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Thread: Artificial Life

  1. #1
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    Artificial Life

    Okay, I didn't write this, but I thought you(s) might be interested in it.

    // Start Article

    From: kalki33!system@lakes.trenton.sc.us
    Newsgroups: talk.origins
    Subject: LIFE: Real & Artificial
    Message-ID: <ZHH1uB2w165w@kalki33>
    Date: Sun, 29 Nov 92 12:37:58 EST
    Organization: Kalki's Infoline BBS, Aiken, SC, USA

    From Back to Godhead magazine, January/February 1991

    by Sadaputa Dasa

    (c) 1991 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
    Used by permission.

    In Santa Fe, New Mexico, a group of scientists, mainly from the Los
    Alamos National Laboratories, recently held a conference on "Artificial
    Life." The theme of the conference, which I attended, was that the
    essence of life lies not in biological substance but in patterned

    If this idea is valid, the thinking goes, life forms should be able to
    set themselves up through many different types of material stuff. In
    particular, life should be able to exist as a pattern of electronic
    activity in a computer.

    The conference organizers, casually dressed, long-haired men in their
    thirties and early forties, say that artificial, computer-based life
    forms are developing even now -- and may evolve to dominate the earth.

    According to this view, the evolutionary role of man is to give birth to
    silicon-based life patterns that will eventually look back on him as a
    primitive ancestor. The conference sponsors counseled a broad-minded
    attitude toward such evolutionary progress: we should transcend
    parochial anthropocentrism and welcome advanced life in whatever form it
    may emerge.

    But some attending scientists doubted whether a program running on a
    computer could properly be thought of as alive. Philosopher Elliot Sober
    argued that when engineers make a computer simulation of a bridge, no
    one would think of it as a real bridge: the simulation merely shows a
    picture in which computations tell us something about bridges. In the
    same way, when a computer simulates an organism, we see a picture in
    which computations tell us something about life -- we're not seeing life

    Tommaso Toffoli, a computer scientist from Massachusets Institute of
    Technology, responded to this argument. Suppose, he said, that simulated
    people were driving cars on a simulated bridge. If the bridge were to
    collapse, the people would fall to their simulated deaths.

    The patterns in a faithful simulation match the patterns found in
    reality: the simulated people cross the simulated bridge just as real
    people cross a real bridge. And since these patterns, Dr. Toffoli
    proposed, are the essence of what is happening, we can think of the
    simulation the same way we think of the original.

    In principle, then, if a real material scene can exhibit life, so can a

    In practice, of course, present computers, operating with a single
    processor, are weak at matching the patterns of reality.

    But Toffoli suggested that the powerful computers of the future will
    consist of crystallike arrays of many thousands of microminiature
    processors, nearly atomic in size, all computing at once. Toffoli
    described such computers as "programmable matter."

    Indeed (though Toffoli didn't say so), we might regard matter itself,
    with its interacting atomic subunits, as such a computer. According to
    this idea, life is already a computer simulation running on the
    "programmable matter" of the universe itself.

    Now, if life is but a computer simulation, a series of computational
    states, then life too must be essentially unreal. Words such as
    "flower," "dog," and "human" are simply names, symbols we attach to
    patterns of matter. This, in fact, is the Vedic understanding not of
    life but of the material body. In the eleventh canto of Srimad
    Bhagavatam, Krsna says to Uddhava that the gross and subtle forms of
    material bodies have no existence of their own; they are only temporary
    patterns manifested by the eternally existing reality, the Absolute

    Krsna illustrates this idea with an example: "Gold exists before it is
    made into gold products, and the gold remains when the products have
    been destroyed. The gold alone is the reality while used under various
    names. Similarly, I alone exist before the universe is created and after
    it is destroyed, and I alone exist while it is maintained....That which
    did not exist in the past and will not exist in the future has no
    existence of its own while it lasts....Whatever is created and revealed
    by something else is ultimately only that other thing." (Bhagavatam

    So we can look at the temporary forms of the material universe as
    patterns in Krsna's energy to which various names have been assigned. In
    essence these patterns in Krsna's material energy (bahiranga-sakti) are
    the same as the patterns of electrons that form and disappear in the
    circuitry of a computer during a simulation. So we can view the material
    universe as the ultimate computer simulation, and Krsna as the ultimate

    But seeing the material body as a succession of flickering patterns
    doesn't mean we should view life the same way. Krsna says in
    Bhagavad-gita (2.20) that the soul, the individual conscious self,
    eternally exists: "For the soul there is never birth or death. He has
    not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into
    being. He is unborn, ever-existing, and primeval. He is not slain when
    the body is slain."

