Scholarly Papers and Books I Want to Write

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 14, 2011 in Ethics,General Atheism,News

Updated 03-13-2011.

research

Scholarly works I want to write

TITLE: “Machine ethics for superintelligence: some challenges” [in progress]

Machine ethics is the field that studies how to design artificial moral agents so that they behave ethically. This paper will show that a wide variety of proposed designs will not work if the artificial moral agent is superintelligent, due to two factors: a superintelligent machine’s superpower and its literalness.

TITLE: Ethics and Superintelligence [in progress]

This book will be an expansion of my article “Machine Ethics for Superintelligence,” and will also include an update to Chalmers’ (2010) argument for why we should expect to see superintelligence in the next couple of centuries if some kind of global catastrophe does not occur.

TITLE: “The sources of normativity and friendly artificial intelligence”

Most work in machine ethics concerns how to implement various ethical theories in artificial moral agents, but do not consider the question of which ethical theory we should implement. What sources of normativity should we program it to respect? The paper would survey the evidence for various sources of normativity, and conclude with some general recommendations for designing Friendly AI.

TITLE: “Machine ethics keeps moral philosophy honest”

The limits or computer programming force moral philosophers doing machine ethics to be honest and precise, because fuzzy and incoherent theories cannot be implemented with 1s and 0s.

TITLE: “Machine ethics and Railton’s moral reductionism”

Outlines a a plan for implementing Peter Railton’s moral reductionism in an artificial moral agent.

Scholarly works I wanted to write in January 2011

TITLE: “Theism and Kolmogorov Complexity” [new]

Theists often argue that the God hypothesis is simple, and this gives it a competitive edge as an explanation for phenomena. But this is due to lazy definitions for simplicity. When using a more rigorous definition of simplicity that has a more logical link to explanatory merit – “low Kolmogorov complexity” – theism turns out to be just about the worst explanation for anything you can imagine, for it posits an extremely complex phenomena (mind) as an explanation for far simpler phenomena (particles, laws, etc.).

TITLE: The Varieties of Moral Value Worth Wanting

This book would argue that the search for One True Theory of Morality is misguided. People use moral terms according to many different concepts of morality, just as they use the term ‘love’ according to many different concepts of love. Some concepts of morality can be used to make true statements and others cannot. For example, when ‘good’ is used to mean ‘that which is praiseworthy in the opinion of the speaker’, moral utterances can undoubtedly be true. But when ‘good’ is used to mean ‘that which is approved by God’, moral utterances cannot be true. But the result should not be a theory of ‘moral incoherentism’, just as the variety of uses for the word ‘love’ need not lead us to a theory of ‘love incoherentism’. Rather, moral theorists might accept many true theories of morality (and reject several false ones), and perhaps also seek a ‘maximal’ theory of morality – one that is objective, universal, and accounts for many common features of moral speech but also happens to be true about reality. I would then sketch the theory of desirism, and argue that it is ‘maximal’ enough for many people, while also happening to be true about the universe. (The inspiration for the title and approach of the book is, obviously, Dennett’s Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting.)

Scholarly works I wanted to write in November 2009

TITLE: “Morality is an essentially contested concept, not an incoherent one.”

Don Loeb has argued that morality is an incoherent concept. I argue instead that morality fits W.B. Gallie’s model of an ‘essentially contested concept.’ Thus, we can make true claims about morality in the same way that we make true claims about other essentially contested concepts like art, religion, and rape.

TITLE: “How to Use ‘Objective’ and ‘Subjective’ in Moral Theory.”

This would be a paper about the confusing variety of ways in which moral theorists use the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’, how these uses compare to the use of these terms in other fields, what the implications of each proposed definition for these terms are, and how to use these terms with more clarity in the future. The inspiration would be this essay.

TITLE: “Moral Realism and Theological Realism.”

This paper would argue that the arguments given in favor of moral realism and theological realism are very similar, and that this is damning for moral realism.

TITLE: “Moral Realism and Explanation.”

This paper would argue that an “explanatory virtues” approach to explanation shows that moral realism is unlikely to offer a successful explanation for such phenomena as popular moral belief or moral experience.

TITLE: “The Moral Realist Carries the Burden of Proof.”

This paper would argue that since moral realists are making positive existence assertions, they carry the burden of proof. I would examine several theories of “burden of proof” and show why the moral realist carries the burden of proof according to each theory. I would also argue that such things as popular moral belief and moral experience do not provide prima facie evidence in favor of moral realism, for the same reasons that popular religious belief and religious experience do not provide prima facie evidence in favor of theological realism.

TITLE: “The Central Conceit of Natural Theology.”

