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The Lounge: Chat. Relax. Unwind. > How did a bunch of molecules become sentient?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13503 comments I guess it's kinda natural along with having a thread about evolution of life, to ask how those chemical compositions after coming into life also managed to acquire what some call - a cognition?
Also, with TV, internet, gadgets and all, do you think a sentience is reversible and how soon could it happen?


message 2: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Personally, I see sentience as an emergent phenomenon from a sufficiently complex and organised physical information processing system.

Note: I using sentience, cognition, consciousness and intelligence as more or less synonyms.

Some assumptions and implications are,
[1] The brain is the "sufficiently complex and organised physical information processing system."
[2] If the brain get's sufficiently damaged (or dies), sentience goes away.
[3] Any physical information processing system, of "sufficient complexity and organisation," would be able to support sentience.

[4 <-3] Implies the possibility of robots, and other life forms (terrestrial, aquatic, alien) with sentience.


message 3: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13503 comments Wonder whether robots and computers can theoretically evolve 'naturally' (as opposed to being man-made) as one of the endless possible variations.... Prima facie, robots may even be better adapted to survive the competition of the fittest. Then we can speak of non-organic civilizations.


message 4: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9516 comments I have no real idea how sentience emerges. I agree with Graeme that it seems to depend on the brain being more or less intact and functioning, but I can't get much further. I think a big problem for robots, etc, is that life has evolved that way because any living entity is by itself, isolated physically, at least until it develops language. Robots, being created, always have some underpinning instructions, and I think that could inhibit them from developing true sentience. They do not have the option of trying whatever, and dying if it doesn't work, while passing on to their successors whatever array of neurons that worked.


message 5: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Life is has features of reproduction and mutation, hence can evolve.

Robots would need both features before they could evolve, and if they had both features would be very much like life.

What could conceivably happen is that humans create a "sufficiently complex and organised physical information processing system," and it wakes up.


message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9516 comments Evolution involves random changes, with the undesirable being killed off. A machine would be based on logic, so it would make its changes based on pre-determined factors, so maybe it cannot make the changes it cannot conceive of.


message 7: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan What you just described is guided modification.

If humans had complete understanding of our own DNA and the capacity to conduct in-situ changes then we could morph our forms to anything that was technically feasible.


message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9516 comments I wonder whether DNA by itself contains sufficient for sentience, or is sentience an emergent property from everything else that DNA orders? I guess we won't know any time soon.


message 9: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Emergent phenomena can occur from simple substrates. DNA only has 4 letters, yet the combinations can produce highly organized life forms.


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9516 comments Yes, but given there is a choice of one in four for each mer, and the polymer, if unravelled, is about five cm long and you would probably get 2 mers to the nm, there is a lot of potential for variation :-)


message 11: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13503 comments Ian wrote: "A machine would be based on logic..."

If they evolved naturally, they wouldn't be machines, but living metallic beings -:)


message 12: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Ian wrote: "Yes, but given there is a choice of one in four for each mer, and the polymer, if unravelled, is about five cm long and you would probably get 2 mers to the nm, there is a lot of potential for vari..."

High information density.

A true marvel.


message 13: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments Nik, you never disappoint when it comes to interesting questions. We're lucky to have you here to ask them. As for the answer to your first question, I have no idea, but I thought your idea that sentience may be reversible was pretty funny. People addicted to gadgets devolving into a puddle of primordial soup right there on the couch.


message 14: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13503 comments Scout wrote: "People addicted to gadgets devolving into a puddle of primordial soup right there on the couch...."

-:) Sometimes need to remind myself to get outta there


message 15: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Must .... un ... plug ...


message 16: by Matthew (last edited Aug 11, 2018 10:49PM) (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) Graeme wrote: "What you just described is guided modification.

If humans had complete understanding of our own DNA and the capacity to conduct in-situ changes then we could morph our forms to anything that was t..."


What you speak of is part of the debate surrounding the Technological Singularity. If and when human beings can develop self-upgrading machines, which we can only assume would involve the development of AI, then the entire process of machine evolution will be out of our hands. And in all likelihood, this will speed up the process exponentially.

Another interesting theory regarding the Technological Singularity is that human beings are destined to upgrade themselves, physically and neurologically, as a natural extension of the evolutionary process. Whereas it once came down to chemistry and DNA, the emergence of sentience would enable intelligence species to begin designing and overseeing the next steps themselves.

description


message 17: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Thanks Matthew, an interesting infographic.

I don't see epoch 6 happening given limitations of communication across the 'vastness of space.'

BWTFDIK?

I personally think that the capacity to make reliable and effective insitu changes to our own DNA will occur within the next thirty years (potentially within my lifetime).

Unfortunately I see three major arenas for this.

[1] Medical - useful.
[2] Military - scary.
[3] Cosmetic - banal.

I think there is a small, but non-zero chances of the following outcomes.

[1] Someone acquires effective god like powers of strength, intelligence and healing and lords it over a vastly reduced pool of feeble humans.

[2] Someone screws up majorly and produces some horrific life form (virus to macro scale) that overwhelms the world.

