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Instead of continuously bitching about the term emergent, how about you share what you think is a better way to describe it

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9 hours ago, Eise said:

Incoherent? Explain, I see nothing incoherent in it.

It is the beginning of an answer. Somebody who declares that consciousness is emergent, is in fact saying he does not believe that we must use some independent ontological entity or substance to explain consciousness. What the word 'emergent' means is clear: that a system has properties that its parts do not have. So he declares that the brain processes somehow are the basis of consciousness, no soul or 'thinking substance' ('res cogitans' according to Descartes). But as long as one cannot explain the emergent properties from the workings of the system, I agree, it is not (yet) an explanation. 

I couldn't explain any more than I have in my last half dozen or so posts. Emergence tells me nothing I didn't know before. 

> What the word 'emergent' means is clear: that a system has properties that its parts do not have.

Ok, so water, which is wet, emerges from oxygen and hydrogen, neither of which are wet. So that's emergence. But that doesn't tell me anything. What DOES tell me something is reading a book on chemistry, which explains the physical mechanism by which oxy and hydro combine to make water.

But how does emergence replace soul? If I said that God puts a soul into your brain goo, you'd call that superstition or at best Cartesian dualism. But if you say that "emergence" puts consciousness into brain goo, you say that's much much better. I say it's no better at all. You're replacing one word for a mystery with another. What's the difference between soul and emergence?

 

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12 hours ago, wtf said:

I have no objection to the word itself, or the concept. I disagree with those who use it as an explanation or an answer. People will say that consciousness is emergent, as if they've told me something. I don't feel that they've told me anything. I don't dislike the word. I just don't understand why some people find the idea so important or meaningful. 

In the absence of emergence there would be no meaningful structures or entities in the universe, just scattered clumps of hydrogen and helium gas. Emergence is thus evolution in the broad sense, though it incorporates aspects of biological evolution. Emergence is another way of saying "Here's something new!".

I suggest novelty and evolution are important and meaningful.

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, Intrigued said:

In the absence of emergence there would be no meaningful structures or entities in the universe, just scattered clumps of hydrogen and helium gas.

Ah. But this is false. We don't need emergence to explain how molecules form. All we need is physics and chemistry. There seems to be an ongoing theme in this thread that emergence is just a magic word to label whatever we don't understand. Consciousness arises in brain goo, which is a mystery. So we call it emergent. But we don't know any more by calling it emergence than we do calling it a mystery. Or calling it soul for that matter.

We have science to explain how oxy and hydro, which aren't wet, become water, which is. Once it was a mystery, but now we understand it. Is it emergent? Sure, the word fits. But it doesn't explain anything, whereas physics and chemistry do.

I'm really struck by your statement that in the absence of emergence there would be no meaningful structures. But the concept of emergence is only a label. Meaningful structures did emerge. But to the extent that we understand the process of structure formation, our understanding is due to science. Not to labelling things "emergent." 

Edited by wtf

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Just now, wtf said:

Ah. But this is false. We don't need emergence to explain how molecules form.

We are not using it to explain how molecules form, we are using it as a word to that avoids us having to use several words. It's how language works. It's a classifier.

Saying that an elephant is an animal, tells us nothing if we choose to ignore (as you are doing for emergence) to that this places elephants in a specific group. Emergent properties are a specific group of properties. That's all there is to it.

It's a convenient way of facilitating discussion, however it only works if the all the participants understand the language. You've decided that calling something an animal tells us nothing.

 

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Intrigued said:

We are not using it to explain how molecules form, we are using it as a word to that avoids us having to use several words. It's how language works. It's a classifier.

Agreed. It tells us nothing but it is a shorthand for when a thing has properties that are not at all obvious from the properties of its components. I'm perfectly fine with that. I just don't think it's meaningful or helpful when applied to consciousness. Or much else for that matter.

It's a convenient way of facilitating discussion, however it only works if the all the participants understand the language. You've decided that calling something an animal tells us nothing.

Well a horse is a lot different than the organic molecules that it's made of, so that's emergence. Ok fine. But if I want to know how horses work, I read a textbook on biology. I think we're in agreement. The word emergence is a classifier but not much of an explainer. And besides, I can barely think of anything that's NOT emergent. 

