Information - and the Nature of Reality.

Paul Davies and Niels Henrik Gregerseen have written a great book about information.
Probably, the most interesting thing out there. Indeed, perhaps the only thing...

... that can help us in our search for reality.

A reality that is changing all the time.
Making yesterdays certainty todays uncertainty, and vice versa.

How will professions adapt to the coming digital age?
How will we adapt to a coming world of robot doctors, online lawyers etc. ?
See: The modern workplace.

Are our domesticated brains up for the challenge?
Certainly, we will need all the good friends we can get, to deal with it all!
And, if all goes bad, we better secure a copy of our culture on the moon, for future reference.

Meanwhile, the rest of the universe will probably not care much.
And just carry on like a production line guided by information?

Unless, of course, information is integrated in a certain way, and becomes conscious.
See: Physics and Consciousness.

Later, consciousness might even find itself having a certain gender...
And then things starts to become really complicated. See Delusions of Gender.

In the end, it may turn out that there is no such thing as reality. That it is all an illusion.
See: The Matrix.

Indeed, reality might be transient, but Visions of Heaven seems pretty constant...
See: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, AI and Virtual Reality.

Information - and the Nature of Reality.

Amazon review (4 stars out of 5)
of the anthology ''Information'' edited by Paul Davies and Niels Henrik Gregersen.

The anthology ''Information - and the Nature of Reality'' is a great read
that takes the reader inside the struggle to understand what reality is all about.
Do we live in a world decide by the mechanics of materialism,
or do we live in a world where consciousness is actually primary?

A brief outline of materialism:
Materialism holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all emergent phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions.

So far, so good. But investigating a little further things starts to become a little more complicated.
According to Einsteins Relativity Theory we have E = mc^2 .So, mass can now be transformed into radiation (energy).
We no longer say that bodies of mass affect each other by a gravitational force, instead attraction is now described by a ''warping'' of SpaceTime.
Quantum Mechanics makes it even more unclear what ''matter'' really is.
The theory tells us that, at the level of the very small, the precise position and motion of a body cannot be given at the same time.
This uncertainty principle also applies to energy and time. On very short timeintervals fluctuations in energy can happen.
Fluctuations that create shortlived (virtual) particles...
And if all of this was not confusing enough, Alain Aspects experiments takes away the last thread of a common-sense reality.
I.e. in his experiments photons can be made to fly away in opposite directions, and when a measure of spin is made on one of them, the other one instantly behaves accordingly to measurement on the first photon.
Even though they might be separated by great distances, and with too little time to allow a signal to travel between them, the particles nevertheless manages to behave as they vere really one entangled object.

In one of many great articles in the book, contributor Philip Clayton gives us a brief outline of materialism, which makes it pretty clear that materialism wanted to tell a much simpler story. Something along the lines of:
- Matter is the fundamental constituent of the natural world.
- Forces act on matter.
- The fundamental material particles together with the fundamental forces determines behaviour of the matter we see.
- All the complex forms we see, are aggregates of these basic building blocks of matter.
- All scientific explanations should be reducible to physics.
Other sciences (biology, psychology etc.) are incomplete until we uncover the laws that link its phenomenon to physics.

Obviously, this didn't explain consciousness - but to many materialists that was only a temporary embarressment.
Optimistically, with some fixed, immutable, eternal laws we were supposed to be able to describe our world. Earlier generations might have had a universe that depended on God for its existence, now the universe would only depend on these immutable laws.
Until, things turned more complex once again...
And people began to talk about physical ''immutable'' laws that might only be valid in the low energy universe we have now (A long time after the Big Bang) or laws that only apply in the patches of the universe we can see, where other parts of the universe might have other laws ... etc.

Consequently, classical materialism - the view that reality consists of nothing but small, classical particles that live in an absolute space-time - is intellectually dead...

So, where are we now?
In quantum theory, you often get the feeling that we are right back where we started, with consciousness at the very center.
In the Scroedingers cat experiment a cat is dead and alive at the same time, until some observation is made that somehow collapses the world into the one concrete reality we see.
Nothing has really happened until someone has observed it...?

Can we now make consciousness the only reality?
Well, consciousness without the material world is still hard to envision.
Human consciousness is of course fully embodied, living inside a material world. And when humans are conscious about something, it is usually about stuff in the material world (With mathematics and similar as one of the few possible exceptions).
Human memories needs to be stored in a physical brain. Memories are not unembodied.

