Posts

Exciting progress in Artificial Intelligence – Joscha Bach

Joscha Bach discusses progress made in AI so far, what’s missing in AI, and the conceptual progress needed to achieve the grand goals of AI.
Discussion points:
0:07 What is intelligence? Intelligence as the ability to be effective over a wide range of environments
0:37 Intelligence vs smartness – interesting models vs intelligent behavior
1:08 Models vs behaviors – i.e. Deepmind – solving goals over a wide range of environments
1:44 Starting from a blank slate – how does an AI see an Atari Game compared to a human? Pac Man analogy
3:31 Getting the narrative right as well as the details
3:54 Media fear mongering about AI
4:43 Progress in AI – how revolutionary are the ideas behind the AI that led to commercial success? There is a need for more conceptual progress in AI
5:04 Mental representations require probabilistic algorithms – to make further progress we probably need different means of functional approximation
5:33 Many of the new theories in AI are currently not deployed – we can assume a tremendous shift in every day use of technology in the future because of this
6:07 It’s an exciting time to be an AI researcher

 

Principles of Synthetic Intelligence - Joscha BachJoscha Bach, Ph.D. is an AI researcher who worked and published about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and has built computational models of motivated decision making, perception, categorization, and concept-formation. He is especially interested in the philosophy of AI and in the augmentation of the human mind.

Joscha has taught computer science, AI, and cognitive science at the Humboldt-University of Berlin and the Institute for Cognitive Science at Osnabrück. His book “Principles of Synthetic Intelligence” (Oxford University Press) is available on amazon.

 

Ethical Progress, AI & the Ultimate Utility Function – Joscha Bach

Joscha Bach on ethical progress, and AI – it’s fascinating to think ‘What’s the ultimate utility function?’ – should we seek the answer in our evolved motivations?

Discussion points:
0:07 Future directions in ethical progress
1:13 Pain and suffering – concern for things we cannot regulate or change
1:50 Reward signals – we should only get them for things we can regulate
2:42 As soon as minds become mutable ethics dramatically changes – an artificial mind may be like a Zen master on steroids
2:53 The ultimate utility function – how can we maximize the neg-entropy in this universe?
3:29 Our evolved motives don’t align well to this ultimate utility function
4:10 Systems which only maximize what they can consume – humans are like yeast

 

Principles of Synthetic Intelligence - Joscha BachJoscha Bach, Ph.D. is an AI researcher who worked and published about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and has built computational models of motivated decision making, perception, categorization, and concept-formation. He is especially interested in the philosophy of AI and in the augmentation of the human mind.

Joscha has taught computer science, AI, and cognitive science at the Humboldt-University of Berlin and the Institute for Cognitive Science at Osnabrück. His book “Principles of Synthetic Intelligence” (Oxford University Press) is available on amazon.

 

 

The Grand Challenge of Developing Friendly Artificial Intelligence – Joscha Bach

Joscha Bach discusses problems with achieving AI alignment, the current discourse around AI, and inefficiencies of human cognition & communication.

Discussion points:
0:08 The AI alignment problem
0:42 Asimov’s Laws: Problems with giving AI (rules) to follow – it’s a form of slavery
1:12 The current discourse around AI
2:52 Ethics – where do they come from?
3:27 Human constraints don’t apply to AI
4:12 Human communication problems vs AI – communication costs between minds is much larger than within minds
4:57 AI can change it’s preferences

Principles of Synthetic Intelligence - Joscha BachJoscha Bach, Ph.D. is an AI researcher who worked and published about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and has built computational models of motivated decision making, perception, categorization, and concept-formation. He is especially interested in the philosophy of AI and in the augmentation of the human mind.

Joscha has taught computer science, AI, and cognitive science at the Humboldt-University of Berlin and the Institute for Cognitive Science at Osnabrück. His book “Principles of Synthetic Intelligence” (Oxford University Press) is available on amazon.

Cognitive Biases & In-Group Convergences – Joscha Bach

Joscha Bach discusses biases in group think.