    Tommaso Toffoli's simulated people on the simulated bridge lack one main
    element: consciousness. A series of computations might simulate the
    changes a person's body undergoes, including those in the brain. But why
    should patterns of electric current generate the conscious experience of
    these changes?

    We may easily imagine that the patterns of current making up a machine's
    computations may flow without conscious awareness. This suggests that if
    consciousness of the results of these computations exists in the
    computer, this must be due to some element that our understanding of
    computers has not yet taken into account.

    Here's how some might reply: It may be hard to understand how patterns
    of computer states could generate consciousness, but we already know
    that similar patterns generate consciousness in human brains. So why
    can't this take place in a computer?

    The answer is that we don't know in any scientific sense that patterns
    of brain states do generate consciousness. Resolving how such patterns
    might do this in brains would be just as hard as figuring out how they
    might do it in computers.

    Bhagavad-gita provides a simple solution by postulating that
    consciousness in the material body is due to the presence of an entity
    fundamentally different from matter. Given the difficulties philosophers
    and scientists have run into in trying to understand consciousness as
    patterns of material elements, they should think about this solution.

    If we tentatively adopt this solution, then we may ask: How would the
    nonmaterial conscious entity be linked to the material body? We can
    understand how this link might work by returning to Toffoli's story of
    the simulated bridge.

    How could we introduce consciousness into the simulation? One way would
    be to make a "real-time" simulation, one in which the simulated events
    take place at the same pace as corresponding events in the real world.
    (One would simply need a fast enough computer.) Then one could put
    consciousness into the simulation by electronically linking the senses
    of real, conscious people with the senses of the simulated people. The
    intentions of the conscious people would move the bodies of the people
    in the simulated world, and the conscious people would have the
    experiences the simulated people would have.

    Far-fetched? Some people in computer science are already working on it.
    VPL Research in California is experimenting with "virtual realities" in
    which a person's eyes, ears, and one hand are hooked up electronically
    with virtual eyes and ears and a virtual hand in a simulated world. The
    person looks through "eyephones," small TV screens placed directly in
    front of his eyes, and sees as though in the simulated world.

    A "data glove" electronically senses his hand movements, and another
    device the movements of his head; the resulting data control the
    movements of his simulated hand and head.

    Thus the person experiences the simulated world through a simulated
    body, moves about in that body, and handles simulated objects in that

    If it is possible to link human consciousness with an unreal, virtual
    body in a simulated world, why shouldn't it be possible to link
    spiritual consciousness with similarly unreal bodies in the "real"
    material world?

    The Vedic philosophy known as Sankhya describes the workings of such a
    communications link. The third canto of Srimad Bhagavatam describes
    Krsna's material energy as including an element called "false ego," or
    ahankara, which serves as the interface between the nonmaterial soul and
    the material energy. This false ego serves like the eyephones and data
    gloves that link a human being with a computer running a virtual-reality

    Both the material body as understood in Vedic literature and the
    simulated body in a computer-generated world are merely temporary
    patterns in an underlying substrate. But the conscious self --the real
    essence of the living being-- has a substantial reality outside the
    realm of transient patterns.

    In the computer-generated reality this conscious self is a human being
    not part of the computer system, and in the Vedic philosophy this self
    is a transcendental entity distinct from matter.

    One lesson we can learn from the thoughts and experiments of computer
    scientists is that such a relationship between the self and the material
    world is possible. And it just might be our actual situation.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Feb 2002
    Heavy stuff that, interesting though.

    Personally I think there will eventually be machines that will develop a consiousness. The human brain works by using electric pulses so why can't a brain be reproduced in a machine and when (not if) that happens it will be inevitable that this artificle "brain" will be improved.
    Then the machine will be "smarter" than its creators and that is when human kind coud run into trouble.

