A Being exists through time, and undergoes transformations.
When a Man incarnates, the pre-existing spiritual Being transforms by a process including the organisation of 'solid matter', to incarnate as a zygote.
At death, the human Being leaves-behind solid matter and transforms to spirit.
With transformation of a being, the identity is maintained by provenance - i.e. by continued linear existence.
There is no retention of previous forms of organisation - so this is not a spirit getting matter added to it, or subtracted from it...
The reality is a continuously-existing-Being, transforming from a first spiritual entity into a solid entity (incarnation), then to a second and distinct spiritual entity.
It is the same Being throughout; because it has existed continuously, in unbroken continuity, through time.
Continuing from the schema above, the concept of transformation can also help us to understand what happens at resurrection.
Resurrection is a transformation of the spirit, when that spirit has been-through the prior transformation of mortal incarnation and death.
The human Being that is resurrected has, therefore, a lineage of transformations that include pre-mortal spirit, mortal incarnation, then post-mortal spirit.
The assumption is that only such a Being, with such a lineage, is able to be resurrected into an eternal divine incarnation.
(This is why Jesus needed to be born and to die, before he was resurrected.)
These descriptions can be regarded as a deeper explanation of my argument against computer AI.
I must be misunderstanding you, because what you appear to be saying is very obviously not true. At death, for example, the physical organism doesn't "transform" into a spirit; it transforms into a corpse. If something physical transformed into something non-physical, we would observe this as matter simply disappearing, which we do not in fact observe. After death, the body is very much still there and still physical. What has occurred is a separation, not a transformation; the organism dies, and the spirit lives on without it.
@Wm - You need to appreciate that this as an almost completely different way of understanding the nature of reality. It does not map onto the usual way people have of conceptualising such matters.
However, this is probably within normal human comprehension. The germ of the idea comes from my studies of hunter gatherer spirituality and the work of Tim Ingold (a professor of anthropology) in particular. Also another writer Hugh Brody quoted the word Transformation as the response of a modern hunter gatherer when asked to describe the essence of his his beliefs.
Shamans who become a bear for a while - or the phenomenon of people incarnating to and from animals - are examples of transformation of a Being.
The thing is, conventional categories cannot properly describe an animated universe. Steiner and Barfield try to solve the difficulty by positing a spirit which goes-through all the transformations of body and soul - but this is just kicking the can; because if the spirit plays this role of providing continuity, then the spirit cannot change; which means that Beings are fixed in their nature (yet S & B are trying to explain the developmental evolution of consciousness: real change).
If we assume being to be unitary and continuous, the problem disappears. And it is simple enough that a child could understand it; indeed I believe that this is how children spontaneously think about entities they regard as alive (as beings): i.e. that they can change completely and open-endedly (in mind and body) but so long as continuity is unbroken they remain 'the same being'.
Each transformation 'inherits' its identity from whatever it was before - just as the butterfly is the same Being as its caterpillar, despite that its outer becomes a shell which is discarded and its innards have been dissolved and reformed. It is the continuity through time by which we recognise that identity is maintained.
All I am doing is making explicit and conscious this natural and spontaneous way of thinking.
Bruce, I understand and agree with the whole continuity-through-time, ship-of-Theseus thing. But I still insist that conception and death cannot be understood as spirit transforming into matter and then back into spirit. No new matter appears when a zygote comes into being; no matter disappears when a person dies. Before conception, all the matter is already there, and the spirit is already there, too. After death, all the matter is still there, and the spirit is still there, too. Neither transforms into the other; rather, they come together and then separate again.
I am not arguing that a spirit cannot change. I agree with you that it can and does, open-endedly. It may well be possible for a spirit to transform into a body or a body into a spirit. But we can very easily observe that this is not what happens at conception or death.
Anyway, suppose we grant your position and use your language. When a zygote is produced, by (natural) physical and chemical processes, an already-existing spirit "transforms into" that zygote. When a person dies, he "transforms into" a spirit (whilst still leaving behind a corpse).
What makes it impossible for the same sort of "transformations" to take place with a computer? Suppose that when a sufficiently advanced computer is produced, by (artificial) physical and chemical processes, an already-existing spirit "transforms into" that computer. When the computer breaks down, it "transforms into" a spirit (whilst still leaving behind a broken-down computer). Why are you so sure that's impossible?
@Wm - "conception and death cannot be understood as spirit transforming into matter and then back into spirit"
It isn't that - it is A Being, transforming between spirit and matter.
The Being is not 'A spirit' - the Being is in the form of spirit.
WJT: “What makes it impossible for the same sort of "transformations" to take place with a computer? Suppose that when a sufficiently advanced computer is produced, by (artificial) physical and chemical processes, an already-existing spirit "transforms into" that computer. When the computer breaks down, it "transforms into" a spirit (whilst still leaving behind a broken-down computer). Why are you so sure that's impossible?”