There are many things in the physical world we cannot explain, and many debates in philosophy that remain unsettled. Most of natural theology consists of saying that the only way to solve these problems and settle these debates is to swoop God into the picture. But saying “God did it” solves nothing. It’s a god of the gaps argument, even though theologians are now careful to phrase it as an “argument to the best explanation.” I will show how most contemporary arguments for theism have an ‘argument to the best explanation’ in them at a crucial point, but the problem is that theologians never phrase their arguments to the best explanation in such away that they even could be successful, and thus we can dismiss these arguments as nothing more than “god of the gaps” arguments.

TITLE: Several Dozen Arguments for Atheism

This book would examine several dozen arguments for atheism, in ascending order of the specificity of the God they reject (from arguments in favor of naturalism to arguments rejecting a specifically orthodox version of the Christian God). I would survey the literature on each argument and give my concluding opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. Here is a concept book cover I use to inspire myself.

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{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Kiwi Dave November 22, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Good luck with your scholarly ambitions. I’ve certainly enjoyed your blog presentations on some of these matters, and been quite informed, not only by your original posts, but also by many of the subsequent discussions – Reginald Selkirk on one side and Ayer on the other are two contributors are always must-reads.

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Bill Maher November 22, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Best of luck to you Luke. I also I have several ideas for books I want to write (after I get my Ph.D), but my ideas are in intellectual history, like:

1. A deep look at 20th century american protestant Christianity. It would cover everyone from Jack T Chick to Bill Craig.

2. The history of religious arguments and their reformation in the United States.

3. The history and detailed account of atheology since Jean Meslier and Marquis de Sade.

Ironically I am mainly educated in Ancient Near East religion (my teacher’s research is predominantly on human sacrifice and magic in the middle east), but I love US history.

Anyways, to make a long story short… good luck and I hope you accomplish what you are setting out to do.

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Kip November 23, 2009 at 9:10 am

Here is an article regarding “Subjective” & “Objective”:

http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/subjective_objective.html

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Pete November 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

@Defense of Desirism

I’m not a moral philosopher, but to me, desirism seems very similar to motive utilitarianism, so you might want to check out Robert Adams’ classic paper “Motive Utilitarianism” (Journal of Philosophy 73, 1976).

@Moral Realism and Explanation

There are many good papers on this topic, e.g. by Gilbert Harman, Nicholas Sturgeon, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord and others, but I suspect that you already know about most of them. If not, there’s a good bibliography in Alex Miller’s Book “An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics”, p. 77. (The book itself is also quite useful.)

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anon November 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm

“Eventually I would like to research, write, and publish scholarly papers and books on meta-ethics and philosophy of religion.”

Have you considered going to school to study philosophy? I imagine that would be the first step towards writing papers at a serious level.

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Josh November 23, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I don’t recall what your educational background is, but you should really look into doing whatever it takes to get graduate training in philosophy if you want to submit papers to academic journals.

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Liam November 23, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I’m sure you could write some of these, Luke. Are you still at university (college as yall call it)? It’d be much easier to get these things published if you were still studying.

I’m with Josh. It’s close to impossible to submit these things to peer journals without extensive formal qualifications or recognition.

I too want to be a famous philosopher of religion however i guess my approach is different from yours. I’m more interested in the meta-philosophy of religion (something i picked up off my soon-to-be professor Nick Trakakis at Monash) and its implications on how we argue about God.

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lukeprog November 23, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Thanks, Kip!

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lukeprog November 23, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Thanks, Pete!

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lukeprog November 23, 2009 at 6:51 pm

anon,

Yes, I’d like to go back to school and get a Ph.D. before I write anything. But that requires, like, money and stuff.

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lukeprog November 23, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Liam,

I envy you… studying at Monash….

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Liam November 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

lukeprog: Liam,I envy you… studying at Monash….  

Oh and did I mention we have Graham Oppy and J.C.C Smart here as well? Oh I guess you already knew that :P

Just an off the cuff idea but have to considered moving overseas to go back to school? Many universities are more affordable overseas.

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Mark November 23, 2009 at 11:41 pm

What about love?

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Gimpness November 24, 2009 at 1:22 am

As a long time lurker I completely agree with Kiwi Dave. I have found your blog Luke to be the best that atheism can offer, not only do you show sincerity, compassion and dedication but an understanding of believers position that is unfortunately overlooked by most other atheist blogs. As Kiwi Dave outlined your contributors i.e. commentators have openly engaged in a substantial exchange of ideas and they themselves should be congratulated. I thank you for an exceedingly well done job so far and will continue to follow you in and attempt to encourage you on your future endeavours.
Good Luck (despite the uselessness of such a phrase)

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lukeprog November 24, 2009 at 7:22 am

Liam,

Stop rubbing it in. :)

Actually, I’ve always dreamed of moving to Australasia. For the girls, mostly. The accent turns me on.