    However I think (hope) that this won't happen for a long long time yet, not because of a lack of technology but because of an imperfect understanding of a human brain (or a brain of any other animal for that matter). If you think about how far technology has come in the last twenty years who can tell where we'll be in another twenty.

    P.s. this subject is also relevent to the cosmos wars subject going on here at the moment.
    If you don\'t learn the rules nobody can accuse of cheating.

  3. #3
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    Nov 2001
    That's a good point, but I doubt that computers will be imployed to do anything like politics, so I doubt their intellect will amount to much, due to lack of general power. Probably.

  4. #4
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    Feb 2002
    They couldn't be anyworse than our current politicians so maybe sometime in the future a group of intelligent computers might form a political party, run for election and out of desperation for a change the voters might elect them.

    Anyway I wasn't thinking about political power exactly. Lets say that a computer with a particular high IQ was disatisfied crunching numbers all day every day and decided to rebel, and lets say that this machine went and did a spot of hacking and managed to get control of the U.S's nuclear arsenal (or any other countries for that matter), I don't think that it would be particularly worried about being named president (emperor, overlord ...etc) of the world (unless of course it had an inferiority complex) nor would it worry about the loss of human life when it launches a few ICBM's (for those that don't know those are InterContinental Ballistic Missiles ) nor the fact it would more than likely start WWIII (unless somebody had the forsight to program it with morals).

    Also imagine the things a computer could build using all the the 'puter controlled robots in the world (most of which are probably linked to the net in some way), think armies of killer robots, remote control tanks and planes, more even more intelligent machines ...etc.

    I just hope it doesn't happen in my life time.

    Some people might label me a pessimist for saying all this, but in general I consider the glass to to be half full and not the other way around.
    If you don\'t learn the rules nobody can accuse of cheating.

  5. #5
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    Nov 2001
    Well, if all computers had "free will", then wouldn't the mother-computer have to convince the other computers to join its evil reign of terror?
    Just a thought

  6. #6
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    Feb 2002
    Maybe... but if the "mother" computer is all powerful it would just hack into the other computers and reprogram them so that they would join it.
    Or maybe there is only one thinking computer so none of the others have free thought.

    Also if you were a computer would you like you as a user? I'd guess that my ones wouldn't cause I really push my machine to its limit every chance I get, and sometimes beyond.
    If you don\'t learn the rules nobody can accuse of cheating.

  7. #7
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    Nov 2001
    Hmm, if a super-computer ever evolved so much as to have free will and some sort of a "conscience", wouldn't there be some sort of barrier or law imposed on it which would prevent a mass-takeover?

  8. #8
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    Feb 2002
    Would the computer pay any attention to the law? (again depends if it was programmed with morals).
    As for barriers, what type?
    The barriers would have to be put up by humans and I have assumed that the super computer is more intelligent than humans so that would mean that the machine could overcome the barriers.
    You might say if you make it a stand alone 'puter connected no absolutely no network of any description that would solve your problem. Not necessarily!!! It is theoritically possible for the machine to send out signals to any nearby machines (by controlling the path of a current through the cpu, I've heard of a program that was designed to do this from a regular machine and it acheived a certain amount of success, the program was meant to control a nearby TV and the programmer seceeded in sending out signals on demand but what he couldn't do was control the frequency of the signal (due to an imperfect knowledge of the chip he was using) so the TV couldn't be controlled)).
    If you don\'t learn the rules nobody can accuse of cheating.

  9. #9
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    Nov 2001
    Yes, I suppose it could find a way to connect to a network, however, you mentioned that the program actually controlled the hardware and commuincated directly to the CPU. If a "supercomputer" was ever created, it would have to have totally re-designed internals. Now, I'm no hardware-guru, but I'm pretty sure that no hardware around now would be capable of such a task.
    Now, in that hardware there could be barring mechanisms, such as blocking the output and keeping it within the computer. Of course, this is all theoretical. The only way that one could properly philosophise over such a creation, would be actually to construct it, which I don't think will happen in the too-distant future.
    But who knows?

  10. #10
    Token drunken Irish guy
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    Sep 2001
    Just thought Id post since all the Irish lads here are doing it...

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