Yes, this is precisely the issue. Organic matter structured in such a way as to process information is not *fundamentally* different from silicon-based matter structured to process information. Dr. Charlatan rightly criticizes the transhumanists for believing that an AI singularity ‘ humans uploading their minds into machines, etc. would represent a great spiritual leap forward. My suspicion, however, is that (properly done with sound motives), it might not be a step backwards either.
— Robert Brockman
Speaking of fake AI, the autocorrect (really autocorrupt) on my IPad changed the name Charlton to Charlatan in the above comment without me noticing!
"My" technology is working for someone, but not me! I apologize for any inadvertent offense.
-- Robert Brockman
Robert: "Dr. Charlatan"? Let's hope that's an autocomplete error!
Bruce: I'm afraid the semantic distinction between, say, a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, and a Being-in-the-form-of-a-caterpillar transforming into a Being-in-the-form-of-a-butterfly, is lost on me. Anyway, whatever it is that's transforming into matter, why do we need to assume it can only transform into organic matter?
@Wm - It isn't a semantic distinction - it is a metaphysical distinction.
Perhaps it would help if you consider that a Being is not defined cross-sectionally but through-time. That is, the concept of Being entails time. Without time there can be no Being.
If you define/ think-about) a Being without considering its persistence through time, you are not defining/ thinking-of a Being.
When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the same Being that was a caterpillar is now a butterfly, because of the temporal continuity between the two. Are you saying anything more than that? If not, I'm at a loss to see what bearing it has on the question of AI. Whatever it is that happens when a biological structure becomes conscious, why is it forever impossible for that same thing to happen to a non-biological structure?
Sorry if I'm being obtuse here, but it would be very helpful if you would "show your work" and explain how your metaphysical assumptions lead to the conclusion that a structure that develops by evolution and embryogenesis can become conscious but one that is purposefully designed and created by intelligent agents cannot.
@Wm - The main argument about why computers can't become an AI was stated in the earlier posts - because a computer is not a Being.
"When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the same Being that was a caterpillar is now a butterfly, because of the temporal continuity between the two. Are you saying anything more than that?"
Yes, because I am placing this as more fundamental than - say - form and substance, or than spirit and matter, or physics-type explanations. When you do this, you get an extremely different metaphysical understanding that affects almost everything.
I'm not hiding my work, there is none - this is so simple that it is childish - literally so; that's why it's hard to grasp.
That a computer cannot be a Being - is that a fundamental assumption, or is it derived from other assumption(s)?
@Wm - A computer would need to *have been* a Being, from eternity - a Being that had undergone transformations to become, now, a computer.
Is anybody suggesting this is the case?
I think yes, the suggestion is that a Being would have undergone such a transformation into a computer. It's not obvious exactly how that would work, but it is no more obvious how a Being would be transformed into a zygote. (This is indeed one of the key problems that atheists have with this overall metaphysical formulation.)
I think one of the keys here would be that the Being aspects would most strongly affect any nondeterministic aspects of the workings of the computer, which are normally (but not necessarily) heavily damped by the engineers who design computers.
-- Robert Brockman
"A computer would need to *have been* a Being, from eternity - a Being that had undergone transformations to become, now, a computer."
But neither has a biological organism been a Being from eternity. Prior to the conception, the sperm and the egg did not jointly constitute a distinct "thing" and thus were not a Being. On a physical level, it is the sperm and the egg that transform into the zygote. The matter that now makes up the zygote previously made up a sperm and an egg. None of the matter in the zygote just appeared as if from nowhere, as if something non-physical had transformed into something physical. I take this as conclusive disproof of the idea that an eternally existing, but previously non-physical, Being has transformed into a zygote. The eternal Being has not become an organism but rather "entered" or "annexed" one; the organism has become part of the Being.
I know that you (somehow) think it does make sense to say that at conception an eternal Being "transforms into" a zygote -- that an organism has been a Being from eternity, a Being that has undergone transformations to become, now, an organism. If you don't consider that absurd, I can't understand why you consider it absurd when applied to a computer rather than to an organism.
@Wm - It makes sense, and it isn't conceptually difficult; but you have to drop the analysis that nearly everybody uses and has used for 2500 or so. So it isn't easy. I guess it took me about 20 years.
It's not so much that I consider it 'absurd' that a computer has been a Being from eternity (presumably most recently a demon); I just think that it did Not happen. Why not?
I suppose for the same reason that I don't think a pre-mortal angel would transform to a rock. It probably has to do with the linearity of time, and non-reversibility of consciousness.
Soo, while I can see that it might suit the demonic agenda foor (say) a senior devil to compel a subordinate to transform into an evil computer, I don't think it can happen - because it would be in an impossible direction.
But perhaps there could be an illusion at work (e.g. demon tranforms and pretends to be a computer, as a disguise)? Not sure; something seems impossible about the idea. There does not seem to be any 'space' for agency in a computer, because a computer is an instantiated mathematical model and - as such - determined.