Discussion points:
– In-group convergence: thinking in true & false vs right & wrong
– The group mind may be more stupid than the smartest individuals in the group

Principles of Synthetic Intelligence - Joscha BachJoscha Bach, Ph.D. is an AI researcher who worked and published about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and has built computational models of motivated decision making, perception, categorization, and concept-formation. He is especially interested in the philosophy of AI and in the augmentation of the human mind.

Joscha has taught computer science, AI, and cognitive science at the Humboldt-University of Berlin and the Institute for Cognitive Science at Osnabrück. His book “Principles of Synthetic Intelligence” (Oxford University Press) is available on amazon.

AI, Consciousness, Science, Art & Understanding – Joscha Bach

Here Joscha Bach discusses consciousness, it’s relationship to qualia and whether an AI or a utility maximizer would do with it.

What is consciousness? “I think under certain circumstances being conscious is an important part of a mind; it’s a model of a model of a model basically. What it means is our mind (our new cortex) produces this dream that we take to be the world based on the sensory data – so it’s basically a hallucination that predicts what next hits your retina – that’s the world. Out there, we don’t know what this is.. The universe is some kind of weird pattern generator with some quantum properties. And this pattern generator throws patterns at us, and we try to find regularity in them – and the hidden layers of this neural network amount to latent variables that are colors people sounds ideas and so on.. And this is the world that we subjectively inhabit – that’s the world that we find meaningful.”

… “I find theories [about consciousness] that make you feel good very suspicious. If there is something that is like my preferred outcome for emotional reasons, I should be realising that I have a confirmation bias towards this – and that truth is a very brutal vector”..

OUTLINE:
0:07 Consciousness and it’s importance
0:47 Phenomenal content
1:43 Consciousness and attention
2:30 When AI becomes conscious
2:57 Mary’s Room – the Knowledge Argument, art, science & understanding
4:07 What is understanding? What is truth?
4:49 What interests an artist? Art as a communicative exercise
5:48 Thomas Nagel: What is it like to be a bat?
6:19 Feel good theories
7:01 Raw feels or no? Why did nature endow us with raw feels?
8:29 What is qualia, and is it important?
9:49 Insight addiction & the aesthetics of information
10:52 Would a utility maximizer care about qualia?

BIO:
Principles of Synthetic Intelligence - Joscha BachJoscha Bach, Ph.D. is an AI researcher who worked and published about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and has built computational models of motivated decision making, perception, categorization, and concept-formation. He is especially interested in the philosophy of AI and in the augmentation of the human mind.

Joscha has taught computer science, AI, and cognitive science at the Humboldt-University of Berlin and the Institute for Cognitive Science at Osnabrück. His book “Principles of Synthetic Intelligence” (Oxford University Press) is available on amazon.