(And) Can consciousness really exist outside a material embodiment?
Certainly, if you are materialist you will not be thrilled with such line of thinking
(A cosmic consciousness only makes matters worse, as the materialist will consider a cosmic consciousness even more unlikely than an already highly unlikely biological consciousness).
Certainly, the materialist will find it hard to see any divine consciousness behind it all. After all, in evolution, all sorts of experimental lifeforms are thrown up only to be discarded later on.
Hardly the work of an intelligent consciousness?

The universe is an unfolding story:
There is another way of looking at this though:
Here, the universe is an unfolding story, rather than a fixed state of being.
A world of mechanical routine, intolerant of any disorder would not carry much meaning. Without disorder, novelty is also excluded, and any notion of a living world.
We need disorder in our universe.
We need novelty and adventure to shape human life and civilization.
In the words of contributor John F. Haught:
Whereever novelty is excluded so too is a truly interesting universe, as well as a proportional challenging sense of ultimate reality and meaning.
Moving away from the mechanical, the universe becomes much more interesting and alive.
Obviosuly, we are still ignorant about its ultimate reality.
200 years ago, in the age of steam-engines, people compared everything to steam-engines. Now, everything is compared to computers. According to this thinking, the universe itself might be some kind of computer - even though it is unclear, whether it is an analog, digital og quantum computer.
First we had language, later the spoken word could be put on clay, stone or paper in written documents. With the computer metaphor we can take the information processing one step further. If that is where we want to go.
Quantum Mechanics and its ''spooky action at a distance'' changed the world from one made out of small rock like entities to a holistic global information structure. Away from a world of separateness and isolation to one of connections, with everything intervowen into the rest of the universe.
The authors of this book seems to be saying that this might be another useful metaphor in our search...

Still, making sense of it all is pretty difficult...
In the end, the information we see in the universe depends on the state of the receiver, of ourselves.
A state which is determined by prior knowledge, expectations etc.
In the end we find what we bring along?

Amazon: [1],[2].


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Searching for Reality.

As a society we hope that the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland can help answer some of the fundamental questions in physics.
Obviously, we find this very important, as the efforts are very costly.
More than 10.000 people from over 100 countries have worked on the project. So far, the cost of finding the Higg boson has been estimated to be around 13.25 billion dollars.

When the big breakthroughs (in our ''world-understanding'') not come - at least not as quickly as we had hoped for - we tell ourselves that a least the efforts has the potential for advancing computer technology, medical imaging, other scientific breakthroughs etc..
Which is all true.

Still, what we really wanted was a better understanding of reality.
A reality that can tell us profound truths about our personal reality ...(?)
A tricky subject. Where we can follow David Hume and ponder what we actually find when we make experiments:
Sure, we can prove whether a sum in maths is right or not.
But claims of cause and effect can not be certain in the same way.
If we conduct many experiments, and our senses tell us that letting go of an apple is followed by falling, then we have a law of nature.
Consistent outcomes is all we ask for.
Based on these laws, we can define a miracle, as a violation of these laws. And we should ask ourselves what is more likely - That there could indeed be exceptions to all of the previous observations, or that the person telling us about an exception is either lying or hallucinating.

But when it comes to our personal reality and our personal experience, we have only ourselves to guide us, and tell us what is right and wrong, true or false. Indeed, in the minds theater everyone can be deceived and everyone can experience truth.
We become less certain of laws. Speaking about personal experience. Millions of people will now say that miracles do happen: Normally,the mind observers the world as it is, but sometimes the mind can indeed influence the cosmos. Our deepest fears and highest hopes can indeed manifest in the outer world. The mind can bend the rules.
These ''experiments'' are not carried out by 10.000 scientists in Cern, but by billions of people around the world, throughout generations.
Indeed, if we as a society had hoped that sub-atomic experiments, would have let to a better understanding of our ultimate experienced realtity - we must be disappointed.

It has to do with the Hard Problem of Consciousness.
Yes, we might eventually be able to answer some of the ''easy'' problems about our minds : How do the brain control the body, what is attention, what is the difference between wakefulness and sleep. etc.
But, why do have have qualia or phenomenal experiences?
Can consciousness be wholly described in physical terms?
For some, this hard problem of experience will persists even when all of the easier problems have be solved.
- A "rich inner life" might not be logically reducible to the functional properties of physical processes. Consciousness might still end up being a nonphysical thing.
Others will tell us that there is no such thing as ''the hard problem of consciousness''.
Answer all of the ''easy'' problems, and the ''the hard problem'' will go away as well.

In the end we are not much wiser on what reality is:
Experiences are indeed essentially subjective (accessible only to the individual undergoing them), while physical states are essentially objective (accessible to multiple individuals).
And in all cases we must be aware that we only sense the reality we can sense.
What ''absolute reality'' might be all about - we don't know.

