On Free Will and Noetic Architecture

Another little note on identity, following on from here:

On the whole, do eldraeic mainstream views on free will, determinism, and the possible interactions between the two run more towards compatibilism or incompatibilism?

While ideas vary as ideas always do in the absence of proof one way or another, the mainstream position – certainly among sophontechnologists, who have the greatest claim to knowledge on this point – is incompatiblism, and specifically a variant of that form of it that goes by the name of libertarianism; i.e., that free will is true, and determinism is in certain ways, false.

(This is, of course, purely a coincidence. Heh.)

To explain why that is requires delving a little way into my Minovsky cognitive science, which explains how minds work for the purposes of the Eldraeverse. Since this attempts to explain how minds work in the general case, regardless of species, origin, or substrate, it’s rather different in any case from the kind of cognitive science that concentrates on the specific case of human brains, even before we must point out that I’m pretty much pulling it out of my ass.

So what is a mind?

Well, to a large part, it’s a Minskian society of mind. Which is to say that it’s a massively parallel set of personalities, subpersonalities, agents, talents, memes, archetypes, models, animus-anima pairings, instincts, skillsets, etc., etc., etc., all burbling away continuously alongside each other. None of them can strictly be said to be the mind; the mind is none of them. The mind is, to a large extent, the emergent chorus that results from the argument of all of them, or at least the currently dominant set, each with the other.

(This, incidentally, is how gnostic overlays work. By grafting some voices into the chorus while suppressing others, you can add to, shade, or suppress some elements of that emergent chorus without replacing the basic personality.)

It has, however, two identifiable centers. One of these is the consciousness loop, which is a special cognitive entity present in conscious/autosentient beings whose job is to organize the output of the chorus into a narrative thread of consciousness, a.k.a., that little voice you hear when you think out loud. (It’s important to realize, of course, that despite being the part of your cognition that’s visible to you – assuming, gentle reader, that you are in fact conscious – it has no claim to be you, or indeed to play any particular part in controlling what you do. The most accurate analogy for what it does is that it’s the mind’s syslog, recording everything that the other bits of the mind do, and which they can in turn consult to find out what’s going on. It’s also important to realize that it’s not actually necessary for it to be associated with the mind’s own self-symbol, or indeed for it to exist at all, whatever the most common naturally evolved mental architectures might have to say on the matter.)

The other one is the logos, or personality organization algorithm, which is the weird fractal algorithm sitting in the middle of sophont minds, and only sophont minds (i.e., both autosentient and volitional). It’s also the only part of the mind that isn’t computable at all – vis-a-vis being only computable much more slowly – on a standard computer, requiring a quantum processor.

But none of that is the weird thing. The weird thing is this.

It’s empirically nondeterministic.

More to the point, it’s not nondeterministic in a physical sense, dependent upon its substrate; it’s nondeterministic in a mathematical sense. However you choose to compute a logos, you will never get a perfectly consistent result in an arbitrary number of trials. You will never get a statistically consistent result in an arbitrary number of arbitrary numbers of trials. Except that occasionally you will. It’s funny that way, and it’s definitely not simply random or chaotic.

Now, sure, say the physicists. The observable physical universe is deterministic. And chemistry is deterministic, and biology is deterministic, and computation is deterministic, and thus the 99.99% of mental operations in which the logos takes no part are deterministically determined by the rest of one’s society of mind, because free will or no free will, sophonts don’t actually seem to exercise it that often. (Although the exceptions – chaotic clionomic excursions, say – are suggestive.)

But there’s this THING that shows up in sophont minds.

It’s very poorly understood around the edges – enough to clone and modify and seed with it and understand some of its typology – and not at all understood, pretty much, in the middle. It might mean nothing. It might just be some artifact of the underlying cosmic metaphysics that the ontotechnologists play with, of no real significance in this debate.

But, say the mainstream sophontologists, that’s not the way we’re betting. That’s your free will, your volition, right there, in that tiny little mathematical corner peeking into the universe. That minuscule cog of the engine of creation that runs on paracausality, not causality; where will defeats law.

The Flame.

Also, I’m not quite sure how to reverse-engineer the proper philosophical position from the analogy in sensible words, but: Would a drawing of a Kanizsa triangle count as a real triangle?

Well, I wouldn’t say that it is a triangle (but then, I wouldn’t say that about a simple drawing of a triangle either); but I would say that it represents the concept of a triangle. (Along with various other things; most physical objects represent/instantiate/make use of several concepts. To re-use a precious example, Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992 can represent any of “arithmetic”, “book”, “textbook”, “paper”, “cuboid”, etc., etc., depending/instantiate/make use on the context you look at it in.)

 

More Questions: Security, Reputation Economy, Pattern Identity

Clearing the backlog a little again…

On “Securing Security“:

Specialist290: ‘I’m guessing, though, that in their own courts of law, the Imperials would view the refusal to voluntarily provide access to such a device as an aggravating circumstance in itself?’

Tony Harris: ‘If I’m reading Alastair’s posts right, Imperial society considers ones “stuff,” including one’s personal data, to be as much a part of one’s person as their own limbs.

The right to be to “secure in one’s own person and papers” (including data) is taken VASTLY more seriously in the Empire than anywhere on this planet.’

The latter, in a word.

Specifically, you retain that right unless they can actually indict you for something. A Curial court addressing a criminal matter can subpoena your data after arraignment, but then, it can also subpoena the contents of your brain, so that’s a relatively minor consideration. But you have to be indicted first on the basis of an actual case to answer – law enforcement does not get to go on fishing expeditions through your person, papers, and personalty in the course of an investigation if they can’t muster up the necessary burden of proof to indict you.