But the debate isn't about whether horses emerge from molecules, which they clearly do. The problem is that emergence is so often used to short-circuit discussion about consciousness. Someone above said that emergence can replace the idea of the soul. I don't see how it's any different at all with regard to consciousness. Brain goo is somehow self-aware. That's a mystery. You can call it emergence or you can say God imbued Man with a soul. Neither seems like a satisfactory explanation to me. I'd rather read a book on neuroscience. Not that neuroscience has a clue where self-awareness comes from. But at least it's not burying the question under a single magic word like soul or emergence. 

Edited by wtf

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, wtf said:

And besides, I can barely think of anything that's NOT emergent. 

So it is a universal phenomenon, meaning it is quite important in general.  Even you do not think it is relevant, looks like the others understand why it is used in this case. 

If you think it is not important than PLEASE give a better clearer description of the phenomenon, pointing out why it is a better explanation than what the others provided, so we can have a meaningful discussion about the original topic and not circulating around your unsatisfaction about a word you think is not informing you sufficiently. 

 

Edited by FreeWill

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2 hours ago, wtf said:

I couldn't explain any more than I have in my last half dozen or so posts. Emergence tells me nothing I didn't know before. 

> What the word 'emergent' means is clear: that a system has properties that its parts do not have.

Ok, so water, which is wet, emerges from oxygen and hydrogen, neither of which are wet. So that's emergence. But that doesn't tell me anything. What DOES tell me something is reading a book on chemistry, which explains the physical mechanism by which oxy and hydro combine to make water.

But how does emergence replace soul? If I said that God puts a soul into your brain goo, you'd call that superstition or at best Cartesian dualism. But if you say that "emergence" puts consciousness into brain goo, you say that's much much better. I say it's no better at all. You're replacing one word for a mystery with another. What's the difference between soul and emergence?

 

But the book won't be able to tell how it becomes water, or that it can predicted, only that it does. You can't reverse-engineer an emergent property. It is not amenable to a reductionist approach. You'll always get this it-just-happens part... it's just the way Nature is or we are ignorant.

Quote

But how does emergence replace soul? If I said that God puts a soul into your brain goo, you'd call that superstition or at best Cartesian dualism.

As someone already implied: one relates to an unknown but naturalistic process and  the other relates to metaphysics.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, FreeWill said:

So it is a universal phenomenon, meaning it is quite important in general.  Even you do not think it is relevant, looks like the others understand why it is used in this case. 

If you think it is not important than PLEASE give a better clearer description of the phenomenon, pointing out why it is a better explanation than what the others provided, so we can have a meaningful discussion about the original topic and not circulating around your unsatisfaction about a word you think is not informing you sufficiently. 

  

I feel that I appear to have been riding a hobby horse; when my intention was only to express my opinion, and then reply to my mentions. In fact why would my opinion, expressed once a couple of weeks ago, prevent a meaningful discussion of AI? That right there is a good question. Why don't people discuss AI? That's the point of the thread and it's the reason why I'm here. My remark about emergence was intended to be an offhand expression of a minority opinion that I happen to hold. People started pushing back and I've been replying. I'm not stopping anyone from talking about AI and I wish someone would.

I've been quite surprised at the reaction to my opinion. In terms of the subject of the thread it's not important to me at all. And I said exactly that about 8 posts ago if I recall. I simply expressed an opinion. I always reply to mentions.The more I reply, the more people think I'm invested in the topic. I'm not. I have an opinion, that is all. 

Here is my last word on the subject.

I looked around for criticism of emergence and found two links that made me sufficiently happy to feel that I've at least made my point to myself, if nobody else.

1) From this SEP article I found two examples.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties-emergent/#ObjEme

Quote


In “Making Sense of Emergence” (1999), Jaegwon Kim argues that emergent properties are epiphenomenal. His argument uses variants on two much discussed arguments he has developed in the course of challenging the tenability of contemporary nonreductive physicalism — the downward causation and causal exclusion arguments.

After A technical argument which I didn't try to follow, the article says:

Quote


Kim's next step is to argue that emergent properties are epiphenomenal (and hence emergentism is incoherent). 

So at least one professional philosopher is willing to use the word "incoherent." It's not just an over-the-top word invented by me. I am not the only person who finds emergence incoherent. Me for my amateur philosophy reasons, and Kim for his professional philosophy reasons.

And note the word epiphenomenal. It's a good description. Something that's there, but not essential because the thing in question doesn't need it. 

SEP goes on to discuss another critic.

Quote

Stephen Pepper (1926) developed a form of criticism of emergence that resurfaces in different guises. Pepper's own argument is metaphysical. He argued that emergent laws quantifying over primitive macroscopic qualities will be epiphenomenal, since we can also represent ‘novel’ macroscopic phenomena of the sort the emergentist envisions within a more comprehensive physical theory.

