Archive for January, 2012

January 22, 2012

Getting information

by Neil Rickert

In an earlier post, I wrote:

That leaves, as one of the basic problems for a cognitive agent, the problem of getting information about the world.

In this post, I want to discuss why that is a problem.

Many people seem to hold the view that sensory cells in the body passively receive input from the world, and that how we perceive the world depends on what we do with that passively received data.  That seems to be the view of proponents of sense-data accounts and of proponents of computationalism.

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January 18, 2012

Online piracy and intellectual property

by Neil Rickert

Today, Wikipedia is having a blackout to protest SOPA, the proposed anti-piracy legislation.  Fortunately, it is looking as if SOPA will not pass in its current form.  I support the Wikipedia protest.

Personally, I do not approve piracy, nor do I practice it.  In fact, I rarely listen to on-line music or watch movies or other entertainment online, unless it is part of an informational video, typically at youtube and linked from a blog or news source.

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January 17, 2012

James Shapiro on ID

by Neil Rickert

From time to time, ID proponents mention James Shapiro as someone who offers an alternative to the Darwinism that they much ridicule.  But they have never been sure where Shapiro stands on the question of ID.  Shapiro has now given a response.  And it is the kind of response that we might expect from a scientist at University of Chicago:

These statements are confusing. Is Dembski saying that he abandons the supernatural as a component of ID? If so, then we can start a real scientific dialogue about the possible natures of intelligence, teleology and design in biology and how to investigate them both theoretically and experimentally. However, if he does not want to abandon the supernatural (as Michael Behe has repeatedly told me he does not) and if he wishes always to have recourse to a literal Deus ex Machina, then we cannot have a serious scientific discussion. Doing that requires respecting the naturalistic limits of science. I think it would be a very positive development for ID proponents to give up on all theological crutches and engage in a strictly naturalistic inquiry, independent of whatever their beliefs in final causes may be. Is Bill Dembski willing to do that?

It is worth reading the full Shapiro post.  There’s also a reaction at Uncommon Descent, though there isn’t much to the reaction yet.  Perhaps more will follow in the comments.

January 14, 2012

The cognitive agent’s problem

by Neil Rickert

A lot of theorizing about cognition has to do with the such questions as

  • What is thinking, and how is it done?
  • What is experience, and how come we have it?

Then, having selected such issues, theorists then set themselves the problem of how would one design an agent or a robot which can do such things as think and have experience.

When I started thinking about cognition, I took a different approach.  I looked at the problems that a cognitive agent needs to solve.  Most obvious, among those, is the problem of survival as a biological organism.  And, having settled on a problem that agent needs to solve, I set about trying to understand what could evolve to solve that problem.

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January 12, 2012

Plans for this year

by Neil Rickert

Well, okay, “plan” is a bit too strong.  But I do have a tentative direction for posts this year.  I want to get more into my own unconventional views, particularly on knowledge and on human cognition.  I’ve been thinking a bit about the best way to do that, resulting in a brief hiatus of new posts.  By now I have, more or less, settled on how to proceed.

The basic issue of how to proceed, was whether I should directly confront traditional philosophy (particularly epistemology), or whether I should concentrate on presenting my alternative and only criticizing the traditional view as appropriate with that presentation.  I have settled on that second, more positive, approach.  My disagreements with traditional philosophy will still be apparent, but they will usually be secondary to the main emphasis.

My non-traditional views are difficult to present, because so much of western thought is bound to traditional.  That makes it hard for me to explain my ideas, and it also may make it hard for the reader to get the point.  I’ll do the best I can, but comments sometimes help me see where the misunderstanding is.  So don’t be shy in adding your comments.

January 1, 2012

Free will, intelligence, AI and all that

by Neil Rickert

In a comment on an earlier post, Jeffrey Shallit asks “What is the definition of “free will” you are using here?”  Well, I don’t have a definition.  At best I can try to glean what other people mean.  So I’ll instead give my opinion on that.

Free will is usually associated with making choices or decisions, as in “I could have chosen otherwise.”  So before giving my opinion, let’s look at the kind of decisions that people make.

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January 1, 2012

My ID predictions for the year

by Neil Rickert

I predict a year for ID which will be as successful as the last year.

  • As before, they will find zero evidence that is against ID.  (If you are not looking, you won’t find much).
  • As before, they will find as much evidence for ID as against it.  (0 is both +0 and -0 at the same time).
  • The ID proponents will continue to have success in their search for gaps in which they can place their god of the gaps.  Unfortunately, the gaps they find will be gaps in their understanding of science, rather than real gaps in the science.
  • They will refute Darwinism at least 365 times.  Oops, better make that 366 times, since 2012 is a leap year.

Some predictions are too easy.

January 1, 2012

2011 in review

by Neil Rickert

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,900 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.