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Sentient, Intelligent, or Human?

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#126 UND_astrophysics

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 12:43 AM

I got a few images from my reflector and Canon Rebel woohoo!

#127 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 01:01 AM

You'll never guess what I just saw with the OIII on my 90mm short tube? The full moon through an OIII filter!!! (Yeah, the Veil Nebula...not much luck.)

OK, y'all are so smart; try your 1300 cc craniums on this one. So, I look at the moon with the 90mm F5.6 with a 24mm 68 degree hyperion eyepiece. I put in an OIII filter and see a beautiful green moon. Then I take out the OIII and put in the Hydrogen alpha filter and see an equally pretty blue moon. Then I put the OIII and Hydrogen alpha together, put them in the scope, and I see a white moon with a red haze around it. Why white?

#128 Pess

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 07:24 AM

It is a common, and unfortunate, error to believe that biological evolution is a kind of pyramid leading to some sort of human summit.


exactly. I have been saying that for years. While evolution may be pyramidal in the sense of emergent intelligence, the species known collectively as humans are just a passing biological container for the current level of intelligence. Indeed, it would have been a mistake for the dinsaurs to 'think' they were the be-all end-all of evolution during their reign.

I am fairly sure intelligence will continue to evolve and 'outgrow' its current biological container.

I suspect that the next grand step in the evolution of intelligence may be in the area of AI. In effect, we are the inventors of the species that will superceed us. It will be difficult to compete with an essentially eternal brain that can think a hundred orders of magnitude faster than the human brain can process information. Also, the available information can be 'instantly programmed ina new born AI brain and not reuire 18 years of prgramming input such as a biological brain requires.

I firmly believe there are intelligent aliens zipping around the galaxy who look at Earth like we would look at a planet where life has not advanced much past the Ameoba stage: " Yeah they are on their way but not worth our effort yet to contact."

Pesse (We are the masters of our own demise) MIst

#129 ColoHank

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 09:33 AM

The advent of cooking meat is ably documented in an essay entitled A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig, by Charles Lamb (1775-1834). At least I think that's the way it must have happened...

#130 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 12:29 PM

My gratitude to you who patiently took the time and devoted the effort to explain to me your positions/opinions/beliefs/thoughts/understandings of what constitutes humanness and how humanness is formed.

The Opening Post was my assertion that all beings we find who possess self awareness, free choice, intelligence should be called human. And then I asked for others to respond to this assertion.


The position, most recently articulated by UND and Joad here, and others, is that the human being is an animal; nothing more, nothing less. As all other animals, the human is an animal of a particular line of evolutionary development. Because of that development, from solely material causes which have been and perhaps will be discovered in biology and chemistry and physics, man has developed the ability to have a mind and be a person; i.e. to be self-aware, to choose (perhaps freely, perhaps not), to understand, to reason. Though we do not understand fully yet, the reason for the development of this type of consciousness we find in humans (called “mind” and which includes self-awareness, choice, understanding, reasoning), there is no reason to assume that some other non-material or spiritual agency is needed to explain the arrival of human consciousness/mind/person-hood/personality.

An aside, but a very important aside, they have articulated that animals have instincts which, as a psychological phenomena, is biologically and evolutionary programmed behaviors which the animal cannot choose not to do. However, to class humans as just animals of a particular line of evolutionary development, it was necessary to qualify this definition of instinct in the animal called human by saying there had been brain-organ development which allowed for chosen deviation from instinctual urges.

The relevance of this human-is-an-animal-only position to the Opening Post is that if a human is a particular line of animal development on the planet called earth, then it would not be correct to call human, beings which developed self-awareness, choice, understanding, reasoning by some other line of evolutionary development under non-terran conditions on some other world, or by some type of human fabrication. Thus, the fabricated machine or smart program that wakes-up, the test tube developed chemical consciousness, the sentient creature on a planet orbiting a star thousands of light years away, should not be called human.

As always, if my summaries are in error in any manner, please correct them for my benefit and the benefit of the reader.