Again as with Kim we find that emergence is regarded as an epiphenomenon. That is, something that shows up whenever quarks turn into elephants, but that would make no difference if it didn't show up. Quarks turn into elephants whether you call it emergence or not. I think that's the point being made by calling emergence an epiphenomenon.


2) Eliezer Yudkowsky. Of all people. Do readers know who he is? According to his Wiki entry he is:

Quote


... an American AI researcher and writer best known for popularising the idea of friendly artificial intelligence. He is a co-founder and research fellow at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), a private research nonprofit based in Berkeley, California. He has no formal secondary education, never having attended high school or college. His work on the prospect of a runaway intelligence explosion was an influence on Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.

As I understand it, some consider him a genious and others not so much. I've read him a little but never been much of a fan. 

But he wrote this essay ... it's literally word-for-word what I've been thinking. I could quote it but I'd really have to quote the whole article. I hope people will read it.

This essay is so uncannily like my exact thoughts on the matter, that it's not out of the realm of possibility that I actually read this many years ago and that's where I got my own ideas. I really can't say. I hope people will read it. It's as good a presentation of my ideas as I wish I could have written. I don't expect to convince anyone but at least I'm not alone. 

The Futitliy of Emergence

Here are a couple of quotes.

Quote


Taken literally, that description [of emergence] fits every phenomenon in our universe above the level of individual quarks, which is part of the problem. Imagine pointing to a market crash and saying “It’s not a quark!” Does that feel like an explanation? No? Then neither should saying “It’s an emergent phenomenon!”

and

Quote


I have lost track of how many times I have heard people say, “Intelligence is an emergent phenomenon!” as if that explained intelligence. This usage fits all the checklist items for a mysterious answer to a mysterious question. What do you know, after you have said that intelligence is “emergent”? You can make no new predictions. You do not know anything about the behavior of real-world minds that you did not know before. It feels like you believe a new fact, but you don’t anticipate any different outcomes. Your curiosity feels sated, but it has not been fed. The hypothesis has no moving parts—there’s no detailed internal model to manipulate. Those who proffer the hypothesis of “emergence” confess their ignorance of the internals, and take pride in it; they contrast the science of “emergence” to other sciences merely mundane.

So anyway to sum all this up, the set of professional philosophers who agree with me is nonempty. And for what it's worth, Eliazer Yudkowsky agrees with me. I'll take my agreement where I find it. I will now stop talking about emergence. I haven't said anything new for quite a while and the Yudkowsky article expresses my thoughts perfectly. "Your curiosity feels sated, but it has not been fed." THAT is what I'm getting at. Emergence is an intellectual snack made of empty calories. 

Edited by wtf

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On 4/4/2019 at 6:48 PM, Prometheus said:

...Personally, given sentience has evolved at least once on Earth, i don't see why it can't manifest from a different substrate. But that's similar reasoning to given i'm alive at least once, i don't see why i can't live again...

I’ve read your statement a few times and I just don’t get it. Please explain how the two are similar reasoning.

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1 hour ago, koti said:

I’ve read your statement a few times and I just don’t get it. Please explain how the two are similar reasoning.

Not carbon-based. If one surmises that our behaviour is just data, there is no reason why that data cannot be executed from another substrate, like silicon.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, wtf said:

Again as with Kim we find that emergence is regarded as an epiphenomenon. That is, something that shows up whenever quarks turn into elephants, but that would make no difference if it didn't show up. Quarks turn into elephants whether you call it emergence or not.

Well, of course it shows up, when the DNA determining how quarks can turn into elephants, emerged through evolution.

DNA emerged = haven't been always there. (which is for me a quite important recognition.)

If we just look at the elephant we cannot know was it always there like this and what determines its present. That is why we appreciate Darwin´s and Watson's work. 

As elephants could emerge by time so can AI sentience emerge by time. It wasn't there before and now with the process of technological evolution, it seems to emerge. 

 

Edited by FreeWill

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11 hours ago, wtf said:

I couldn't explain any more than I have in my last half dozen or so posts. Emergence tells me nothing I didn't know before. 

You said it is incoherent. I do not see where you argued that. 

11 hours ago, wtf said:

Ok, so water, which is wet, emerges from oxygen and hydrogen, neither of which are wet. So that's emergence. But that doesn't tell me anything.

