What has so far passed unnoticed is a mathematical non sequitur in the original

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blindsight (science fiction novel) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Blindsight (science fiction novel) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eighty years in the future, Earth becomes aware of an alien presence when thousands of micro-satellites surveil the Earth; through good luck, the incoming alien vessel is detected, and the ship Theseus, with its artificial intelligence captain and crew of five, are sent out to engage in first contact with the huge alien vessel called Rorschach. As they explore the vessel and attempt to analyze it and its inhabitants, the narrator considers his life and strives to understand himself and ponders the nature of intelligence and consciousness, their utility, and what an alien mind might be like. Eventually the crew realizes that they are greatly outmatched by the vessel and its unconscious but extremely capable inhabitants.

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    The user can rotate around the hypercube, or perform direct-manipulation rotations in 4D.\n\nFor a 4D rotation, the 3D vector described by the dragging of the mouse in the plane of the screen combined with the 4D unit vector (0 0 0 1) specify two basis vectors of a four-dimensional plane of rotation.\n\nThis is a lot more intuitive than a set of sliders.\n\nBefore I show an example of the 4D rotation, wrap your head around this simple 3D rotation of a regular old cube.\n\n        

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      The Man Who Folded Himself - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


      The Man Who Folded Himself - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      Daniel Eakins inherits a belt from his uncle that allows him to travel in time. This results in a series of time paradoxes, which are only resolved by the existence of multiple universes and multiple histories. Eakins, who repeatedly encounters alternate versions of himself, finds himself in progressively more bizarre situations. Much of the book deals with the psychological, physical, and personal challenges that manifest when time travel is possible for a single individual at the touch of a button. Eakins repeatedly meets himself; has sex with himself; and ultimately cohabitates with an opposite-sex version of himself. He spends much of his own contorted lifetime at an extended party with dozens of versions of himself at different ages, before understanding the true nature of the gathering, and his true identity.

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        Susan Schneider on Future Brains


        Susan Schneider on Future Brains

        In this video, Susan Schneider, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, discusses "Future Brains: How Might Our Great-Great-Grandchildren Think (and Will They Still Be Human?)."

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          Tuesday, May 18, 2010

          Egan's Reasons to be Cheerful

          This is one of my all-time-favorite short stories: Greg Egan's Reasons
          to be Cheerful.

          [update 5/19/2010: link removed at Greg Egan's request]

          Wednesday, February 10, 2010

          The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

          The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

          A Novel by Roger Williams

          In the best possible future, there will be
          no war, no famine, no crime,
          no sickness, no oppression,
          no fear, no limits, no shame...
          ...and nothing to do.

          This online novel contains strong language and extreme depictions of acts of sex and violence. Readers who are sensitive to such things should exercise discretion.

          Chapter 1
          Caroline at Play

          Chapter 2
          Lawrence Builds a Computer

          Chapter 3
          Caroline and Anne-Marie

          Chapter 4
          After the Night of Miracles

          Chapter 5
          Caroline Approaches

          Chapter 6
          After the Change

          Chapter 7
          Caroline and Lawrence

          Chapter 8
          After the Fall

          By request! Click here to read the entire novel as a single very long (694K) page.

          Monday, February 8, 2010

          Borges Was A Neuroscientist

          Borges Was A Neuroscientist: "

          The neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga has written a lovely appreciation of Jorge Luis Borges in the latest Nature (not online). Quiroga focuses on Borges interest in neuroscience, which led him to write his classic short story Funes the Memorious, about a man who cannot forget:

          In the story of Funes, Borges described very precisely the problems of distorted memory capacities well before neuroscience caught up...In a study using electrodes to probe the hippocampus in epileptic patients for clinical reasons, we identified a type of neuron that fires in response to particular abstract concepts. For example, one neuron in a patient fired only in recognition of different pictures of the actress Jennifer Aniston; another responded only to images of another celebrity, Halle Berry. It is thus possible that these neurons link perception and memory by creating the abstract encoding we use to store memories -- especially considering that we tend to remember concepts and forget irrelevant details. If these neurons are lacking, the ability to generate abstractions may be limited, leading to pathologies such as autism or characters like Funes.

          Even without this scientific knowledge, Borges's intuitive description is sharp: Funes, he wrote, was 'virtually incapable of general, platonic ideas ... His own face in the mirror, his own hands, surprised him every time he saw them ... To think is to ignore (or forget) differences, to generalize, to abstract. In the teeming world of Ireneo Funes there was nothing but particulars.'

          I've written about Funes before, but it's worth pointing out that the short story isn't Borges' only work with neuroscientific implications. One of my favorite Borgesian parables is The Analytical Language of John Wilkins, which describes a 'certain Chinese encyclopedia called the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge'. What makes this encyclopedia so peculiar is its division of knowledge. The animal kingdom, for instance, has been parsed into the following categories:

          (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies.

          The moral of the story is that all categories are arbitrary; there is no natural way to subdivide nature. Of course, our own classification schemes don't seem strange at all - they seem necessary and true. That faith, however, is a mere side-effect of the mind, which has a weakness for essences. This is known as essentialism, and it's reflected in our instinctive belief that there is something intrinsic to every thing, from tigers to chairs to water, that make it that particular thing. (A tiger born without stripes is still a tiger, right?) Look, for instance, at Platonic idealism, which argues that behind the chaotic confusion of details - there are so many different kinds of chair - there is an ideal chair, which reflects the essence of all chairs.

          Children are natural essentialists. Frank Keil, a psychologist at Yale, has done some interesting work that captures this tendency at work. He begins by showing his young subjects a variety of visual transformations: a tiger that's been dressed in a lion suit, a porcupine that has been turned into a cactus, a real dog that resembles a toy. Not surprisingly, the children dismiss these transformations as irrelevant and superficial. The porcupine is still a porcupine. The dog is still a dog. The tiger is still a tiger, even if it looks like a lion. It was only when Keil told the children that the transformations also took place on the inside - their internal essences had been altered - that the little kids were convinced the animals had changed categories. The tiger was now a lion.

          The lesson is that even a kid would find the Borgesian encyclopedia peculiar. Plato thought it was possible to 'cut nature at its joints, like a good butcher'. But this faith assumes that nature has joints, and that the essences we perceive are real and everlasting. Unfortunately, those essences are mostly figments of the mind, projections of a brain that is born believing in Platonic forms.

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          Monday, January 11, 2010

          Time Travel and Modern Physics

          Updated article from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

          Time Travel and Modern Physics

          [Revised entry by Frank Arntzenius and Tim Maudlin on December 23, 2009.
          Changes to: Main text, Bibliography]
          Time travel has been a staple of science fiction. With the advent of general relativity it has been entertained by serious physicists. But, especially in the philosophy literature, there have been arguments that time travel is inherently paradoxical. The most famous paradox is the grandfather paradox: you travel back in time and kill your grandfather, thereby preventing your own existence. To avoid inconsistency some...


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