The position that the human is an animal only of a particular line of evolutionary development is a position based in part on some assumptions which cannot be proven (e.g. that science is based on the philosophical assumption called objectivism) and other assumptions, which for the sake of space and time, were not stated. These assumptions were not discussed and probably should not be nor should have been discussed as they were not directly pertinent to the Original Post.


I continue to be of the opinion/belief/understanding that humanness (self-awareness, free choice, understanding, reason) within the human condition as it exists in reality, requires a material substrate and some type of immaterial spiritual agency or addition.

For the sake of brevity I like to replace all those words, i.e. self-awareness, free choice, understanding, reasoning with the word “mind”. In my opinion/belief/understanding “mind” is not the equivalent of “brain” but does (within the human condition and perhaps elsewhere) require the organ called “brain” to manifest itself; much like the computer (harddrive/web) requires the monitor of some sort to be manifested.

I am undecided as to whether, what I am calling, the material substrate, needs to be a particular material substrate. Does it have to be biological? Does it have to be biological according to our understanding of evolutionary development? Can it be a mechanical substrate? Can it be a laboratory generated chemical substrate? Can it be a biological substrate created on a total different chemistry which might be found on some other planet around some other star; e.g. flourine based? arsenic based?

Assuming the substrate can be something other than the biological substrate of terran-evolution, because I believe the necessary component in humanness (the creation of mind/person) is an immaterial spiritual agency or addition, I am of the opinion; these two assumptions accepted, that where-ever in the universe and by what-ever biological, chemical, mechanical fabrication process the right substrate comes into existence, if mind/person is found there, that mind/person is human.


I ask that this thread not be used to discuss, at this time, the differing opinions of man as an animal only or as an incarnate spirit.

Rather, the ramifications to the Opening Post having been fully explored and stated by those holding human-is-animal-only position, I request we now explore the question of the appropriateness of calling human any entity anywhere in the universe who has (evidences) mind (self-awareness, free choice, understanding, reasoning) which has developed as the result of a spiritual agency/addition to some type of material substrate.

Thank you.

Otto

#131 scopethis

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 02:59 PM

after reading all that I think I am losing my mind and becoming non-human...

#132 Jay_Bird

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 06:05 PM

I think there is too much simplification in the summary, before moving on to the new terms of discussion.

The simple animal-instinct = not human
vs.
not-instinct = human

...is a binary argument where there may not be a binary choice.

All mammals wrap a new outermost brain structure, first developed to process signals from primitive mammal's sense of smell, around an inner core of "reptilian" brain structure which is present in humans and seems to be the seat of much instinct and raw emotion. This new outer layer 'cortex' is most developed in primates, and above all in humans.

If the sum of all our consciousness is "mind", are you implying that separates us from animals as an inside the wall/outside the wall division? The wall may be more a series of steps where one step up is subtle but a gap of many steps is clear-cut. Many of the pieces of "mind" are found in animal consciousness (as I said in deleted post, there is a great body of work in this area that speaks to this question unless you exclude it by seeking to draw this discussion to a divine distinction). Some birds and mammals count and learn shapes and colors, make tools, defer gratification, and communicate symbolically with human scientists. Are they also self-aware? For some, hard to say, but there is little doubt about self awareness from long term 'language' experiments done with a few primates. Animal/Human is a blurry boundary; even Aesop, etc. folklore allude to this with anthropomorphic birds and mammals, but 'a scorpion is always a scorpion'. Some aspects of Mind (I'll concede not all aspects) including suppression of pure instinct, are not restricted to H. Sapiens or even to larger genus Homo. You don't seem to explore or acknowledge this.

If we call ourselves, or the combined properties of "mind" we possess, Human, then do we include H. Sapiens 'man who knows' and also 'neander valley man' and also ancient 'upright man'?

or is 'sapient' ~ 'knowing' more what we are trying to describe in ourselves, or in AI, or in some alien we may encounter?

It boils down to picking which word.