March 25th, 2014.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Robot doctors, online lawyers - The Modern Workplace.

Great article in todays The Guardian about the future for the professions.
Now highly skilled, knowledge-based jobs that were once regarded as safe could be at risk. How will they adapt to the digital age?
It might not be all doom and gloom for the professions, but it will certainly be change. According the The Guardian: Oxford academics Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A Osborne have predicted computerisation could make nearly half of jobs redundant within 10 to 20 years...
Knowledge-based jobs were supposed to be safe career choices, the years of study it takes to become a lawyer, say, or an architect or accountant, in theory guaranteeing a lifetime of lucrative employment. That is no longer the case. Now even doctors face the looming threat of possible obsolescence. Expert radiologists are routinely outperformed by pattern-recognition software, diagnosticians by simple computer questionnaires. In 2012, Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla predicted that algorithms and machines would replace 80% of doctors within a generation.
It gets better/worse:
For many, what were once extraordinary skillsets will soon be rendered ordinary by the advance of the machines. What will it mean to be a professional then? ...
Some of these parts will still require expert trusted advisers acting in traditional ways, he says. But many other parts will be standardised or systematised or made available with online service
Diagnosis by computer will pretty much be a standard thing:
It will only be a matter of time before diagnosis is something done primarily by machines. ''It's a matter of providing the computer with the data. Once it has the data, it's able to consider thousands or millions of times more parameters than a human can hold in their head.'' We will still need medical professionals to guide us and provide the human touch. But doctors will have to accept that computers are better at parts of the job than they are.
Eventually many services will be available on your phone for almost free:
...have dematerialised on to your phone, and de-monetised, becoming effectively free. And finally they democratise. Healthcare is undergoing the same process: Dematerialisation and democratisation.
Well, well ....


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Domesticated Brains.

Our brains are being downsized by domesticity (according to author Bruce Hood).
In NewScientist (May 17th 2014) one reads:
20.000 years ago the average human brain was 10 percent larger than it is today.
To some this might be a matter of brain efficiency, but to Bruce Hood the shrinkage is best explained by changes in society:
''We have been self-domesticating through the invention of culture and practices that ensure that we can live together''.

Bruce Hood gives domestication in dogs as an example. Bred for passivity, testosterone decreases, and all organs are reduced.
Where wolfes will try to solve a problem through cunning, dogs are adept at soliciting help from their masters...
Much like humans ...?
Comparing human babies with chimps, he finds that both can mimic others in order to learn a new skill.
But the chimp will mimic only the skills needed to doing a task, while a child will also mimic steps unrelated to the task.
According to Hood, children are more interested in fitting in, than learning to solve the task.

The importance we play on human allegiances and fitting in can be quite dangerous though.
Indeed, unscrupulous leaders can make people do deplorable acts
(Often, committed with the help ''diffusion of accountability'').
Maybe, we should really grow that brain again ...


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).


Once again, a great article by Robin Dunbar in NewScientist (May 24th 2014).
Following in the footsteps of his book ''How many friends does one person need?''
(See my review: Dunbars number and other evolutionary quirks.), we are once again looking at our friends, why we need them:
The core (of friends) tends to consist of five intimates, with the next layer taking the group to around 15, and the next circle encompassing a total of around 50 friends. Each layer provides different benefits. So, while intimates provide personal protection and help, you may rely on a larger friendship group for food, and the entire society for defence against predators.
How can humans sustain groups that greatly exceed the number that can bond by grooming?
First came laughter, which we share with the great apes. Essentially a form of chorusing, laughter typically involves a group of 3 people, making it more efficient than grooming as a bonding mechanism.
Next, perhaps 500.000 years ago, we added singing and dancing, which increased the grooming group still further.
Finally, language gave greater control over both laughter - though jokes - and song and dance. Ultimately, it allowed rituals to be associated with religion, and this made super groups possible.
Friendships contribute to our happiness - although quality, not quantity, is what counts.
According to Robin Dunbar, we forge friendships with people whi are similar to ourselves. The six most important criteria being language, profession, world view (political, moral and religious), sense of humour, local identity and education.
Personality appears to be less important than cultural preferences (liking the same music is a good indicator).

Yes, indeed, we need our friends. See more here.

May 24th, 2014.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Torah on the Moon.

