Friday, January 13, 2017

Simulation, Purpose and Declarative Computation.

The Simulation argument: Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so!

Although I don't see eye to eye with the North American de-facto Intelligent Design movement on many of their ID specifics or identify with their anti-academic establishment ethos, I nevertheless keep up with one of their web sites, Uncommon Descent. In particular Canadian ID reporter Denise O'Leary often has something interesting for me to chew over, although as per the de-facto IDists in general she loathes the publicly funded academic community; after all, they've rejected ID, certainly in the form that Uncommon Descent promotes it. If and when academia does promote ID it surfaces in a very different form to de-facto ID as we shall see below.

Denise O'leary does make herself useful though; like the good press bloodhound that she is, she sniffs around the boundaries of established academia looking for deconstruction material. Inevitably, like any work in progress, establishment disciplines have those loose ends where things don't quite add up; that's only to be expected of any discipline worth its salt where the learning curve is never complete. Such disciplines are necessarily in a state of flux as ideas are probed and tested to be eventually selected, rejected or put into at least a temporary limbo. Thanks to Denise O'leary I don't have to go looking for these academic wild cards myself - I wait for her to find them for me! In this connection I have two posts by O'leary of interest and I will talk about these here.

The first post is titled: "Quantum like model of partially directed evolution?" and it quotes the abstract of a recent paper which explores what it calls "The partial directivity of evolution". The paper is pay-walled and so isn't readily accessible. However, in another academic universe that reference to "partial directivity" might go under the term teleology! If so, then I'm glad to see that this subject is being honestly aired as I'm doing so myself in my Meloncolia I project.  But as O'leary states this paper is moving into controversial territory; mainstream evolutionists tend to give the slightest hint of teleology a wide berth; after all, how does teleology reduce to the familiar and tractable mathematics of law and disorder? For if the universe is the cosmic equivalent of a goal seeking complex adaptive system then there are grave doubts as to whether its operation could ultimately be reduced to equations; as John Holland, in his first lecture at the Santa Fe institute, indicated the very rationale for a complex adaptive system is that reality doesn't readily reduce to tractable equations!

Denise O'leary's reaction to the thought of "directivity" is as follows:

 The thought seems information must already be present in the system before sustainable evolutionary strategies can develop. Here, that’s called evolutionary informatics, but it is a dangerous topic to consider.

True, as we've seen in this blog conventional evolution would require the needed information to reside in the conjectured spongeam, But I think it unlikely that the spongeam actually exists; conventional physics, I would hazard, doesn't carry the requisite information. Instead physics has the character of a constrained exponential search that creates information rather than has information built-in from the start. It is quantum mechanics, I conjecture, which gives nature's search its exponential power. It is this exponential character which means that information is created at a linear rate rather than at an imperceptible logarithmic rate. This search, I tender, is part of a declarative rather than imperative computational paradigm and is therefore purposeful. But herein lies the rub: The teleological information needed to select what the search turns up need not reside in the system in any apparent and simple mathematical way. Purposeful information may reside outside the search processes and only become apparent as information gets fixed by purposeful selection. This, unfortunately, is likely to present an intractable epistemic problem for science and this is not going to endear teleology to the conventional science practitioner.  

O'leary's second post conveniently follows on in this teleological vein and is titled "Could evolution have a higher purpose?". This post quotes New York Times science writer Robert Wright who in turn references the establishment figures Nick Bostrom  and Neil deGrasse-Tyson, figures who have dared to moot the idea of reality-as-a-computer-simulation, a theory which, as many point out has obvious resemblances to theism. See also my rather tongue-in-cheek comments on simulation theory here.

O'Leary quotes the following gem from Wright:

The New Yorker reported earlier this year that “two tech billionaires” — it didn’t say whether Musk is one of them — “have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.

I don't think it is possible to "break out" of a simulation  without destroying one self, although it may in principle be possible for us to at become aware we are created simulated beings. Perhaps that is what the Originator of the simulation is looking for; like the Monolith creators of Arthur C Clarke's 2001 Space Odyssey this Originator is waiting for us to become technically advanced enough to become aware of the simulation before he/she/it makes a move! As you can see with simulation theory the distinction between science and science fiction starts to become blurred!

For right wingers like O'leary the academic establishment is perceived as a major player in the "liberal" conspiracy against them and theism. Therefore that teleological concepts tantamount to ID are being mooted by establishment figures is surprising. It is very likely, however, that teleology will remain unpopular with establishment scientists who will continue to plod along with their procedural paradigm of physics. This paradigm is expressed in the imperative algorithms of law and disorder mathematics rather than the goal seeking declarative paradigm which is liable to compromise epistemic tractability. 

Summing up O'Leary says: 

So the obvious answer is yes, evolution can have a higher purpose but then it must originate in an intelligence capable of purpose.

Yes, I would go along with that: The concept of purpose is meaningless unless one assumes that intelligence is a fundamental, a-priori and irreducible aspect of reality. But did O'leary just say that evolution can have a higher purpose? That sounds just like the theistic evolutionists of Biologos, a Christian academic establishment group which O'leary despises!  A criticism  of theistic evolution by de-facto IDists is that theistic evolution places theism beyond scientific testing in contrast to de-facto ID's God-of-the-gaps interpretation.  The latter makes ID testable by looking for a gap in science and then applying misguided ID's epistemic filter

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