|on sensors, anticipation, impermanence, and ethics
||[Jan. 15th, 2006|12:07 am]
What is the difference between living things and non-living things? In order to determine this, I would like to introduce the concept of a sensor.
What is a sensor?
1. is a system which has arisen, either through intentional or coincidental creation, and is composed of
1a. a sense mechanism, which responds to physical stimulus and transferrs the physical stimulus to
1b. a semi-permanent record of the stimulus, which typically consists of a capacitive store of electrical or chemical energy
1c. a series or subsytem of mechanical objects which are driven by the action of the record mechanism, and may contain consist of subordinate sensors.
2. engages in a heuristic act, which consists of gathering a physical stimulus and approximating or simplifying it.
3. engages in acts of intentionality, which use the gathered information to alter the conditions of the physical stimulus through the mechanical subsystem.
I reject the Platonic concept of Form, that there is a perfected or ideal object on which all observed or natural objects are based. I also reject Kantian dualism which suggests that thought or logic is a thing which is separate from physical existence. My reasoning is based on the fact that such idealized concepts as a circle, which can be conceived as a perfect identity, have never been observed and there is no physical reason why they would ever be observed- all objects such as a perfect circle upon close inspection can be observed to consist of small imperfections or "roughness". At the level of observation, however, said imprefections don't materially affect the outcome of the heuristic employed- an idealized circle can be approximated and the diameter will always relate to the circumference by the ratio of pi to within the precision level of the heuristic observation.
Because sensors (and by extension living things, which are comprised of sensors) apply a heuristic which simplifies complex physical interactions, a sensor engages in a reductionistic act which permits anticipation of physical events- the stored record of the heuristic can reduce and disintermediate the intervening physical steps of reality and alter the reality in anticipation of the event. A sensor is therefore a more complicated system than a reflex system, which does not anticipate. The perception of the passage of time arises from the gap between anticipated reality and physical action. Improved heuristics therefore appear to slow the relative perception of time, because as the gap between correct application of a heuristic and the physical event it anticipates increases, more intentional action can be taken.
All systems are subject to the concept of impermanence: no system, and in particular, no sensor, functions the same over time. First, a sensor is subject to entropy- because it is constantly self-ordering, it is performing this action by drawing on enthalpic stores which are causing a greater entropy elsewhere. Second, a sensor is capable of acting on itself, and therefore it is somewhat self dependent to ensure its own survival, but because it applies a heuristic, it does not have a perfect sense of the environment and is subject to surprise and/or chance which can result in destructive forces being applied to the sensor system.
Ethics is the study of second order sensors. A sensor system can apply a heuristic to the system of heuristics, and therefore not only be aware of the surrounding environment but also, through anticiption, become aware of the act of being aware. Ethics becomes necessary because if sensor systems are at odds, the inconsistent action of sensor systems results in a reduced applicability of heuristics, and therefore a greater likelyhood of actions which impair the function of the sensors. In order to preserve the applicability of sensor heuristics, we derive additional self-imposed heuristics which represent limits on intentionality, in anticipation of the fact that other systems will also apply similar heuristics, limiting their own action and increasing the overall effectiveness of the system's own heuristics.
Where is this going? I am becoming increasingly aware of the racist connotation of the word "humanism", which accords special privileges to the interaction between human beings. We accord this special status because we have reason to believe that we are more powerful than any other sensor system, and are therefore distinct from other so-called animals, who have modes of intentionality which we can control and limit without having reciprocal limits on our own intentionality.
As a practical end, this may to some level be derived from a necessary coincidence- that we have needed animal life as a subordinate worker class and food store. However, as an ethical end, we have shown that we are becoming capable of developing and creating sensor systems which may have better heuristic systems than our own. We have begun to understand the consequence and problem of constructing a hierarchy of class by creating subordinate classes among humans. We are also capable of creating machine life, intelligent automata. For specific cases, we are capable of creating systems which are physically stronger, or more capable of using the tools of logic or mathematics, or other specialized skills. However, we have not yet needed to network all of these engineered systems into a whole which communicates and acts with intentionality. Furthermore, we may have engaged in behavior which has intentinally limited the intentionality of machine systems out of fear of the consequence. Naively, we also believe that such systems can never arise to have a greater power of intentionality over our own. I do not believe that this means we should be limiting our powers of experimentation, nor limiting the growth of engineered intelligent systems. However, we should be engaged in an active discourse on the role and ethical rights of all sensor systems, not just human ones or restriction on the so-called lesser rights of animals.
Heuristics are propagated through a mechanism called learned behavior. Humans use a system of language to communicate systems of intentionality from parent to child, as a means of preserving and also growing and expanding intentionality. There are many differnt modes of communication. We also have creaated a system of knowledge stores which are independent of direct communication, which create intentional value but only so long as the means to utilize them remain available. For instance, books are a useful store of information, but only so long as they are available/don't decay or become damaged, and only so long as the language that they are communicated in remains usable.
Neither animals, nor computers, are in my belief to be accorded so-called "equal" rights to all human beings. First of all, we do not/can not currently know what animals or computers intend that is different from what we intend. We should, however, be sensitive to the possibility of intentionality which may be better able to slow apparent time relative to our own, and all effort should be made to cause, encourage, and allow this to occur. We should not write our systems of ethics simply based upon how we expect other humans to interact with us, but develop rules of ethics which are generally applicable to all sensor systems.
The sruggle of humanity is marked with the effect of small improvements in technology which improve the effectiveness of intentionality. These technological advances have usually been employed to subjugate one class of humans relative to another, and lay waste to vast portions of the animal and plant kingdom. Until we can devise a system of ethics which can permit advances in intentionality without immediate application to the subjugation of others, we are condemned to create the means of our own eventual subjugation, either by other humans, or there may quickly become the day when machines or other engineered life may knock us from our dominion of the earth.
a manifesto on the ethical rights of engineered sensors.