If the Earth is one giant super-computer, then the Moon is our backup drive?
A place to safe-keep our most priced possessions.
Indeed, a Bible left behind on the lunar rover by Apollo 15 Commander David Scott may one day be joined by a Sefer Torah:
Torah on the Moon is a values-driven space initiative aimed at landing a Sefer Torah (a Hebrew Bible scroll) on the moon.
The Torah will be taken to the moon (and secured there in an airtight case) to celebrate the ancient books innumerable contributions to morality, justice, education, culture, art and sciences.
See Torah on the Moon.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Constructor Theory.

Interesting article in NewScientist (May 24th 2014) about Constructor Theory.
In some of the most striking phenomena permitted by the laws of physics - from human reasoning to computer technologies and the replication of genes - we find that information plays a central role.
But, on the face of it, information is profoundly different from the basic entities that physical sciences use to describe reality.
Yet, there have long been clues that information is a fundamental physical quantity, obeying exact laws.
According to the authors, constructor theory has many far reaching implications:
One of the most fundamental is that the notion of knowledge can be expressed in objective terms, as information that can act as a constructor.
- Such as, say the program running on a computer that controls an automated car factory.
According to David Deutsch: ''(All of this) makes knowledge creators, such as people, central to fundamental physics for the first time since Copernicus (debunked the geocentric model of the solar system)''.

Well, perhaps the universe is really like a production line guided by information.
Will be interesting to follow where this leads to in the coming years.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Physics and Consciousness.

Max Tegmark gives us his thoughts about the Physics of Consciousness in NewScientist (April 12th 2014).
Consciousness is the way information feels when processed in certain complex ways.
The neuroscientist Giolio Tononi has made this idea more specific and useful, making the compelling argument that for an information processing system to be conscious, its information must be integrated into a unified whole.
In other words, it must be impossible to decompose the system into nearly independent parts.
See: Consciousness as integrated information.

Eventually, Max Tegmark hopes to ground consciousness in fundamental physics.

In the NewScientist article, he identifies a number of conditions before we can have consciousness.
- The information principle (there must be substantial information storage capacity).
- The independence principle (a conscious system must be independent from the rest of the world).
- The integration principle (it cannot consist of nearly independent parts).

Looking at e.g. the cerebellum, it makes sense that this might not be part of our conscious networks:
The cerebellum is mainly a collection of ''feed-forward'' neural networks in which information flows like water down a river.
If there is no feedback, there is no integration and hence no consciousness.
In the end, he hopes a better theory of consciousness will help settle some of the problems (for physics) concernings observers (In quantum theory the observer affects what is being observed - leading to paradox, Schroedingers cat etc.).

Don't we all...
Sure, the temptation to ''shut up and calculate (robot like)'' might be as strong as ever,
but solutions obviously only come, when people are willing to work on the problems...


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Delusions of Gender.

In (the book) Delusions of Gender Cordelia Fine asks us to imagine a world, where left-handed and right-handed children are treated differently.
Parents of left-handed babies will dress their babies in pink clothes, wrap them in pink blankets and decorate their rooms in pink. Hair of left-handers are allowed to grow long. Right-handers on the other hand are never dressed in pink. And they do never have pink accessories. Toys for right-handed children are sporting equipment and space rockets. Not flowers or fairies, that is reserved for the pink left-handed kids. The hair of right-handers is kept short and never prettified with accessories, as it is for left-handers.
Pregnant women will be asked if they are hoping for a right-handed or a left-handed child.

Reminds you of something?
Surely, the circuits of the brain are a product of our physical, social and cultural environment, as well as behaviour and thoughts.
What we experience and do creates neural activity that can alter the brain.
Maybe Cordelia Fine has it right, when she says that neuro plasticity actually means that social phenomenons of gender ''comes into the brain'' and ''becomes part of cerebral biology''?
If you believe in gender differences, you may now say that surely women have menstrual cycles, and are affected by hormones that men are not affected by. And surely there are scientific studies that show certain gender differences?
Indeed, haven't we all heard of neuroscientific studies that show that men are better (on average) to rotate 3d objects in their minds?

Cordelia Fine doesn't think so, in Delusions of Gender she writes:
Does accuracy on a mental rotation test at age seven correlate with amniotic testosterone? No...
So, that was one piece of evidence for the importance of gender gone. She gives other examples.
In her mind, what seems to be much more important is that brain growth is shaped by the environment, an environment largely shaped by humans and human society.
She thinks that developmental possibilities for an individual are neither infinite malleable, nor solely in the hands of the environment. Instead: Thinking, behaviour and experiences strip the word ''hard-wired'' of much useful meaning.

Importantly, out of environment and experience comes self perception, interests, values, behaviours and abilities.

