just another theory of every thing

A Neo-Cathedral speculation on cognition


When we speak of what we think we attempt to share our thoughts.

Of thoughts, we tend to think as things because outside of things there is, it seems, nothing to be thought, only experience of what lies beyond the things we speak about when sharing our thoughts[1].

Thoughts however are in no way stable things, they happen in our brains. We are only beginning to understand how our thoughts happen in our brains, but not unlike in some other fields, the advances in neuroscience are extremely rapid, overwhelmingly so. Our understanding drags its feet in the purchase of what we discover. It is extremely difficult to merge what we discover with our former speculations on how thinking and knowledge is happening, although some serious attempts are underway[2]. Neuroscientists generally don't have the time to explain and philosophers lack their specialization.

 At the same time, to stick to this time of writing, we are building machines that mimic and exceed our own capacity for thought. In doing so we use models, schemes, abstractions of how we think on intelligence, consciousness and perception. As we built these things merge into technologies that need to be recast into models, schemes and abstractions in order to advance. Here too, our understanding drags its feet in making it clear for ourselves what it is exactly that we are building[3].

In our search for what we built, we only have our own way of thinking to go on, uninformed mostly by what the neurosciences might contribute to our understanding that. Building a general AI follows its own path, emerging from how it proceeds. IT matters literally, but we cannot fully realise how exactly our technology transforms the way we think into determinate and determinating matter. In AI dev, how our actual brains work is not really a priority: what is the point in spending billions of dollars in building a chicken brain when you have millions of chickens around laying eggs all the time?

From these simple observations, it is fairly tempting to conclude that we are witnessing in our time, is nothing less than the return of philosophy to the foreground of human knowledge. What else but philosophy could offer a common ground for the needs in both extremely specialist fields? However academic philosophy is very reluctant in rising to the challenge facing it. At some other time, it may become clear that this phenomenon is not surprising at all. 

 For now, and to further alienate this introduction from what it introduces: perhaps philosophy, our love of knowing what we lack in knowledge is lacking in desire? Or, is it desire itself that, in furthering our relation to knowledge, should have its activating counterpart in anxiety, fear or downright disgust? You see, there's plenty of room for more speculation at some other time...[4]

World, worlds, worlds worlding worlds

Figure 1 : a Cartesian World (sketchy)

 It is safe to assume that every intelligence creates its own world; The actual world will always remain hidden as something (that isn't a thing) that can be imagined but not perceived (the Kantian 'Ding an sich'). So the only being we have is some sort of Heideggerean Dasein.

That's kinda bad news when attempting to create an intelligence different from ours, because by definition the world that will be created by that intelligence will also differ from our world.

So are we faced with the impossible assignment of playing God here? No, surely not. The actual world does seem to exist, we are confronted with it in every branch of science: our math is incomplete, there might be more things we will never solve than the ones we already did 'solve', and our laws of physics don't seem te be stretching to the quantum world or beyond the black hole, well you know:all that nastyness we try to forget all the time.

All we need to do is create some worlds (models thereof) where both our intelligence would 'work' and the proposed new one would. So let's start by reading some SF, like Steven Shaviro does to get inspired and start building worlds where AI could thrive.

Or, perhaps better still: lets built a world that worlds worlds, a world generating world. That of course is the general idea behind the Neue Kathedrale des erotischen Elends and its writing routine, the 'open' net novel 'Anke Veld'. Both are private and very modest programs running a public routine as a mock up of an imagined actual 'worlding world'-program.

Most likely, nothing much will come of it, but it might inspire some folks to get the actual job done. And that, getting the job done, happens to be the most urgent thing on this dying planet of ours. And accidentally  saving the planet while writing is by all means lots of fun.

World 0.1

What is the current worldview of your average AI-architect? That worldview’s model should be applicable to as many intelligences as possible but  that we cannot test in any way because time travel hasn’t been invented yet. If it’s any good, it should at least be applicable to the case we have at hand, namely our own intelligence. Now if we succeed in being serious about our model, I bet you three Cathedrals and 5 of my paintings that  your average neuroscientist can come up with a way of putting it to the test. It’s just a matter of asking her correctly.

You see: it doesn’t matter if the world model isn’t any where near reality as we live it, as long as our intelligence appears to be working according to the rules that govern the model, we know that at least one intelligence can actually work within the modeled world.

Please note that we have just solved the foundationalist vs coherentism issue in epistemology: it doesn’t matter, in fact it never did.

(to be continued)

[1] Disclaimer: this text is not a speculation on transcendental experience although that may or may not belong to what the Cathedral considers as cognition
At this texts writing time we are, for instance, eagerly awaiting Reza Negarestani’s forthcoming “Intelligence and Spirit”, a publication that promises to critique classical humanism and posthumanism building on German Idealism’s take on intelligence[3] Readers familiar with my Neue Kathedrale des erotischen Elends might recognize how very cathedral-like this situation is.
[4] The Cathedral has recently initiated a strand of investigation into disgust as a method for epistemological classes


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