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Rhys Wilkins November 26, 2009 at 1:52 am

lukeprog: Liam,Stop rubbing it in.
Actually, I’ve always dreamed of moving to Australasia. For the girls, mostly. The accent turns me on.  

ROFLcopter. Some aussie accents are just hideous though, Im from the bush in Australia and even some of the most beautiful girls there sound just atrocious. Doesn’t stop me though hahaha :D

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J Nernoff III M.D. December 8, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The book that need to be written is something off-the-wall, STRIKING, a completely rowdy and unashamed, no holds barred politically incorrect and INSULTING comic book depicting the Bible in all its horror and absurdity. God and as a boastful degenerate old wanker on his throne paring his toenails for 13 billion years wondering what to do with his creation; his CHOSEN weirdo Jews kvetching in the worst place on earth (no oil too) kiling other tribes peoples, slitting open their pregnant women, killing children; Jesus promising to burn people in hellfire forever…. THERE’S TONS OF STUFF in the Bible to wickedly parody, yet nobody has done it like, say, Jack Chick has done it FOR Christianity. I hear Crumb has done Genesis recently but I haven’t seen it.

Well, there you go. Let’s hire some good comic artists and make up a Bible that exposes all the stupid horrific anti-humanist crap in the book that would grab people’s attention and totally freak them out. I can see riots in the streets already. Want publicity. Go for it, NOW.

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Thomas March 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I’d like to see a scholarly paper that uses Desirism to criticize Biblical ethics and Modern Christian Ethics. Maybe I should become an ethicist just to do that. ;)

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amjad iqbal March 9, 2010 at 11:01 pm

If there could be a God there would be no evil in the world eiter he is in the world and can’t stop the evil!

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Thomas March 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Thomas: I’d like to see a scholarly paper that uses Desirism to criticize Biblical ethics and Modern Christian Ethics. Maybe I should become an ethicist just to do that.   

Retrospect that would be a waste of time. There more important moral issues at hand. To debunk Biblical ethics and Modern Christian Ethics all I would need to do is point out that there reasons for action (God’s Will) don’t exist.

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John W. Loftus April 3, 2010 at 1:32 am

Luke, I have no intention of writing a scholarly paper even though I could. If you want to change the religious landscape you must write on the level of the university student. You are already doing that. First seek to understand the scholars and then target the university student with your arguments. That’s what I do. It’s more effective in accomplishing my goals. The scholars have to pay attention to me because they too want to win the minds of my target audience. That’s where the battle rages.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t do both. Except for me it’s a matter of time management. My time is better spent doing what I’m doing.

Cheers.

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Steven R. January 19, 2011 at 11:05 am

I’d love to read your thoughts on morality, Luke. Mostly because we seem to be on the same page about being able to find the best possible form of morality though I still keep on viewing it as being based on subjective principles. At any rate, it could just be that we’re using terms differently, like that example of “art” with the work Fountain. Good luck on it.

@J Nernoff:

Ask 4chan. I’m sure they’ll oblige.

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Yair January 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

Here are some of mine. I’ll probably never get to actually write any of them.

TITLE: The End of Faiths
Sam Harris wrote religion should end, but didn’t write how that could be accomplished. This book picks up the slack by canvassing history to explain how it is that religions die. The main thesis is that religions virtually never completely die, instead leaving “heretical” offshoots somewhere; that when they do die or plummet it is because they become irrelevant; and that this applies to secularism too – it needs to make religion irrelevant if it is to supplant it.

TITLE: “The Religious Poison”
Christopher Hitches wrote a book accusing religion of poisoning everything, but didn’t say why it poisons everything and how, precisely, it does so. This book picks up the slack by identifying precisely what is it about religion that is poisonous, and how it works. The thesis is that that the poison is bad habits of thought, that are endemic to religion because they help propagate and maintain it, although they can also be found elsewhere. The book will canvass all relevant disastrous modes of thought, from exemplar-thinking (idolizing the saint/Jesus/God…) to dogmatism.

TITLE: The God Delusions
Richard Dawkins write a book saying belief in god was a delusion, but didn’t address the delusional nature of religious experiences. This book surveys the neuroscience of religious and mystic experiences, explaining their naturalistic makeup and their (lack of) significance. It focuses on explaining why feelings such as “feeling one with the universe” or “absolute certainty” are a very bad way to do epistemology.