Following the lead of Elizabeth Spelke and others, Cordelia Fine argues that individual journeys make traits that are already today much more important than anything you might have from your gender. Biological gender is not what decides how you can and do think, compared to other humans.
Still, if you believe in gender differences you might now complain, that certainly there are more men than women working in certain profession, because women ''does not fit there as well as men''.
Which obviously allows Cordelia Fine to counter that candidates might not be stereotyped, but instead raters defined the notion for ''what it takes'' to do the job in a manner tailored to the ideosyncratic credentials of the person they wanted to hire.

Upbringing and society is never far away. Being free and independent of other peoples thinking is not easy.
Cordelia Fine writes, that when it comes to test and on the job performance:
- Most people facing a difficult intellectual challenge are likely to have a few intrusive self doubts and anxieties.
But if you are performing under stereotype threats you will have more. Which will place an extra load on working memory, to the detriment of the cognitive feat you are trying to achieve.
Women under stereotype threat will then have to control the anxious emotions that accompany their negative thoughts, further depleting working memory resources. Which might then explain why women might not enter certain professions.

A person lives within a society, and finds a place within that society.
Cordelia Fine nevertheless seems to think that gender will eventually be re-defined to a less prominent role.
She forecasts (jokingly) that perhaps in a few decades we will be re-defining womens new level of participation in the physical sciences, politics and business as reflecting their innate drive to nurture.

Well, maybe so.
Meanwhile, we should probably try to treat each other
without hidden agendas or prejudice. Respect is such a nice thing.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

The Matrix.

Amazon review (4 stars out of 5)
of the book ''The Matrix and Philosophy'' edited by William Irwin.

Blue or Red pill?
Blue and you go on as before. Go to work, do your routines, and enjoy your sundays, eating icecream and stroll around, happy.
Red pill, and reality cracks open exposing the real world outside the Matrix.
In the movie, Neo (Keanu Reeves) takes the red pill and awakens in the real world. Forcibly ejected from a liquid-filled chamber, where he has been lying, hooked up to a detailed computer simulation of Earth at the end of the 20th century.

Are we really just brains in a vat?
I must confess, that I found the movie pretty confusing. Which is probably not that surprising, given its endless allusions to religion and philosophy.
Luckily, reading Wiliam Irwins The Matrix and Philosophy helped me make more sense of the movie.
It is all about the deep philosophical questions: What can we know? What may we hope? What is real? What should we do? What is freedom? etc.
Some will argue that we can't know very much. Others, are more extreme and will argue we cannot be sure that an external world actually exists.
Indeed, all that we see, hear and feel might be an illusion, according to defenders of philosophical skepticism.
Philosopher Hilary Putnam takes it one step further with his version of the ''Brain in a Vat'' experiment (Which actually resembles the Matrix scenario): Here, a mad scientist (or a machine) might remove a person's brain from the body, suspend it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and connect its neurons by wires to a supercomputer, which will provide electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives.
Given the right signals, the ''disembodied'' brain will continue to have perfectly normal conscious experiences. It will think that it is sitting in chairs, reading books and so forth. But all the while the brain is actually floating around in the evil scientist's laboratory.
Putnam then poses the skeptic's question: How do you know that you are not in this predicament?

The truth is better than ignorance.
Plugging into the machines might be great. The machines could be programmed to makes us all successful, rich, happy and beautiful. Still, without genuine experiences and genuine actions it is all pretty meaningless and amoral.
Philosopher John Stuart Mill puts it like this:
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.
Robert Nozick asks us to consider his experience machine.
It can give you any experience you desire. Plug in and you can live a phantasy life. And not even know that you have plugged in.
Nozick says that most people don't want to plug in. Because you don't just care about pleasure. You care about being in touch with reality.
This is a fundamental concern. We don't just want to live a happy life, we are even more concerned about living a real life.
The Matrix possibility is troubling because it puts all of our beliefs up for grabs. Are we really living on planet Earth in the 21st century, or are we brains in a vat on Mars in the 25th century? A lot of our beliefs might be terribly wrong.

Humans want to know the truth, as Aristotle said:
All human beings by nature desire to know.
Consumer society and the Matrix.
On the choice between honesty and ignorance, between truth and illusion, between authenticity and inauthenticity - existentialists, such as Camus, calls inauthenticity ''Intellectual Suicide''.
But illusions are tempting, even in our world. Especially, if waking up means facing death, suffering and meaninglessness.
Being ignorant of the human condition and insulated from such truths might indeed be tempting.