Posthumanism – Pramod Nayar

Interview with Pramod K. Nayar on #posthumanism ‘as both a material condition and a developing philosophical-ethical project in the age of cloning, gene engineering, organ transplants and implants’. The book ‘Posthumanism’ by Pramod Nayar: https://amzn.to/2OQEA8z Rise of the posthumanities article: https://bit.ly/32Q67Pm
This time, I decided trying to itemize the interview so you can find sections via the time signature links:
0:00 Intro / What got Pramod interested in posthuman studies?
04:16 Defining the terms – what is posthumanism? Cultural framing of natural vs unnatural. Posthumanism is not just bodily or mental enhancement, but involves changing the relationship between humans, non-human lifeforms, technology and non-living matter. Displacement of anthropocentrism. 
08:01 Anthropocentric biases inherited from enlightenment humanist thinking and human exceptionalism. The formation of the transhumanist declaration with part of it focusing on the human with point 7 of the declaration focusing on the well-being of all sentience. The important question of empathy – not limiting it to the human species. The issue of empathy being a good lunching pad for further conversations between the transhumanists and the posthumanists. https://humanityplus.org/philosophy/t… 
11:10 Difficulties in getting everyone to agree on cultural values. Is a utopian ideal posthumanist/transhumanist society possible? 
13:25 Collective societies, hive minds, borganisms. Distributed cognition, the extended mind hypothesis, cognitive assemblages, traditions of knowledge sharing. 
16:58 Does the humanities need some form of reconfiguration to shift it towards something beyond the human? Rejecting some of the value systems that enlightenment humanism claimed to be universal. Julian Savulescu’s work on moral enhancement 
20:58 Colonialism – what is it? 
21:57 Aspects of enlightenment humanism that the critical posthumanists don’t agree with. But some believe the poshumanists to be enlightenment haters that reject rationality – is this accurate? 
24:33 Trying to achieve agreement on shared human values – is vulnerability rather than dignity a usable concept that different groups can agree with? 
26:37 The idea of the monster – people’s fear of what they don’t understand. Thinking past disgust responses to new wearable technologies and more radical bodily enhancements. 
29:45 The future of posthuman morphology and posthuman rights – how might emerging means of upgrading our bodies / minds interfere with rights or help us re-evaluate rights? 
33:42 Personhood beyond the human
35:11 Should we uplift non-human animals? Animals as moral patients becoming moral actors through uplifting? Also once Superintelligent AI is developed, should it uplift us? The question of agency and aspiration – what are appropriate aspirations for different life forms? Species enhancement and Ian Hacking’s idea of ‘Making up people’ – classification and how people come to inhabit the identities that exist at various points in history, or in different environments. https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v28/n… 
38:10 Measuring happiness – David Pearce’s idea of eliminating suffering and increasing happiness through advanced technology. What does it mean to have welfare or to flourish? Should we institutionalise wellbeing, a gross domestic happiness, world happiness index? 
40:27 Anders Sandberg asks: Transhumanism and posthumanism often do not get along – transhumanism commonly wears its enlightenment roots on its sleeve, and posthumanism often spends more time criticising the current situation than suggesting an out of it. Yet there is no fundamental reason both perspectives could not simultaneously get what they want: a post-human posthumanist concept of humanity and its post-natural environment seem entirely possible. What is Nayar’s perspective on this win-win vision? 
44:14 The postmodern play of endless difference and relativism – what is the good and bad of postmodernism on posthumanist thinking? 
47:16 What does postmodernism have to offer both posthumanism and transhumanism? 
49:17 Thomas Kuhn’s idea of paradigm changes in science happening funeral by funeral. 
58:58 – How has the idea of the singularity influenced transhumanist and posthumanist thinking? Shift’s in perspectives to help us ask the right questions in science, engineering and ethics in order to achieve a better future society. 
1:01:55 – What AI is good and bad at today. Correlational thinking vs causative thinking. Filling the gaps as to what’s required to achieve ‘machine understanding’. 
1:03:26 – Influential literature on the idea of the posthuman – especially that which can help us think about difference and ‘the other’ (or the non-human) 

Judith Campisi – Senolytics for Healthy Longevity

I had the absolute privilege of interviewing Judith Campisi at the Undoing Aging conference in Berlin.  She was so sweet and kind – it was really a pleasure to spend time with her discussing senolytics, regenerative medicine, and the anti-aging movement.

 

 

 

Judith Campisi was humble, open minded, and careful not to overstate the importance of senolytics, and rejuvenation therapy in general.  Though she really is someone who has made an absolutely huge impact in anti-aging research.  I couldn’t have said it better than Reason at Fight Aging!

As one of the authors of the initial SENS position paper, published many years ago now, Judith Campisi is one of the small number of people who is able to say that she was right all along about the value of targeted removal of senescent cells, and that it would prove to be a viable approach to the treatment of aging as a medical condition. Now that the rest of the research community has been convinced of this point – the evidence from animal studies really is robust and overwhelming – the senescent cell clearance therapies known as senolytics are shaping up to be the first legitimate, real, working, widely available form of rejuvenation therapy.