Since other beings electrical or biological that share your definition of "mind" will be the start of a larger set with that shared characteristic (which in more inclusive interpretations may prove to have junior members already present on earth), why would we name that larger set after ourselves?

Maybe we intend it as an inclusive compliment, a nice sentiment, but we might want to ask their thoughts on the matter when the time comes.

That's more space than I wanted to use. Otto, I still think you are trying to lead us to a religious conclusion that I might enjoy discussing with you in another venue, perhaps to your surprise, but which may be out of place here.

#133 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 06:42 PM

Jay, thank you for taking this topic on.

I think the consensus was that humans do have instincts. I'm not sold on that, but I think that was the consensus.

You wrote, "Otto, I still think you are trying to lead us to a religious conclusion that I might enjoy discussing with you in another venue, perhaps to your surprise, but which may be out of place here."

I might be fooling myself, but I really don't think I am trying to push a religious/spiritual conclusion/discussion on this particular thread which I started. I think, I may be pushing a political consideration, though. I'll get to that in a minute.

To steal a phrase from the new Star Trek movie, I see my role here as reminding all "You pointed eared *BLEEP*" there is a God and He/She/It probably loves all of you who have a "J" or a "D" in your name/nickname/avatar-name.

I was trying to throw in a little light heartedness there.

Anyway, I am interested in knowing peoples opinions about whether or not "mind" (i.e. self-awareness, choice, understanding, reasoning) is some type of biological/engineering summit and, if so, would it be appropriate to consider all beings with mind; to be fundamentally the same.

If we think they who possess mind are fundamentally the same, then to save wordiness, perhaps we could just call them all "humans" or "pointed eared *BLEEP*" or "the Js and Ds"; whatever.

The political consideration, considering how horrible humanity has tended to treat groups of humans it considered sub-human in different eras of colonization; might it cause us to be a bit more willing to treat a bit more kindly, those with "mind" with whom we one day make contact, if we considered all with "mind" fundamentally the same?

Otto

#134 llanitedave

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 07:10 PM

...considering how horrible humanity has tending to treat groups of humans it considered sub-human in different eras of colonization; might it cause us to be a bit more willing to treat a bit more kindly, those with "mind" with whom we one day make contact, if we considered all with "mind" fundamentally the same?

Otto


A nice sentiment, but in some ways too optimistic, I fear. "Man's inhumanity to man", as it has been labeled, is not restricted to those that one group might considere 'subhuman'. We have been perfectly willing to slaughter brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, spouses, and parents by the millions, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Acknowledging the essential kinship of our fellow humans, much less those creatures that don't aspire to humanity, is not going to decrease our rapaciousness.

That said, humans also have amazing and sometimes unexpected powers of empathy, and will go far out of their way to rescue, protect, and assist creatures of almost every species, including their own.

Calling entities 'human' when they are not is not going to change the way we treat them. Valuing, whether personally or through ideological or cultural motivations, the ethical treatment of other entities regardless of their origins, is what will make a difference.

#135 Jay_Bird

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 07:28 PM

I poorly worded the distinction I was trying to make. Not that humans lack instincts - we're full of them. At our best we restrain them and do not live in constant thrall to territoriality, aggression, fight or flight, lust, etc. The other part of what I meant by challenging a binary choice of animal/human is that actions 'above' or independent from pure instinct are not limited only to humans but are a part of what we see in some animal minds. Part of the general discussion of a "spectrum of mind" or "small steps not a wall" comparing human and animal consciousness.

Apparently we need both a cortex and a conscience to control 'base' instincts, as Dave points out.

The last point you and Dave make Otto is something like an appeal to equal rights and due process for others with "Mind". I'm not sure that even a majority of humans on earth enjoy that now, in the 21st century.

#136 WaterMaster

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 09:39 PM

Anyway, I am interested in knowing peoples opinions about whether or not "mind" (i.e. self-awareness, choice, understanding, reasoning) is some type of biological/engineering summit and, if so, would it be appropriate to consider all beings with mind; to be fundamentally the same.