Indeed, tempting dreamworlds are everywhere. And, the Matrix movie might be telling us, through metaphors, that our consumer society is such a dreamworld. A dreamworld, where consumers are asleep to what is going on around them, and exploited to that extend, giving up their lifeforce to run society. In the Matrix movie, the machines don't mind what you are doing in the virtual world, as long as you are there. You just can't unplug or motivate others to unplug. That will cause trouble.
Likewise in consumer society. You can do as you like, as long as you are a consumer, and keep consumer society running.

Waking up and finding an escape route.
A major theme in the Matrix movie is about waking up and finding an escape route.
Actually, a recurrent theme in human societies over the last millennia.

One obvious escape route is religion. Indeed, anthropologist Anthony Wallace has estimated that over the past 10.000 years humans have constructed no less than 100.000 religions. Sure, many of the religions makes claim that contradict each other. But that might not be all that surprising. Afterall, if ultimate reality exceeds all human concepts then different religions and cultural lenses will almost necessarily come up with different descriptions.
In the Matrix movie, some are content to live plugged in, and will deny that there is anything more to search for. But the hero actually breaks free.
Which all in all is probably a good metaphor for a lot of our ''hero''-thinking in human civilisations.
Religious and non-religious.

And, most importantly, the Matrix movie actually gives us a coherent story (sort of) of what might be going on.
Something we, as a civilisation, have been chasing after for millennia.
As humans, we want a good metaphysical (explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it) description of what is going on. We want something comprehensive - not just sciences that have restricted areas of competence and specialized methods (Astronomy deals only with astral bodies, Political science only with politics etc.). Preferably something where we can follow all of the arguments ourselves (Sure, theology seems to be giving us a comprehensive view of the world - but theology goes beyond what we can acquire through reasoning and sensations, it includes faith and authority, that it just asks us to trust).

Some have argued that the Matrix movie is really about Buddhism. That we should realize that the world is transient, and that we shouldn't cling to anything. I.e. according to the Buddhist doctrine of anicca, all things change. Nothing is independent and permanent, even a self (anatman, there is no self). Clinging to permanence and self will produce suffering, dukkha.
Interestingly, in Buddhism, the cause of our suffering comes from within ourselves, from the mind, so the source of redemption also comes from within us as well (In Buddhism, by following the Eightfold Path).
But, seeing all of this in the Matrix movie seems to be an overstretch. There might be hints in the movie, but nothing more?

Still, the Matrix movie is about the grand dimesions of human existence. And it does seem reasonable to argue that it is about body, mind and spirit and what has to happen when they are alienated (Alienated through the vanity and corruption of human beings.)
Luckily, the movie tells us that things can be reunited again. When someone, either the indidual or a saviour, reconnects with spirit. When all of our dimensions are again realligned, making use once again fully integrated human beings.
Real humans.

The mind plays tricks on us.
Most importantly, the Matrix movie tells us that our minds might play tricks on us.
We know very little about ultimate reality. But we do know that our minds might not be telling us the truth. I.e. the mind has structures that it imposes on the world. So, that the mind is bringing forth a world created as much by the mind, as what is actually out there.
Philosopher David Hume warned us that the only thing we can say is that up until now heavy objects have always fallen down.
The only thing we can say about it doing it again - is the belief that the future will continue to be like the past. That is just about it.

In the middle of all of this we have the idea that we want to be happy.
And as seen above, we associate long-term happiness with contentment. Which is not a life of tranquility (tranquility strikes us as barren, dry, uninspired). On the contrary, on the level of lived experience one must have passions, attachments and commitments - that are turbulent, and puts ones happiness at risk.
Finding contentment is a risky business.
And even more so in a future world with a blurred line between the real and the virtual.

Amazon: [3]

Vimeo video: About the Matrix Movie.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Apocalyptic AI.

Amazon review (4 stars out of 5)
of the book ''Apocalyptic AI'' (Visions of Heaven in Robotics, AI and Virtual Reality)
by Robert M. Geraci.

Apocalyptic Beliefs.
Apocalyptic AI is the idea that we might one day upload our minds into machines or cyberspace and live forever.
This might sound very new and high tech, but apocalyptic ideas have been with us for thousands of years.
And probably, the only new thing in Apocalyptic AI is the rephrasing of these ideas from a religious language into a technical language.
In the christian and jewish religious traditions, the apocalyptic believer, desperate to end his alienation and resolve the cosmic dualism, anticipates that God will soon rectify human problems by destroying the Earth, and replacing it with a perfect new world, where the believer will have a new perfect body.
Now, the new thing is that people can imagine a technical solution to the problems...

Certainly, Geracis brilliant book makes it abundantly clear that these religious beliefs are deeply embedded in our culture, and that it is probably not alt that surprising that we end up having visions of heaven in robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality that borrows a lot from these existing beliefs.
What we are like and what we hope for might not have changed that much, even as our world becomes more and more ''science fiction - like''.