“Biomimicry”, a Documentary

Biomimicry is a 20 minute long documentary film, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (film producer, and environmentalist), on the topic of how life and biology can be the mentors for our own innovation in the world.

Janine Benyus, the founder of the Biomimicry Institute, describes how biomimicry has been applied to different problems successfully, from designing forms that capture carbon to replacing toxic solvents we use.

Benyus believes that there is much to be learned in terms of sustainability and success in innovation from the organisms that compose the history of life in our planet. Biomimicry is brought to us by Leonardo DiCaprio, Executive Producer Oliver Stanton, and directed by Leila Conners, produced by Mathew Schmid and Bryony Schwan, with Executive Producers Roee Sharon Peled and George DiCaprio.

Biomimicry, the practice of looking deeply into nature for solutions to engineering, design and other challenges, has inspired a film about it’s ground-breaking vision for creating a long-term, sustainable world. This film covers how mimicking nature solves some of our most pressing problems, from reducing carbon emissions to saving water. The film, titled “Biomimicry” features Janine Benyus, is brought to you by Leonardo DiCaprio, Executive Producers Oliver Stanton, directed by Leila Conners, produced by Mathew Schmid and Bryony Schwan, created by Tree Media with Executive Producers Roee Sharon Peled and George DiCaprio.

For more on the film: http://www.treemedia.com

Physicalism & Materialism – John Wilkins

Materialism was a pre-socratic view that for something to be real it has to be matter – physical stuff made of atoms (which at the time were considered hard like billiard balls – fundametal parts of reality).  The reason these days the term physicalism is used is because it can describe things that aren’t matter – like forces, or aren’t observable matter – like dark matter, or energy or fields, or spacetime etc..  Physicalism is the idea that all that exist can be described in the language of some ‘ideal’ physics – we may never know what this ideal physics is, though people think that it is something close to our current physics (as we can make very accurate predictions with our current physics).

If magic, telepathy or angels were real, there would be a physics that could describe them – they’d have patterns and properties that would be describable and explainable.  A physicist would likely think that even the mind operates according to physical rules.  Being a physicalist according to John means you think everything is governed by rules, physical rules – and that there is an ideal language that can be used to describe all this.

Note John is also a deontologist.  Perhaps there should exist an ideal language that can fully describe ethics – does this mean that ideally there is no need for utilitarianism?  I’ll leave that question for another post.

Interview with John Wilkins on Materialism & Physicalism.

Here are some blog posts about physicalism by John Wilkins:

Is physicalism an impoverished metaphysics?

Every so often, we read about some philosopher or other form of public intellectual who makes the claim that a physicalist ontology – a world view in which only things that can be described in terms of physics are said to exist – is impoverished. That is, there are things whereof science cannot know, &c. A recent example is that made by Thomas Nagel [nicely eviscerated here by the physicist Sean Carroll], whose fame in philosophy rests with an influential 1974 paper that there is something like being a bat that no amount of physics, physiology or other objective science could account for.

Recent, Nagel has argued that the evolutionary view called (historically misleadingly) neo-Darwinism, is “almost certainly” false. One of the reasons is that “materialism” (which Nagel should know is an antiquated world view replaced by physicalism defined above; there are many non-material things in physics, not least fields of various kinds) does not permit a full account of consciousness; the subjective facts of being a particular individual organism. Another is that the chance that life would emerge from a lifeless universe is staggeringly unlikely. How this is calculated is somewhat mysterious, given that at best we only have (dare I say it?) subjective estimates anyway, but there it is.

But Nagel is not alone. Various nonreligious (apparently) thinkers have made similar assertions, although some, like Frank Jackson, who proposed the Knowledge Argument, have since backed down. What is it that physicalism must account for that these disputants and objectors say it cannot?

It almost entirely consists of consciousness, intentions, intelligence or some similar mental property which is entirely inexplicable by “reductionist” physicalism. [Reductionism is a term of abuse that means – so far as I can tell – solely that the person who makes such an accusation does not like the thing or persons being accused.] And that raises our question: is physicalism lacking something?