TITLE: A History of the People and Land of Israel
Starting from cosmic history (the big bang), through evolution and prehistory and up to modern times, this book provides a (relatively) succinct but evidence-based history of the Jewish people and the land of Israel (and their roots, physical, cultural, and evolutionary). The history focuses on understanding the focus (for most it – Israel) as part of a greater pattern, and on creating a complete picture of the life of people from the various relevant groups (including their physical living conditions and habits, their economic and social realities, and their spiritual and inner lives), and a systematic understanding of why the specific changes that happened occurred.

TITLE: An Introduction to Normal Normative Ethics
This book presents empirical evidence that people have a certain Normal structure of final-ends, and lays the mental tools required to develop the moral theory that will serve these ends. It details psychological techniques to increase self-knowledge and to to rationalize and alter your own desires, how to build moral virtue and consistency, and so on. It also includes a discussion on the normative and political ramifications of Normal desires, and considers abnormal people and the distribution of normativity, and the effects of knowledge, education, and indoctrination.

TITLE: Darwinian Epistemology
This work argues that all knowledge is derived from a Darwinian-like process of trial-and-error. It examines the preconditions required for the accumulation of knowledge, and the ways that our body of knowledge can most effectively be increased.

TITLE: Counter Apologetics
This book takes a close and exhaustive look at all the apologetic religious arguments, and dismantles them. It doesn’t argue for naturalism.

TITLE: Naturalism as Uniformity
This article argues that naturalism is uniformity in existence, and in particular the lack of certain kinds of irregularities. It proceeds to argue for the view that naturalism is the most rational position.

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James January 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Is Smart (at 90-91?) still active in the program? That would be quite a long career!!

Oh and did I mention we have Graham Oppy and J.C.C Smart here as well? Oh I guess you already knew that :PJust an off the cuff idea but have to considered moving overseas to go back to school? Many universities are more affordable overseas.  

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Troy January 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Luke,

You need money to get a Ph.D.? Most good philosophy programs offer assistantships and/or fellowships. Of course, such programs are extremely competitive; that’s where the real difficulty is. You seem very bright, from your posts and interviews, but do you have any philosophical training (undergraduate, M.A., whatever)? I imagine that you could at least get into a strong M.A. program and go from there.

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James January 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I would advocate questioning John’s assumption, that scholars (in philosophy, hard sciences, humanities, or whatever) much care about what the folk are hearing and are convinced of, much less “winning their minds,” and that therefore scholars in philosophy say will “have to” (or even be inclined to) seriously consider non-scholarly (non-expert, folk-to-folk, popularized, etc.) material. Disciplines (say, quantum mechanics, even meta-ethics) generally don’t advance knowledge by “winning minds,” that’s for evangelists. If answers to hard and fundamental issues in any discipline were those the folk generally understood without years of specific training, there would be little room for experts today. Bloggers and best-sellers would work just as well. The people who care about “winning the minds” are generally not the people in the academic world, but proselytizers among the folk.

Luke, I have no intention of writing a scholarly paper even though I could. If you want to change the religious landscape you must write on the level of the university student. You are already doing that. First seek to understand the scholars and then target the university student with your arguments. That’s what I do. It’s more effective in accomplishing my goals. The scholars have to pay attention to me because they too want to win the minds of my target audience. That’s where the battle rages.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t do both. Except for me it’s a matter of time management. My time is better spent doing what I’m doing.Cheers.  

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Luke Muehlhauser January 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Yair,

Thanks for sharing!

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Luke Muehlhauser January 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Troy,

The problem is that I’d need to finish my undergraduate degree, and that costs money.

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Patrick January 19, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I just want to write a short book entitled “Shit you should know.”

It would cover a wide variety of topics, rarely in depth, but with just enough information to keep people from saying stupid things or drawing stupid conclusions. It would include chapters like,

What academics mean by “privilege”
An introduction to the good parts of deconstruction
How to interpret a sentence
“Meaning” is an idea, not a thing
The actual goal of politics
The math you actually need to function in a democracy but didn’t learn in school
What it means when something “feels right”: almost nothing
A list of things scientists know to be true but regular people pretend aren’t so
A list of truths about American cultural groups that they all pretend aren’t so

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Cody January 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Luke,

Off topic (my once in a Blue Moon posts usually are), but here is a paper that was recently posted on arXiv regarding fine-tuning that might be of some interest. The author, Don Page (Univ. of Alberta), is a Christian…who, in his own opinion, thinks “it might be a theological mistake to look for fine-tuning as a sign of the existence of God,” and seems inclined toward a multiverse. Cheers

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Chris Hallquist January 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Luke, have you ever considered going into psychology (especially moral psychology or something AI-related)?

Based on my own experiences, your skepticism about the value of mainstream philosophy (which seems to exceed even my own), and your emphasis on empirical methods, I suspect you’d be a lot happier in psychology.

Just my 2c.