Apocalyptic AI.
According to Robert M. Geraci, Apocalyptic AI is a belief that we can set up values and practices designed to transport human beings from a state of ignorance, embodiment and finitude to a state of knowledge, immateriality, and immortality.
The people who promote Apocalyptic AI sees an authentic human, as a person guided by rationality and scientific curiosity. In Apocalyptic AI the mind is seen as information patterns and a (future) body is a prosthesis.
In Apocalyptic AI, salvation comes from freeing us from biology and uniting with the intelligent robots of the future.

Geraci thinks that these Apocalyptic AI - ideas cannot be ignored, no matter how little we might want to think of pop(ular) science as profound or influential. Because, at its best popular science like Apocalyptic AI is both of these things.
And with writers like Moravec and Kurzweil, Apocalyptic AI has entered contemporary life.
Indeed, Geraci seems to think that to study intelligent robots and what people say about intelligent robots is actually to study our culture.

Our future according to Apocalyptic AI.
In Apocalyptic AI robots with human-like intelligence are inevitable:
First the robots will do all of our work for us. So that we will not have to fight for basic necessities. Later we will upload our minds into robotic bodies, so that we will no longer become ill, suffer mental decline or die. Our minds will also vastly improve, and we will be able to learn all sorts of skills instantaneously.
Everyone wants wisdom and wealth, but unfortunately our health often declines before we achieve these good things. So, our bodies and brains must be changed. In the end we will have changed everything that makes life seem so short and meaningless.

Marvin Minsky writes in ''Will Robots Inherit the Earth'':
The more we learn about our brains, the more ways we will find to improve them. Each brain has hundreds of specialized regions. We know only a little about what each one does. But as soon as we find out how any one part works, researchers will try to devise ways to extend that organ's capacity. They will also conceive of entirely new abilities that biology has never provided. As these inventions accumulate, we'll try to connect them to our brains -- perhaps through millions of microscopic electrodes inserted into the great nerve-bundle called the corpus callosum, the largest data-bus in the brain. With further advances, no part of the brain will be out of bounds for attaching new accessories. In the end, we will find ways to replace every part of the body and brain. And thus repair all the defects and flaws that make our lives so brief.

Needless to say, in doing so, we'll be making ourselves into machines.
Minsky continues:
Does this mean that machines will replace us? I don't feel that it makes much sense to think in terms of "us" and "them." I much prefer the attitude of Hans Moravec of Carnegie-Mellon University, who suggests that we think of those future intelligent machines as our own "mind-children."
In order to make brain replacements plausible, Minsky argues that we don't even have to know every tiny little bit about each brain system:
Fortunately, we would not need to know every minute detail. If that were so, our brains wouldn't work in the first place. In biological organisms, generally each system has evolved to be insensitive to most details of what goes on in the smaller subsystems on which it depends. Therefore, to copy a functional brain, it should suffice to replicate just enough of the function of each part to produce its important effects on other parts
Finally, Minsky concludes:
Will robots inherit the earth? Yes, but they will be our children. We owe our minds to the deaths and lives of all the creatures that were ever engaged in the struggle called Evolution. Our job is to see that all this work shall not end up in meaningless waste.
Minsky is obviously not alone with these beliefs. Scottish AI researcher David Levy argues that we are in sight of technologies that will endow robots with consciousness. The robots will be governed by ethical laws just as we are, The robots will love, and welcome being loved.

Indeed, in Apocalyptic AI knowledge is better than ignorance, machine is better than biology and virtual is better than physical.
And, we must really work hard to keep up with the robots.
Warwick, a roboticist at the University of Reading in the UK, thinks that machines will soon take over the world, and in order to prevent enslavement of humankind we must become cyborgs.

According to Ray Kurzweil, the human species is a species that inherently seeks to extend its horizons. We don't stay on the ground, we dont stay on the planet, we are not staying with the limitations of biology.
To most people friendly robots are better than unfriendly robots, but Geraci thinks that Hugo de Garis doesn't care whether the robots are good or bad. To de Garis the creation of these coming robots cannot be subordinated to the needs of mere human beings.
Intelligent robots are inevitable and necessary in the next phase of evolution.

No matter what, accordoing to Apocalyptic AI, human history as we know it will stop.
Hans Moravec puts it like this: With human brains uploaded, history can be simulated with perfect accuracy and fast forwarded to reveal the future of each historical simulation.

