I've discussed the difficulties of interstellar exploration before. To get a spacecraft to another star within a human lifetime requires accelerating it to an appreciable percentage of c (the speed of light), say 10-20%. In general that requires titanic amounts of energy. (Forget about the common sci-fi scenarios of going into warp drive or jumping … Continue reading The Q-Drive and the difficulty of interstellar exploration
Month: March 2020
Viruses and the definition of “life”
One of the things we often debate here is the definition of "consciousness," but consciousness is far from the only concept that is difficult to define. Others include religion, democracy, free will, and biological life. Life has a number of definitions, many of which are suitable for particular purposes. If I recall correctly, NASA, for … Continue reading Viruses and the definition of “life”
All adults are vulnerable to COVID-19
The other day I urged you to take COVID-19 seriously. But in that post, I said that if you were younger than 60 or didn't have health problems, the virus probably wouldn't do anything to you. In retrospect, that was misleading. A lot of people are saying that we should reopen the economy for people … Continue reading All adults are vulnerable to COVID-19
The sensitive soul and the rational soul
I think examining the evolution of consciousness in animals helps shed light on it in humans. Admittedly, there are difficulties. Animals can't self report using language, which limits just how much of their experience can be garnered from experiments. Still, taking data from human studies and combining it with animal studies can provide a lot … Continue reading The sensitive soul and the rational soul
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I noticed today that it had been released for streaming, so I went ahead and watched. (I missed it in the theaters.) Based on everything that had been said about it, it was better than I expected. It was entertaining and Abrams managed to get the emotional high points right. It felt like a decent … Continue reading Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Take COVID-19 seriously
Just got back from getting a haircut and a run to the grocery store (which had an atmosphere very similar to the one down here when a hurricane is imminent), during which time I think I heard enough crazy rumors to start my own conspiracy blog. The worst, by far, were variations that this is … Continue reading Take COVID-19 seriously
I just finished reading J. T. Nicholas' Re-coil, a space opera novel. It takes place in the solar system, so it's not an interstellar story, although there are hints the series might go there eventually. It involves a future where everyone's mind can be backed up and instantiated in a new body if they die. … Continue reading Re-coil
AI: An Exercise in Analytical Philosophy
An excellent analysis of the issue! It seems like this is a problem for any interesting philosophical question. I’m always struck by how often philosophical disagreements are really just definitional disputes in disguise. It’s particularly troublesome for any discussion about the mind, about us at the most fundamental level, because people have intense emotions about the conclusions.
I recently attended a computing group in which the following question was asked:
Can Software Achieve Human Level Intelligence?
We covered this question over the course of 3 meetings (7-9 hours total). Those meetings didn’t go well. We spent hours talking past each other, objecting to arguments, and accusing each other of missing the point. In the end we gave up and agreed to talk about something else.
How can people spend hours talking about something without anything to show for it?Because we weren’t talking about the same thing and never settled on meanings first to discover that.
After reflecting on those meetings, I thought the following process would have been more productive:
- Each person precisely translates the sentence as they understand it.
- Replace any contentious terms to avoid arguing over semantics.
- Decide if there’s any basis for arguing.
So let’s continue by assuming two arguers: John and…
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The response schema
Several months ago Michael Graziano, and colleagues, attempted a synthesis of three families of scientific theories of consciousness: global workspace theory (GWT), higher order theory (HOT), and his own attention schema theory (AST). A quick (crudely simplistic) reminder: GWT posits that content becomes conscious when it is globally broadcast throughout the brain, HOT when a … Continue reading The response schema
An excellent explanation of quantum decoherence, and how it might lead to many worlds
Matt O'Dowd is a first class science communicator. In this latest video, he does an excellent job explaining decoherence, and why the MWI (many worlds interpretation) ends up being so tempting when you see it through. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlOwJWJWPUs Of course, this doesn't mean MWI is the right interpretation, but it does demonstrate why many find it … Continue reading An excellent explanation of quantum decoherence, and how it might lead to many worlds