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MarkD January 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm

@Yair

Relevant to your interest in “Darwinian Epistemology”:

Radnitzky and Bartley, Evolutionary Epistemology

In particular, Donald Campbell’s work…

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Troy January 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Ah yes–well that is an issue.

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Garren January 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Would buy Patrick’s book.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 19, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Chris,

I would definitely do AI if I was smart enough. Psychology was my major in university, but it’s not my passion. Philosophy is, unavoidably, my passion.

Most people who think philosophy sucks react by not doing philosophy. Wittgenstein was one exception. I want to be Wittgenstein, except be more correct. Poor Wittgenstein did not benefit from Jaynes, Kahneman, Everett, and so on.

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James A. Gibson January 19, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Wrt your intention to write on moral and theological realism, you might want to look at this paper by Mark Schroeder: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~maschroe/research/Schroeder_Realism_and_Reduction.pdf

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Student January 20, 2011 at 2:04 am

Luke,

Why do you think minds are “an extremely complex phenomena”?

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Luke Muehlhauser January 20, 2011 at 2:16 am

Because it takes a bajillion lines of code to write a mind.

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Student January 20, 2011 at 2:56 am

“Because it takes a bajillion lines of code to write a mind.”

Why think you can write a mind at all? If the mind is reducible to the operations of the brain then I can see why you would think that. But that’s clearly not what God is, unless you think God would be a giant brain.

This just seems like you’re trying to impose some kind of eliminative materialist views upon the idea of God.

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Yair January 20, 2011 at 3:05 am

Thanks Mark, it looks very interesting indeed.

@YairRelevant to your interest in “Darwinian Epistemology”:Radnitzky and Bartley, Evolutionary EpistemologyIn particular, Donald Campbell’s work…  

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BenSix January 20, 2011 at 3:32 am

Corporate Patronization As Rhetorical Exclusion (or, Why I Should Get Tenure).

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Chris Hallquist January 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

Chris,I would definitely do AI if I was smart enough. Psychology was my major in university, but it’s not my passion. Philosophy is, unavoidably, my passion.Most people who think philosophy sucks react by not doing philosophy. Wittgenstein was one exception. I want to be Wittgenstein, except be more correct. Poor Wittgenstein did not benefit from Jaynes, Kahneman, Everett, and so on.  

You’re not smart enough to do AI? I haven’t noticed.

In any case, best of luck finding a Russell to be convinced of your brilliance.

In all seriousness, though, part of the reason I recommend psychology is your best shot at finding a mentor may be the x-phi folks–but much of what they do is essentially psychology anyways.

If you’re violently allergic to any kind of experimental work, even on questions you really care about, you may have an even tougher road ahead than you think.

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Ásgeir January 20, 2011 at 11:07 am

„Why think you can write a mind at all? If the mind is reducible to the operations of the brain then I can see why you would think that. But that’s clearly not what God is, unless you think God would be a giant brain.“

This is obviously not a problem for anyone who doesn’t think God exists. And he could say, that because minds are complex then either God is complex or doesn’t exist.

Like they say, one man’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens.

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PDH January 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm

“Because it takes a bajillion lines of code to write a mind.”Why think you can write a mind at all? If the mind is reducible to the operations of the brain then I can see why you would think that. But that’s clearly not what God is, unless you think God would be a giant brain.This just seems like you’re trying to impose some kind of eliminative materialist views upon the idea of God.  

Student, it’s not necessary to believe that a mind is reducible to a brain in order to see that concepts like mind, intelligence etc. are about as complex as anything can be. The fact is that when we try to design AIs that do the same things as minds, we find that it is one of the hardest things that you could try to design. Now maybe you think that even the most advanced AIs will still be missing something. If you think that minds cannot be reduced that way, that merely suggests that they’re even more complicated than we thought.

If you don’t like Kolmogorov complexity, try minimum message length, which is essentially the same, except that then it doesn’t have to be written in a Turing complete language. You will get the same results.

It’s about how much data it would take to describe something without relying on semantic shorthand. ‘Mind’ may be only one word long but regardless of your thoughts on dualism and whatnot, a precise definition of it really is going to be bajillions of words long.

The God of traditional theism is a personal being and we think that we understand personal beings because we are personal beings. That is why it seems simple. That and the fact that the definitions people are using are vague to the point of uselessness, lacking the relevant information about how it actually works. Try describing a person to something that does not know what one is (like a computer) and you will see how difficult that is.

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Ryan January 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm

“theism turns out to be just about the worst explanation for anything you can imagine, for it posits an extremely complex phenomena (mind) as an explanation for far simpler phenomena (particles, laws, etc.).”

Luke, thou hast seen the light!