Religious ideas and our culture.
According to Geraci, even when social actors do not ascribe to religious institutions through education, pop culture and media - religious ideas are built into the landscape. Religious ideas infuse the thinking of all persons, including those who have rejected religions.
What the conscious minds rejects in one format, it reformulates subconsciously and adapts into new conscious thoughts.

And future technology in Apocalyptic AI certainly sounds more and more religious, when it promises that a) the lame will walk, b) the blind see, c) the deaf hear, and d) the dead will live forever in virtual simulations.

Kurzweill also believes that intelligent machines will be more spiritual human beings, and that there will be real and virtual houses of worship were the robots congregate.
Obviously, as all human mental phenomena are, according to Kurzweil, computational, religious experiences must be as well.
And not limited to the human realm.

Geraci succinctly notes, that he doesnt think catholics are ready to let a robot come to catholic mass and be babtized.
But the imagery will certainly generate interest.
And certainly, Geraci is correct, when he notes that it is amazing the amount of interest computer scientists have in the religious life of robots.
Religious robots are fascinating. A home robot that understands human religious life is an interesting concept, probably even necessary if it is going to work in the homes of old people. Many elderly will be put off by an atheist robot.

Religious language generates public interest.
The most powerful authorities in our culture has always depended on the power of the sacred (Going back to Caesar who was both emperor and Pontifex Maximus). Religious backing authorizes an individuals right to speak.

According to Geraci, if you want backing for some project, invoking religious motifs will probably work to your benefit.

As an example, Geraci thinks physicists Steven Weinbergs lobbying for money for the SuperConducting Super Collider (SSC) is illustrative.
Weinberg served as an expert in the congressional hearings on the SuperConducting Super Collider (SSC) and he wrote a book, Dreams of a Final theory (1992), about how the collider would help build better physics theories.
The purpose of writing Dreams of a Final theory was to excite the public and to advocate for public spending. It was Weinbergs effort to convince the lay public to support the SSC. But, in the end the efforts was unsuccessful, the SSC was cancelled.
Why? There were many reasons, but when Weinberg writes that the universe is meaningless and gives us his own personal atheism, that will probably not generate as much enthusiasm, as if he had framed the Collider in semi-religious language.

Indeed, according to Geraci, Apocalyptic AI advocates have been more successful than Weinberg in part because they use religious language to heighten the allure of their subject matter.

Apocalyptic AI generates interest, power and prestige.
The majority of people working in AI and robotics concerns themselves with making better software or better robots rather than grand schemes for saving humanity from ignorance and mortality. Apocalyptic AI books are not written especially for the robotics community.
But it is about generating interest, power, prestige and money.

Apocalyptic AI works establish their authors as critical thinkers in our culture, and present them as authorities. Scientific research is glorified within the realm of human work, which increases public support.
Apocalyptic AI work elevates the social status of the author. You should care what he says because he is an important person. A master of the technology that will dominate our future and save us from confusion, ignorance and death.

Geraci sees Moravec and Kurzweil as brilliant and accomplished individuals, who may in fact have identified the course of our future. He just wants us to recognize the religiosity inherent in their enterprise.
And that this could be seen as a vehicle for generating power and prestige.
It is not a denial of their claims.

So is it true? Will we have an Apocalyptic AI future?
People are certainly preparing for an Apocalyptic AI future: In 2004, The Biennial Convention of the International Bar association held a mock trial in which a computer, discovering corporate plan to shut it down, sues for the right to live.
The computer pleaded that it loved life and didn't want to be shut down. The jury sided with the plaintiff.

A lot of interest is being generated with writers like Kurzweil, Moravec, Minsky, Warwick etc.
Apocalyptic AI influences so many people because it integrates the two most significant areas in modern life, religion and technology.
And, interest is key if a field is to go anywhere in the future:
Geraci mentions, that Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web, read science fiction as a teenager and was very impressed with Arthur C. Clarkes ''Dial F for Frankenstein''. A story where telephone switching stations are linked together and end up becoming conscious.
In the end, Tim Berners-Lee's most noted accomplishment turned out to be the design of the markup language, html, used in creating web pages, that makes the web possible.

Still, we are far, far away from anything that resembles mind uploading and conscious robots.
True, question about consciousness, souls, immortal salvation and the existence of gods grow ever more worrisome as robots look increasingly likely to equal or surpass human performance, or if mind-uploading seem possible.
But, centuries have passed since Descartes stated ''cogito ergo sum'' and yet, apparently, we aren't much closer to knowing what it means to be conscious.
Geraci quotes Alan Wallace (leader of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies) for saying that discussions about conscious robots are absurdly premature.
To Alan Wallace we are still in a pre-scientific era when it comes to human consciousness.

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