I bet you are dying to know more… you’ll just have to follow the link…
See more at Evolving Thoughts>>

Is Physicalism Coherent?

In my last post I argued that physicalism cannot be rejected simply because people assert there are nonphysical objects which are beyond specification. Some are, however, specifiable, and one commentator has identified the obvious ones: abstract objects like the rules of chess or numbers. I have dealt with these before in my “Pizza reductionism” post, which I invite you to go read.

Done? OK, then; let us proceed.

It is often asserted that there are obviously things that are not physical, such as ideas, numbers, concepts, etc., quite apart from qualia, I once sat with a distinguished philosopher, who I respect greatly and so shall not name, when he asserted that we can construct natural classifications because we can deal first with the natural numbers. I asked him “In what sense are numbers natural objects?”, meaning, why should we think numbers are entities in the natural world. He admitted that the question had not occurred to him (I doubt that – he is rather smart), but that it was simply an axiom of his philosophy. I do not think such abstract objects are natural.

This applies to anything that is “informational”, including all semantic entities like meanings, symbols, lexical objects, and so on. They only “exist” as functional modalities in our thoughts and language. I have also argued this before: information does not “exist”; it is a function of how we process signals. Mathematics is not a domain, it is a language, and the reason it works is because the bits that seriously do not work are not explored far[*] – not all of it has to work in a physical or natural sense, but much of it has to, or else it becomes a simple game that we would not play so much.

So the question of the incoherence of physicalism is based on the assumption (which runs contrary to physicalism, and is thus question begging) that abstract objects are natural things. I don’t believe they are, and I certainly do not think that a thought, or concept, for example, which can be had by many minds and is therefore supposed to be located in none of them (and thus transcendental), really is nonphysical. That is another case of nouning language. The thought “that is red” exists, for a physicalist, in all the heads that meet the functional social criteria for ascriptions of red. It exists nowhere else – it just is all those cognitive and social behaviours in biological heads…

Yes, I know, it’s a real page turner…
See more at Evolving Thoughts>>

In philosophy, physicalism is the ontological thesis that “everything is physical”, that there is “nothing over and above” the physical, or that everything supervenes on the physical. Physicalism is a form of ontological monism—a “one substance” view of the nature of reality as opposed to a “two-substance” (dualism) or “many-substance” (pluralism) view. Both the definition of physical and the meaning of physicalism have been debated. Physicalism is closely related to materialism. Physicalism grew out of materialism with the success of the physical sciences in explaining observed phenomena. The terms are often used interchangeably, although they are sometimes distinguished, for example on the basis of physics describing more than just matter (including energy and physical law). Common arguments against physicalism include both the philosophical zombie argument and the multiple observers argument, that the existence of a physical being may imply zero or more distinct conscious entities. “When I lost my belief in religion I had to decide what I needed to accept as a bare minimum. I decided that I needed to believe in the physical world. I never found the slightest reason to accept the existence of anything else. To this day I am a physicalist only because I never found the need to be anything else. The principle of parsimony suggests that one should not believe in more than one needs to. Even if it does make you feel comfortable.”

 

Let’s get physicalism!

See John Wilkin’s Blog ‘Evolving Thoughts

#philsci #philosophy #science #physics

Science, Mindfulness & the Urgency of Reducing Suffering – Christof Koch

In this interview with Christof Koch, he shares some deeply felt ideas about the urgency of reducing suffering (with some caveats), his experience with mindfulness – explaining what it was like to visit the Dali Lama for a week, as well as a heart felt experience of his family dog ‘Nosey’ dying in his arms, and how that moved him to become a vegetarian. He also discusses the bias of human exceptionalism, the horrors of factory farming of non-human animals, as well as a consequentialist view on animal testing.
Christof Koch is an American neuroscientist best known for his work on the neural bases of consciousness.

Christof Koch is the President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. From 1986 until 2013, he was a professor at the California Institute of Technology. http://www.klab.caltech.edu/koch/