Yes, it tells you a tiny little bit: that there is not a substance 'wetness' that miraculously is interacting with water molecules, and that makes them wet. OK, I know this would be a silly view. And as I said, but what you seem to miss, 'emergence' is not much of an explanation. So I agree with you on that point. But it means that the person who says something like that is excluding a class of explanations, namely that it needs some new ontological entity to explain wetness.

With simple explanations, i,.e. the emergent property is only one abstraction level higher than the the components of what a system is buildup, it is easy to see, as my example of congestions in traffic jams that move backwards, where the cars themselves move forwards. 

Consciousness is a much more difficult case, with many levels between the smallest building blocks that we at least can understand, neurons, and the level we understand ourselves and others. So there you are right, emergence is not much of an explanation. But it is not totally meaningless to say. 

On 4/19/2019 at 12:59 AM, wtf said:

My point is that saying, "Consciousness is an emergent property," does not give me a clue about how to answer ANY of them. It tells me nothing.

Yes, it tells you that the person who says this, thinks that we need no additional ontological entities or substance, and that an explanation in terms of neurons, should be possible. That means of course that, unless you believe in a soul or something, you also believe that consciousness is an emergent property of this huge neural system, called the brain. But that only means that some scientific explanation should be possible. But it is not the explanation itself.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, koti said:

Not carbon-based. If one surmises that our behaviour is just data, there is no reason why that data cannot be executed from another substrate, like silicon.

This is clear and I totally agree with this. New levels of issues, need for new laws would be a must. I mean imagine an AI complaining online about not having medical and having to pay for patches at „AI med corp” or Russian hackers attempting to patch AI’s to get them to vote for Trump. 

What I don’t understand is the alleged logical/phylosophical correlation between sentient life appearing on Earth once and living only once. I think Im having an issue with „sentience” here, I’m not accepting that Im any more „sentient” than any other being, Im just far more advanced with much more potential than a hamster but the whole sentience think is full of itself I think.

Edited by koti

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18 hours ago, wtf said:

Ok, so water, which is wet, emerges from oxygen and hydrogen, neither of which are wet. So that's emergence.

Just a reminder of this correction previously offered to you on this particular point:

 

On 4/29/2019 at 6:58 PM, iNow said:

Btw, wetness is a property of a surface, not water. Water is a molecule and is not itself wet. Weird, but true.

 

Another reminder - An answer to this question would help eliminate the current impasse:

18 hours ago, iNow said:

Instead of continuously bitching about the term emergent, how about you share what you think is a better way to describe it

 

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Posted (edited)

True, we should drop the emergence discussion, wtf, have you watched this? Godel Escher Bach

Is the self-reference the essence of consciousness?

Here it explains the difference between consciousness and sentience, which is slight, according to this:

https://www.animal-ethics.org/sentience-section/introduction-to-sentience/problem-consciousness/

and it theorizes about central nervous system as a prerequisite for consciousness in living beings.

Edited by Hrvoje1

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On 5/9/2019 at 7:31 PM, wtf said:

It doesn't tell me anything. I still don't know what consciousness is or how it arises. Besides, consciousness is a terrible example because we don't even KNOW what it emerges FROM. 

I can accept that in certain contexts it can add nothing.

But do you agree that in certain contexts evolution is an equally useless explanation? Why are human ears shaped so? 'Because of evolution' explains nothing. We would like to know the details.

That does not make evolution a useless theory though. 

 

On 5/9/2019 at 7:31 PM, wtf said:

Does consciousness emerge from brain goo? Or does consciousness emerge from computation that only incidentally happens to be implemented in brain goo, but might possibly be implemented in computer chips?

Well that is the question and why i posted the OP.

I think the concept of emergence has helped move the conversation forward a little because it allows us to ask the very question you pose above. Without the idea of emergence we might be stuck talking about a ghost in the machine. But it's a start to the answer, far from the end.

On 5/9/2019 at 11:39 PM, koti said:

I’ve read your statement a few times and I just don’t get it. Please explain how the two are similar reasoning.

Just because they are both reliant on my credulity.

Given i'm alive once i don't see why i couldn't live again. Given sentience manifests in biological bits i don't see why it shouldn't emerge from computer bits. 

Both rely on me 'not seeing why something shouldn't be so...'

I was hoping to give my belief a little more grounding or knock it off it's pedestal (as living twice in any meaningful sense has been).

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50 minutes ago, Prometheus said:

Well that is the question and why i posted the OP.