Unrelated question: is Hobbes a real Being? (I am referring to your "Hobbes is real" post.). In other words, are those beings, which exist (only?) in the imagination/representation of other beings, also actual Beings?
@Otto (and Wm) - I notice that I have drifted away from the original contention; which was that computers cannot become sentient (alive, conscious agents). That holds.
What we have been talking about more recently, is Not computers becoming AIs but the possibility of (for example) angels or demons in some way 'possessing' a computer.
Now, that is the kind of situation that would apply to a stuffed tiger or teddy bear. It seems possible that a child's guardian angel might work through a beloved toy, might lend that toy life. Or a demon might be able to influence a computer 'from externally' - not by becoming it, but influencing it as anything else might be demonically influenced (however that works).
So a Being, who has been alive from eternity, might deploy his already-existing agency by means of transformations, or other means.
This is distinct from the question of an AI. Of course, a demon might influence a computer, and this might be wrongly interpreted (might be touted) as AI ... as the Singularity. Indeed, this is why such ideas as AI and Singularity are being promoted.
I would say this is exactly why it is important that we *don't* make the mistake of believing in AI as a real possibility. Because, if we assumed we were dealing with an AI we would assume that it was 'neutral' and without an agenda; in the way we assume compueters are neutral.
But if we knew computers could not be agents, then we would suspect the truth of it - that the computer was being manipulated by somebody 'behind it all' with an evil agenda.
An *analogy* is the way that the evil Establishment stand behind what appear to be neutral bureaucracies, and manipulate them to follow the evil totalitarian agenda. We need to know about the 'demonic conspiracy' and their agenda; or we will misinterpret what the bureaucracies are doing.
My whole point is that a spirit "possessing" a computer is not distinct from AI.
According to assumptions I think we both share, a physical organism in itself cannot be intelligent (meaning conscious, having free will, etc.). We human beings are intelligent not because a new intelligence is created as a human brain develops, but because an already-existing intelligence incarnates (or "transforms," or whatever word you want to use) into a human body.
AI means a computer's being intelligent in the same way that a human organism is intelligent. A human organism is intelligent because a pre-existing spirit has incarnated into it; if a computer could be intelligent, it would be in the same way and for the same reason. AI could only mean a computer "having a soul" in the same way that a human being has a soul.
My assumptions and conclusion:
1. Some physical structures (such as the human body) can have souls.
2. Whatever features allow such structures to have souls, humans could in principle create an artificial structure with those same features.
3. Therefore, artificial structures can in principle have souls, and AI is in principle possible.
This holds no matter how you conceptualize "having a soul" -- whether the soul is seen as being generated by the brain, incarnating into the brain, "transforming" into the brain, or whatever. Whatever it is, some physical structures can do it, so why should it be impossible for an artificial physical structure?
"There does not seem to be any 'space' for agency in a computer, because a computer is an instantiated mathematical model and - as such - determined."
Nor does there seem to be any space for agency in a biological organism, but we assume that it is possible anyway. And computer behavior is not necessarily determined, as an algorithm can include "random" inputs from outside the system.
@Wm - "My whole point is that a spirit "possessing" a computer is not distinct from AI"
But you know as well as I do that that is Not what is meant the people developing, touting and discussing AI. It is not what is meant by the many TV and movie tretments of AI (except for one episode of Buffy). They have computers that are just computers becoming sentient (e.g. when they reach a certain level of complexity, or when they are given 'feelings', or false memories, or programmed to believe that they are humans etc).
"A human organism is intelligent because a pre-existing spirit has incarnated into it" - That's your metaphysics, not mine.
We are starting to go in circles.
As I said in the post, we are disagreeing about assumptions. Under your assumptions, there can be AI. Under the assumptions of the computer scientists developing/ selling AI, there can be AI. Fine.
I think those assumptions are wrong, and I've said what are my different assumptions. That's about as far as we can go!
BC: "There does not seem to be any 'space' for agency in a computer, because a computer is an instantiated mathematical model and - as such - determined."
This is the key idea, right here: a deterministic computer *program* cannot have free will by itself, and if a computer is built such that it only executes deterministic algorithms exactly, then it cannot have free will either. It might be intelligent, it might even have a subjective experience, but it cannot in principle have any agency. Deterministic computational models / simulations of biological systems (such as the brain) cannot in principle have any agency either.
Real physical computers in the modern era are not this constrained. They have many separate subprocessors whose behavior depends on each other's output. This generates subtle timing effects that are non-deterministic. Modern computers can be also equipped with truly "random" number generators driven by quantum mechanical effects. Thus it is possible to construct a non-deterministic computer *system* (not simply a program) that is capable of bringing a large amount of information in from Beyond The Scope Of Physics in formulating its output. Throw in quantum computing and things get even weirder.
Now the AI people at Google/Facebook/DARPA/IARPA/etc. are not really interested in building a computer system with true agency, of course -- they want a powerful robotic slave that they control and through which they control others. However this is a separate issue from whether Beings can instantiate in non-biological systems.
-- Robert Brockman
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