But even post-indictment or post-conviction: ordering third parties to create circumvention tools, as uncompensated takings of labor, even? That would violate their contractual obligations? That would weaken everyone‘s security and thereby punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty? No, no, no, a thousand times, NO.

(Legally speaking, though, the investigators can ask you for access to data, etc., and you can refuse to permit it. The law takes into account that people may have many reasons not to provide such access, and enjoins the courts that they may not consider such evidence, even circumstantial evidence, in favor of guilt, and the courts do so.

…that said, if it turns out later that the reason you refused to provide such access was to cover up someone else’s criminal act, then that’s sufficient to have just got yourself charged with misprision of felony, which in Imperial praxis covers the responsibility of everyone to report any crimes of which they are aware. But that’s a somewhat different issue.)

Also from Specialist290:

Given that the eldrae place immense importance on both everything having a quantifiable exchange value and every sophont having a strong reputation, have there been any groups that have tried to combine the two into a single mechanism (a la Cory Doctorow’s “whuffie”)?

A few undoubtedly have, but so far no-one’s solved the fundamental problem that reputational capital ain’t quite like financial capital: when you spend it, you still have it, or ought to, because obtaining something in exchange for niceness doesn’t make you a worse person while obtaining something in exchange for money does make you poorer. Since the economy isn’t actually post-scarcity, that so far being impossible, this makes those attempts prone to distressing outbreaks of volatility and “reputation runs”. Leaving aside the problem that reputation in different areas isn’t really comparable and may be assessed differently by different people when computing metascores, hence the proliferation of rep-nets and meta-rep-nets with different emphases.

The two are highly intertwingled, of course, with discounts and freebies and exclusive access, etc., offered to people with high appropriate rep , and even the odd case of the opposite (say, the Ephemeral Contract rep-net, used to penalize bad customers as well as bad customer service), but there’s not yet a pure reputation economy out of the experimental phase.

Less of a question and more just some thoughts on a comment, from Zarpaulus:

Your consciousness is only a small part of what makes you, you. How many of your decisions can you fully explain? How many actions do you perform automatically?

When you sleep your consciousness is on minimal power at many points but your subconscious is working the whole time. It’s like putting a computer on “sleep mode”, it’s still running, just with as little power as possible. Even comatose your brain is still functioning.

Maybe it might be more appropriate to say that consciousness isn’t an app, it’s the gestalt of everything your body is doing. There’s no separation of Mind and Body.

Frankly, the idea of “pattern continuity” stinks of Cartesian Dualism. And I thought Descartes’ philosophy sounded like “I can’t accept that the world would be so cruel otherwise, therefore God exists.”

I’m going to come right out and say it: The problem I have with dualism is pretty much matched by the problem I have with what I might call anti-dualism, except that alliteration is fun, so I’m going to call dualism-denial.

I mean, sure, there’s no Cartesian dualism. We’ve refuted that. There is no magical mindstuff, no nonphysical soul plugged into the pineal gland, none of that. The brain is not an antenna sticking into the cognitive realm. So far so good.

The problem is when people then assume that refutes all kinds of dualism, like property dualism or what I would call metalevel dualism, or informational dualism.

Which is to say: there is such a thing as a triangle, not just graphite marks on paper. The Pythagorean Theorem exists in a sense distinct from the molecular vibrations caused by someone expressing it. There are definable things called Microsoft Windows, or Word 2016, or ThatAwesomeNovel.docx that are distinguishable from the pattern of magnetic domains storing them. Likewise, there is a thing called a mind which is distinguishable from three pounds of neuron soup, even though – like all the others – it is expressed in the structure of the neuron soup. (Or of the magnetic domains, or of molecular vibrations, or of graphite marks.)

Specifically, it’s the abstract information encoded in them. Which can’t exist without a substrate, certainly, acknowledging physicalism this far, but is no more identical to that substrate than the concept of arithmetic is identical to a copy of Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992.

tl;dr Minds are concepts, information entities. I am my mind, a complex algorithm giving detailed instructions how to meMy brain is the physical instantiation/substrate of that algorithm. The rest of me is that brain’s vehicle, manipulators, and support system.

And pattern identity is no more than saying – well, if you image the hard drive of a computer, extracting all the encoded information, and copy that image onto new hardware (or even into a virtual machine) and then boot it up, and it behaves in exactly the same way and has the same stored data and is in all relevant ways indistinguishable from the original, then in every fundamental sense, it’s the same computer, innit?

Likewise, all copies of the same mind-algorithm are the same mind, ergo the same person. Selah.

(As for the consciousness argument: I’ve seen that a lot, mostly from people claiming that the studies showing that we initiate actions before our narrative thread of consciousness becomes aware of it somehow refutes free will. Which has always struck me as obvious nonsense, unless we’re assuming that the mind constitutes only those bits of it we can look at (from an internal point of view).

…which is to say, my spreadsheet solves mathematical problems. It isn’t not solving problems simply because it only shows me the final results. Likewise my mind – which is to say, I – am not not exercising volition simply because I only output the final result to the narrative-thread-of-consciousness display device.

It’s only a problem if you define “the mind” as “the conscious, self-reflective self and that alone“, but all that proves is that you can get nonsensical results if you pick a suitably silly definition to start with – which is why, to draw this lengthy digression back on topic, is why they reject continuity identity theory. Placing special emphasis on that one subroutine, the narrative thread of consciousness, is mistaking a part for the whole.)