Otto,

Unfortunately I don't have time to address all of your summary, because I agree you've over-simplified. I will, however, take a moment to address this comment of yours from a subsequent post.

It seems to me that the premise I've quoted above is either naive, or the height of hubris. First, no evolutionary biologist worth his salt would ever consider the word 'summit' to be appropriately paired with any biological phenomena (and I suspect an engineer would have the same to say about AI). Natural selection and evolution are dynamic processes. If you understand this beautiful, basic fact of life, then the assumption that we would be on a par with any speculative 'mind' is hubris.

Some days I'm pretty sure my dog is smarter than me. :shrug:

#137 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 10:23 PM

Thank you, Steve.

Two people now have reacted strongly to the word summit.

I am curious; would you imagine evolutionary development is capable of a quantitative improvement over or compared to human mind, or do you imagine evolution is capable of a qualitative improvement over human mind?

If qualitative; any suggestions about what a qualitative improvement over human mind would be?

Otto

#138 Ravenous

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 06:01 AM

First you need to define "improvement". Without bias to what you, as a human, regard as improvement.

Difficult, isn't it...

#139 Pess

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 08:03 AM

Some days I'm pretty sure my dog is smarter than me.


Humans are probably one of the least specialized species. We are generalists which makes us not particularly excel at anything. However, our intellect and subsequent ability to create and use tools allows us to compete against specialized species.

One on one a human would have no chance against a Tiger competing over a slab of meat. But with the proper tool (high powered rifle) we are able to successfully compete.

Pesse (That's the thing. Dogs are very smart at being a dog.) Mist

#140 shawnhar

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 08:40 AM

One on one a human would have no chance against a Tiger competing over a slab of meat.


You would have no chance against a squirrell! (and they are small, cute n furry with bushy tails) When we were kids I saw my friend grab one, he went to the hospital. We are nothing without our tools compared to anything with claws and teeth.

#141 WaterMaster

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 10:06 AM

First you need to define "improvement". Without bias to what you, as a human, regard as improvement.

Difficult, isn't it...


Well said. Evolution is directionless.

I am curious; would you imagine evolutionary development is capable of a quantitative improvement over or compared to human mind, or do you imagine evolution is capable of a qualitative improvement over human mind?


That depends. :)

Evolution is not causal, it's the result of mutation and ecological factors which drive differential reproduction. That being said, if we substitute the word 'change' for 'improvement', I can address your question from an evolutionary biologist's perspective.

Quantitative change is, perhaps, easier to deal with. I can imagine that there might be circumstances wherein larger (or smaller) brains might be selected for, though as addressed so ably by UND previously, larger brains come with a substantial energy cost. Brains might also become more (or less) complex, in any of dozens of physiological or morphological ways (neuron density, increased cortical area, etc.). Qualitative change may also be considered in physiological terms. For example, a change in neurotransmitter efficiency might be considered qualitative (although it would also be quantitative).

If you're asking whether I think we might evolve to be smarter (or whatever term you wish to apply to describe 'improvement'), I would have to say, 'That depends.' :shrug: Physiological and morphological changes might very well 'improve' the phenomena you're calling 'mind', but what form that improvement might take is the realm of science fiction.

#142 Pess

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 10:10 AM


One on one a human would have no chance against a Tiger competing over a slab of meat.


You would have no chance against a squirrell! (and they are small, cute n furry with bushy tails) When we were kids I saw my friend grab one, he went to the hospital. We are nothing without our tools compared to anything with claws and teeth.


Yeah, squirrels are good with nuts.

Pesse (I sometimes wonder why they don't try to collect my neighbor) Mist

#143 Pess

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 10:28 AM

Well said. Evolution is directionless.


Not sure I agree with the totality of that statement. Evolution encompasses a number of subset rules.

Random genetic mutation is directionless. The mutations occur spontaneously without reference to the outside environment. (Although I could argue about certain environmental exsposures causing organisms to suffer specific higher probability mutations..but that's another argument).