Seriously though, I’m proud of you for recognizing that point, especially since you seemed to argue against it for some time. The quote is actually the point that I think is at the root of Dawkins’ 747 argument: A mind, especially one that is coherent and able to process lots of information (like an all-knowing or prayer answering God) is a truly complex and intricately specified thing, i.e. not the sort of thing that would likely exist without being the product of design or natural selection.

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Student January 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm

he could say, that because minds are complex then either God is complex or doesn’t exist.

He could say that. Maybe he should write a paper called “If God exists then he is a really big brain”. If you’re really committed to the idea that that the mind is the brain, or the workings of the brain then God isn’t a mind, but that is no big deal, we’re just talking about different things.

it’s not necessary to believe that a mind is reducible to a brain in order to see that concepts like mind, intelligence etc. are about as complex as anything can be.

There’s a difference between hard to understand, and complex.

The fact is that when we try to design AIs that do the same things as minds, we find that it is one of the hardest things that you could try to design. Now maybe you think that even the most advanced AIs will still be missing something. If you think that minds cannot be reduced that way, that merely suggests that they’re even more complicated than we thought.

If God is a mind, then minds are not physical nor dependent on anything physical. If minds are not physical nor dependent on anything physical, then you can’t built one out of physical things.

This would mean that, although it may be possible for AIs to replicate the brain, they cannot replicate the mind – not because it is too complicated, but because it is a different sort of thing.

‘Mind’ may be only one word long but regardless of your thoughts on dualism and whatnot, a precise definition of it really is going to be bajillions of words long.

I don’t have any particularly strong views on the mind, but here’s a possibility: substance dualism is correct and mind = thing that thinks. Just short of a bajillion. Maybe you think I’m cheating because this won’t answer all your questions about it, but specifying something and saying everything there is to say about a something are two very different things.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Chris,

Maybe. Though it’s hard to imagine how the road to a research professorship in philosophy could be harder than I already think it will be. :(

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PDH January 20, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Student wrote,

There’s a difference between hard to understand, and complex.

Right but it’s the former that we’re interested in. We’re interested in the complexity of the explanation, not the complexity of the thing itself. The whole point of an explanation is to stop things being hard to understand!

Consider a single elementary particle that can talk and dance and have relationships with other elementary particles. It would take a lot of information to describe that behaviour for use as a predictive model but the thing itself is not very complex. It’s just a particle. For example, maybe the particle is a force carrier most of the time but then sometimes changes its mind because it has a dance rehearsal or its girlfriend left it and it doesn’t really feel like being a force carrier today. Imagine what the standard model of particle physics would look like if scientists had to include that sort of information. You can say that a mind is a metaphysically simple thing if you want but that still doesn’t make it any easier to model because it can still do all of the things that it could do before (like decide to take up dancing) and that will take a lot of information to describe. If you want minds to be capable of the things you attribute to them then it’s going to be a very big explanation.

There’s no limit to how complex reality can be. It can be as complicated as it likes. But we don’t want our explanations to be too big because then they have all this surplus information that does nothing for nobody. God is an extravagantly complicated explanation – vastly more complex than the things it is supposed to explain. Either that or it is too vague (i.e. lacking the relevant information) to explain anything at all. There are nearly always going to be very many simpler, more probable alternatives.

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Taranu March 14, 2011 at 7:10 am

“Theism and Kolmogorov Complexity”

Please tell me you’re going to reconsider this project in the future or at least write a Megapost on Kolmogorov Complexity.

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poban March 14, 2011 at 7:55 am

I hope Patrik is serious about what he is saying. I would certainly buy those books if they wouldnt be too big.

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Louis March 14, 2011 at 8:30 am

Troy,The problem is that I’d need to finish my undergraduate degree, and that costs money.  

Should have been born in Ireland dude. Tax pays for your education. It’s much cheaper to go to college here.

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Curt March 14, 2011 at 9:35 am

I am kinda of old and computer illiterate. In my entire life I have read at most three articles about artificial intellenge. I seem to recall that in one of those articles that author expressed a fear that intelligent machines could get out of hand and destory or enslave humans.
My current reaction to the idea that machines could have a will of their own is that it is nonsense. Of course I recognize that I am entirely uneducated in field so I would be very interested in hearing other points of view on this subject from those who have taken an intense interest in it.
The reason that I currently have no fear on machines TRYING to replace humans is that machines have no chemistry. With out chemistry it would seem to me that there is no foundation for emotions. If there are no emotions there would be no pain/pleasure motivations for action.
Of course a machine could have sensors built in to its hand and when the hand touches a hot stove the machine could be programed to move off of the hot stove so that the hardware in the hand does not get damaged. That would be a different motivation than the searing pain that a living thing expiriences when it touches a hot stove. Essentially a machine would really not care if it exsits or not. A machine would never feel hunger so it could never fear hunger.
Of course machine technology could at some future time possibly be fused with living tissue. Some scientists of the future may even want to design and create an “intellegence machine” out of living tissue. But when that point is reached then I would say that we are no longer talking about “artificial” intellegence even though it may be produced by artifical means.
Colon Cologne Curt