I think it's inevitable given enough time to evolve/emerge. 

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Posted (edited)

I hope nobody minds if I don't reply to my most recent mentions regarding emergence. I've said what I want to about the topic. FWIW I read one of David Chalmers's articles about emergence and I had the same objections. He's a superstar philosopher but all I could see was that he was defining emergence as "stuff we don't know." We fully understand how trees become tables, so that's not emergence. But we don't understand how brain goo becomes self-awareness, so we call that emergence. I'm not moved in the least. I found the Chalmers piece depressing in that regard. I'm just done talking about it.

Also yes I did remember that someone pointed out that only the surface of the water is wet. I didn't forget that, I just ignored it because it doesn't bear on the point that wetness is not a property of hydrogen or oxygen. 

And also someone brought up a good point about evolution. Do I find evolution less murky than emergence? Yes. It's a mechanism. It makes sense. We even see it in petri dishes and in bacteria that evolve resistance to antibiotics. So evolution is farther along the continuum from metaphysical speculation to science than emergence is. 

On 5/9/2019 at 12:49 PM, FreeWill said:

So it is a universal phenomenon, meaning it is quite important in general.  Even you do not think it is relevant, looks like the others understand why it is used in this case. 

I'm perfectly well aware that my misgivings are not the majority opinion. But (as I keep saying) emergence is not a major concern of mine. I have many other unpopular opinions as well. 

Edited by wtf

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1 hour ago, wtf said:

we don't understand how brain goo becomes self-awareness, so we call that emergence. I'm not moved in the least. I found the Chalmers piece depressing in that regard. I'm just done talking about it.

I’ve asked twice already. Will try a third time.

Do you have an alternative recommendation for terminology that does move you?

I’m moved by your challenge regarding the weakness of emergence, just wish you’d take this conversation to the next level and offer a potential replacement. 

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6 hours ago, iNow said:

I’ve asked twice already. Will try a third time.

 

7 hours ago, wtf said:

I hope nobody minds if I don't reply to my most recent mentions regarding emergence. I've said what I want to about the topic. FWIW I read one of David Chalmers's articles about emergence ...

Also, It's a bit rude not to address a particular point, and then go on to expound your opinion related to that point. If you don't want to discuss it, don't discuss it.

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Posted (edited)
39 minutes ago, Prometheus said:
6 hours ago, iNow said:

I’ve asked twice already. Will try a third time.

Also, It's a bit rude not to address a particular point, and then go on to expound your opinion related to that point. 

Especially when they have nothing to add.

 

Edited by dimreepr

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, wtf said:

But we don't understand how brain goo becomes self-awareness, so we call that emergence.

Sure we do. Consciousness, qualia, sentience, awarness, theyre all fancy names for evolution coming up with 100bln neurons which can know what a differential equation is and can remember really well that Karen dumped them a few years back for a fat lawyer with more money. Thats my definition of „consciousness” and I’m sticking with it. At least my definition is not full of itself like the people coming up with fancy names for the type of functionality that our brains have. Qualia my 4ss. 

Edited by koti

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, iNow said:

I’ve asked twice already. Will try a third time.

Do you have an alternative recommendation for terminology that does move you?

I’m moved by your challenge regarding the weakness of emergence, just wish you’d take this conversation to the next level and offer a potential replacement. 

I've already been accused of "bitching" about emergence and told that my very presence in this thread inhibits intelligent conversation of AI. (I've seen no evidence of the latter). I respectfully decline to play.

8 hours ago, Prometheus said:

Also, It's a bit rude not to address a particular point, and then go on to expound your opinion related to that point. If you don't want to discuss it, don't discuss it.

I've said several times I don't want to discuss it. I've said my piece and I wouldn't want to inhibit all the insightful and intelligent commentary on AI that I was apparently preventing by my mere presence. 

7 hours ago, koti said:

Sure we do. Consciousness, qualia, sentience, awarness, theyre all fancy names for evolution coming up with 100bln neurons which can know what a differential equation is and can remember really well that Karen dumped them a few years back for a fat lawyer with more money. Thats my definition of „consciousness”

Wow. Now you ARE using evolution as a proxy for emergence aka "stuff we don't understand."

 

The bottom line is that when I do respond to my mentions, I get accused of "bitching" and of inhibiting all the world-class commentary on AI that would otherwise ensue if I would just STFU. Then when I DO announce I have nothing else to say on the topic, people complain about that too. Well make up your minds. 

Edited by wtf

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