However, Natural selection IS directed in that forces actively select which mutations are passed on.

We even have directed artificial selection that has lead to a new species of Fruit fly.

So, I would say, genetic mutation is non-directional but evolution as a whole does tend to be directional--in the direction best suited for a particular niche.

Just saw World War Z with Brad Pitt last night, While I rated the movie 'D' for dumb, it did kinda touch on this aspect of selection as the way the Zombie virus was 'particular' about the way it spread..and also which turned out to be its Achilles heel.

Pesse (It was still a dumb movie though.....) Mist

#144 ColoHank

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 02:40 PM

Pondering the imponderable...

There's a cartoon in the current (7/1) issue of The New Yorker which somehow reminds me of this thread:

Two Buddhist monks are seated side-by-side in a monastery courtyard, and one asks the other, "Would you rather be attacked by a horse-size duck or fifty duck-size horses."

#145 ColoHank

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 02:44 PM

Except the second monk doesn't respond to the query by asking the first to define what he means when he says "attacked, or "duck," or "horse."

Or "fifty," for that matter.

#146 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 03:14 PM

"Pondering the imponderable", so you said, Hank.

Interesting, is it not, that this imponderable thread has generated over a thousand views and over a hundred replies.

"I realized science couldn't answer any of the really interesting questions. So, I turned to philosophy. I've been searching for God ever since." Bud Chantillas, mission surgeon, Red Planet.

#147 Pess

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 04:29 PM

"One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead men stood up to fight.
There were forty mutes to yell 'Hurray!'
And six blind men to see fair play.
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise
and ran to save those two dead boys.
And if you don't believe it's true,
go ask the kangaroo, he saw it too."

Pesse (eom) Mist

#148 ColoHank

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 04:57 PM

"I realized science couldn't answer any of the really interesting questions. So, I turned to philosophy. I've been searching for God ever since." Bud Chantillas, mission surgeon, Red Planet.



Fictional characters say the darndest things.

#149 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 06:00 PM

You are, of course, correct. Movies can not be used as proof of anything. At best, occasionally, they illustrate, illuminate, explain ideas or the conflict of ideas, and on occasion, display a new idea from the contrast of two conflicting ideas.

One of the best examples I have seen of a new idea created by the portrayal of two other contrasting, but related, ideas was the montage of scenes from Battleship Potemkin of the crew writhing in protest on the deck and the maggots feeding on a rotted carcass.

#150 llanitedave

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 08:13 AM

Well said. Evolution is directionless.


Not sure I agree with the totality of that statement. Evolution encompasses a number of subset rules.

Random genetic mutation is directionless. The mutations occur spontaneously without reference to the outside environment. (Although I could argue about certain environmental exsposures causing organisms to suffer specific higher probability mutations..but that's another argument).

However, Natural selection IS directed in that forces actively select which mutations are passed on.

We even have directed artificial selection that has lead to a new species of Fruit fly.

So, I would say, genetic mutation is non-directional but evolution as a whole does tend to be directional--in the direction best suited for a particular niche.

Just saw World War Z with Brad Pitt last night, While I rated the movie 'D' for dumb, it did kinda touch on this aspect of selection as the way the Zombie virus was 'particular' about the way it spread..and also which turned out to be its Achilles heel.

Pesse (It was still a dumb movie though.....) Mist


I'd go with "yes and no", and the current favorite, "it depends" on direction in evolution. While there's no denying natural selection, it's not the totality of evolutionary change. Many mutations are detrimental to an organism, a few are beneficial, and a great many (perhaps the majority, but certainly a significant percentage) are neutral. These neutral mutations, not being eliminated by selection, tend to randomly accumulate in the gene pool, and can lead to not only genetic diversity, but in small isolated populations can drive speciation events as well, as they become fixed in the population under no other influence but that of chance. Genetic drift is probably behind as much if not more evolutionary change as natural selection itself.

Over time, some of these formerly neutral mutations can become beneficial or detrimental as the outside selection environment changes, but many of them are simply invisible to selection.






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