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Louis March 14, 2011 at 10:00 am

I am kinda of old and computer illiterate.In my entire life I have read at most three articles about artificial intellenge.I seem to recall that in one of those articles that author expressed a fear that intelligent machines could get out of hand and destory or enslave humans.
My current reaction to the idea that machines could have a will of their own is that it is nonsense.

So humans aren’t machines then?

Of course I recognize that I am entirely uneducated in field so I would be very interested in hearing other points of view on this subject from those who have taken an intense interest in it.
The reason that I currently have no fear on machines TRYING to replace humans is that machines have no chemistry.With out chemistry it would seem to me that there is no foundation for emotions.If there are no emotions there would be no pain/pleasuremotivations for action.

Chemistry is the interaction of atoms and molecules that machines could take advantage of.

Of course a machine could have sensors built in to its hand and when the hand touches a hot stove the machine could be programed to move off of the hot stove so that the hardware in the hand does not get damaged.That would be a different motivation than the searing pain that a living thing expiriences when it touches a hot stove.Essentially a machine would really not care if it exsits or not.A machine would never feel hunger so it could never fear hunger.

I am kinda of old and computer illiterate.In my entire life I have read at most three articles about artificial intellenge.I seem to recall that in one of those articles that author expressed a fear that intelligent machines could get out of hand and destory or enslave humans.
My current reaction to the idea that machines could have a will of their own is that it is nonsense.

So humans aren’t machines then?

Of course I recognize that I am entirely uneducated in field so I would be very interested in hearing other points of view on this subject from those who have taken an intense interest in it.
The reason that I currently have no fear on machines TRYING to replace humans is that machines have no chemistry.With out chemistry it would seem to me that there is no foundation for emotions.If there are no emotions there would be no pain/pleasuremotivations for action.

So?

Of course machine technology could at some future time possibly be fused with living tissue.Some scientists of the future may even want to design and create an “intellegence machine” out of living tissue.But when that point is reached then I would say that we are no longer talking about “artificial” intellegence even though it may be produced by artifical means.
Colon Cologne Curt  

You just drew a line through living tissue and a machine which is totally arbitrary. Are you content with that?

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cl March 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Luke,

You forgot, Settled Issues: Atheism is True, Dualism is False.

The limits or computer programming force moral philosophers doing machine ethics to be honest and precise, because fuzzy and incoherent theories cannot be implemented with 1s and 0s.

So I guess this takes desirism off the list of possible theories to program AI with, eh?

;)

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Curt March 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

“You just drew an arbitrary line between living tissue and machine”
I had no idea that in between states were possible. My current understanding is that it is either or. What have I missed while I have been away?
Cardiac Cholesteral Curt

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Louis March 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

“You just drew an arbitraryline between living tissue and machine”
I had no idea that in between states were possible.My current understanding is that it is either or.What have I missed while I have been away?
Cardiac CholesteralCurt  

That’s because there are no in-between states. Living tissue is a machine. The human body is a machine.

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curt March 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Louis, I am sorry I missed the first part of your post up above.
OK so the human body is a machine. Yes a type of machine.
So since the human body is a type of machine does that mean that I should fear a man made machine would develope a desire to kill or enslave mankind? I would naturally have as much fear of these machines as I would a human being in the sense that such a machine could do something stupid just as a human could. After all although it will be able to learn on its own it will have a starting point just like a human and it will have a history just like a human. It may read some book or instructions that are outdated before it reads the information that superseeded it. It may for example pump the breaks on a car with an ABS breaking system and have and auto accident, or while driving an old car assume that it has an ABS system because it has never expeirienced a car without one. Yet our human brains have evolved over millions if not billions of years when our hands burn after touching a hot stove we interpret that as a very unpleseant expirience. I imagine that we could tell a machine that it is an unpleasent expierience but could a machine understand that any better than a person who has always been blind understand color? So could a machine really have pleasant and unpleasent expiriences? If it can perhaps we should worry about malevolent machines.