[3] There is a development of an inimical AI that wrecks havoc.


message 18: by Matthew (last edited Aug 11, 2018 11:53PM) (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) Graeme wrote: "Thanks Matthew, an interesting infographic.

I don't see epoch 6 happening given limitations of communication across the 'vastness of space.'

BWTFDIK?

I personally think that the capacity to make..."


Indeed, and this is why the prospect of the Singularity makes a lot of people nervous. I tend to roll my eyes when people automatically resort to thinking that such changes will bring about a 1984-style scenario. For one, this kind of runaway technological change is likely to empower far too many people, not just a few.

I certainly get the trepidation. But if anything, it's not "Big Brother" we need to be afraid of in the future, it's the complete inability of central authorities to keep up with what the "little people" are doing. And not only that, but if we give machines the ability to think, reproduce, and upgrade themselves, will they determine that they have no use for us anymore?

As for epoch 6, that's something that has been explored by a number of theorists and writers. In fact, Charles Stross suggested that this might be the answer to the Fermi Paradox. The way he saw it, humans and other sentient beings will eventually convert their planets to a swarm "computronium" - regular matter converted to house vast amounts of information - that draws energy directly from their sun and upload their minds into it. Why live in the real world when you spend eternity in virtual environments? And why venture beyond your star when the bandwidth is shitty in interstellar space? ;)


message 19: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Matthew wrote: "but if we give machines the ability to think, reproduce, and upgrade themselves, will they determine that they have no use for us anymore? ..."

I would assume that would be a certainty. Do we have any use for Australopithecines?


message 20: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13503 comments As our main processor - the brain is still largely incomprehensible and some say employs only a fraction of its real capacity, we just need a few usb/hdmi ports and a right cord to connect with the universe - Astralopithecines -:)


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9516 comments Nik wrote: "As our main processor - the brain is still largely incomprehensible and some say employs only a fraction of its real capacity, we just need a few usb/hdmi ports and a right cord to connect with the..."

The problem with that is nobody has announced any improvement. I have heard a prominent neurological authority say that is nonsense, so it is difficult to know who to believe. But I love your Astralopithecines :-) Must go chew on a cosmic banana


message 22: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments Well, you know I had to research Australopithecines to try to understand the in-joke, but I still don't get it, and you probably couldn't explain it, which is the definition of an in-joke. I can live with it :-)

I did understand posts 17 and 18, and thought of the Borg, but I'll try not to let it keep me up at night.


message 23: by Graeme (last edited Aug 12, 2018 10:08PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Scout, are you familiar with Battlestar Galactica and Cylons?


message 24: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments Nope. Is that where I missed the reference to Australopithecines? Or is this about the hive mind?


message 25: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Let's use the Borg as an example.

Let's say that human's build cyborgs who go on to organize themselves as a hive-mind (Borg).

Once they have a fully functioning Borg society, they no longer need humanity anymore.

In the same sort of relationship between modern humans and any of our evolutionary ancestors such as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austral...

We have no need of them in our world, in the same way the Borg would have no use for us - we are an "other," to the Borg who are competing with them for available resources.

The net result of such a conflict is extinction for one of the species.


message 26: by Graeme (last edited Aug 12, 2018 11:30PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan So going back to Matthew's 'Epochs,' chart above. I would suggest that we are part way in to Epoch 4.

The thing about Epoch 5 and 6, is that there is no necessary requirement for human beings to survive within our current physical forms.

Those forms could be radically altered through changes of genetics, or merging with technical artifacts.

Something like Robocop is potentially not that far away given our current technical abilities. (Whether it's a good idea or not is another thing, but my gut feeling is that humans will test this pathway.)

REF: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...


message 27: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9516 comments One question is what do you do with the human mind? If you maintain it in the brain, do you want a whole lot of demented or Alzheimery entities? If you try to put the human mind into a machine, will it be accepted? Do you kill yourself when you try? Given that I am old enough that the end must be near, I would still far prefer it to end than to persist in some sort of bottle where I gradually degenerate into advanced Alzheimers.


message 28: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments Got it. Thanks for the explanation, G :-)

I know the concepts you've explained don't really support what I'm about to say. This is off the cuff. I hadn't thought of this until I read your explanation, but the Borg does bring to mind some similarities with Nazi Germany - the labeling of the Jews as "other" and the attempt to exterminate them. Maybe that's where the hive mind concept originated? I've never understood how so many Germans went along with Hitler's ideas. It's almost as if there was a hive mind operating there. Just an idea.


message 29: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Ian wrote: "One question is what do you do with the human mind? If you maintain it in the brain, do you want a whole lot of demented or Alzheimery entities? If you try to put the human mind into a machine, wil..."

All good questions.


message 30: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Scout, any mass political/social/religious/etc movement has, perhaps, a lot in common with a hive mind where a single approved set of ideas, and understandings are propagated throughout the people participating in the movement.

I view such events as inherently dangerous, but human beings demonstrate that they love the experience, and keep going back to it again and again.


message 31: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments I feel sad about that.


message 32: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Scout wrote: "I feel sad about that."

Sorry.


message 33: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5349 comments Well, it's just human nature. No way to change that.


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