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Louis March 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Louis, I am sorry I missed the first part of your post up above.
OK so the human body is a machine.Yes a type of machine.
So since the human body is a type of machine does that mean that I should fear a man made machine would develope a desire to kill or enslave mankind?I would naturally have as much fear of these machines as I would a human being in the sense that such a machine could do something stupid just as a human could.After all although it will be able to learn on its own it will have a starting point just like a human and it will have a history just like a human.It may read some book or instructions that are outdated before it reads the information that superseeded it.It may for example pump the breaks on a car with an ABS breaking system and have and auto accident, or while driving an old car assume that it has an ABS system because it has never expeirienced a car without one.Yet our human brains have evolved over millions if not billions of years when our hands burn after touching a hot stove we interpret that as a very unpleseant expirience.I imagine that we could tell a machine that it is an unpleasent expierience but could a machine understand that any better than a person who has always been blind understand color?So could a machine really have pleasant and unpleasent expiriences?If it canperhaps we should worry about malevolent machines.  

I can’t address all your points right now but its worth your while checking out the MIRI (Machine Intelligence Research Institute).

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mopey March 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Just change your interests every year or two, and then you’ll never have to write anything!

I’m extremely interested in all of your wanted topics. All the new cylon topics bore me to tears. Really, I’d rather go down in a plane crash then hear about how the cylons will kill us off.

But since I really miss CPBD, I wouldn’t mind if you covered only cylon morality topics, if that’s what it takes to get CPBD back.

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AndrewR March 15, 2011 at 4:06 am

Luke,You forgot, Settled Issues: Atheism is True, Dualism is False

Well, if it’s settled, then a book isn’t required, almost by definition :)

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Louis March 15, 2011 at 4:09 am

Well, if it’s settled, then a book isn’t required, almost by definition :)  

Some people aren’t getting it though but if you write it down it may be more helpful.

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Luke Muehlhauser March 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

mopey,

Getting CPBD back is just a matter of time, whether I write about machines or not. And there won’t be much machine talk on CPBD, you’ll be happy to hear.

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Luke Muehlhauser March 15, 2011 at 10:24 am

BTW mopey,

Did you know that the US Department of Defense aims to have a large fraction of its troops be robots by 2025, and that they’re giving out grants so that people can figure out how to make robots follow the ethical codes of the Laws of War and the Rules of Engagement? Do you still not think the ‘cylons’ will be killing people, and that figuring out how to make them behave ethically is not interesting?

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Curt March 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Luke,
didnt the quest for AI start out as a US Air Force program because they wanted to be able to remove the pilots from the aircraft that were being shot down over Vietnam?
Yes it is easy to imagine machines that can think (more or less) killing humans.
But shouldnt that tell us that we have to be more worried about the humans designing the machines than the machines themselves?
Furthermore if we end up designing machines that are capable of thinking on their own they would be able to completly understand their own programing. That is something that most if not all humans have a lot of difficulty with. At the momement I am not nearly as concerned with malevolent machines as I am with an unforgiving natural environment and malevolent humans in that order. I am going to start reading a lot more of the links that have been given to me on these threads but I imagine that it will take a while to move from a beginner to a novice to an intermediate level. At the moment I still see lack of motivation on a machines part to start committing acts on its own with out human encouragement to harm humans. I recognize that my opinion might change as I read more on the subject.
That gets me to me next provisional belief. On one hand since these machines will be able to think so much faster than a human if they did decide that they wanted to destory us it seems like we would not stand much of a chance. Yet on the other hand even though they can think faster that does not neccissarily mean that they would not make mistakes. If a machine drew a wrong conclusion would it ever question that conclusion or would it try to fit all new information in to a coherent picture of reality that fits with the wrong conclusion? Actually I bet already know the answer to that.
It might depend on how well that it is designed. Yet if the machine can analyze its own programing then it might only be just a matter of time before the machine programed itself to question all past conclusions. It might reprogram itself if it had a motive.
I think that many if not most humans, once they reach a certian age do not fear death. What they might fear is the pain of starvation, or thirst, or being eaten by wild dogs, or of cancer before death. A machine would not have such a motivating factor. A half machine half animal I think probably would.
Now for my third provisional thought. If we program a machine that is capable of becoming super intellegent to work to achieve human welfare it might come to the following conclusion. Suffering is bad for humans. Pleasure is good for humans.
Suffering in life is inevitable. Pleasure for some may never be achieved. Those things that give humans pleasure are all temporary in nature. Humans reach a point in which those things that once gave them pleasure no longer do. To compensate for this they seek to push every form of pleasure to an extreme level or point of behavior which often causes suffering for others as well as themselves. It is apparent to me that the maximum utilitarian benefit of the human species would be their extinction. This should be achieved with the least amount of suffering possible.
This brings me to my last provisional thought for the evening. ” Shit! I goofed. That is a mistake that I should correct. Where can I find a nice suitable planet to recreate the human species?
Cordial Conrad Curt

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cl March 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Some people aren’t getting it though…

LOL!

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