The circuit would learn just as the brain does, no algorithmic changes ever needed past that point, as the self-modification is built into the algorithm.

This limits the amount of modification one can do.

Limits it compared to what?. Every circuit is equivalent to a program. The circuit of a general processor is equivalent to a program which simulates another circuit - the program which it keeps in memory.

Current Von Neumman processors are not the only circuits which have this simulation-flexibility. The brain has similar flexibility using very diff... (read more)

However, it is much more of an open question in computer science if we will ever be able to greatly improve on the statistical inference algorithm used in the cortex. It is quite possible that evolution had enough time to solve that problem completely - or at least reach some nearly global maxima.

This is unlikely. We haven't been selected based on sheer brain power or brain inefficiency. Humans have been selected by their ability to reproduce in a complicated environment. Efficient intelligence helps, but there's selection for a lot of other things, suc... (read more)

3JoshuaZ9yIf we have many generations of rapid improvement of the algorithms this will be much easier if one doesn't need to make new hardware each time. The general trend should still occur this way. I'm also not sure that you can reach that conclusion about the cortex given that we don't have a very good understanding of how the brain's algorithms function. That seems plausibly correct but we don't actually know that. Given how much humans rely on vision it isn't at all implausible that there have been subtle genetic tweaks that make our visual regions more effective in processing visual data (I don't know the literature in this area at all). Incorrect, the best factoring algorithms are subexponential. See for example the quadratic field sieve [] and the number field sieve [] both of which have subexponential running time. This has been true since at least the early 1980s (there are other now obsolete algorithms that were around before then that may have had slightly subexponential running time. I don't know enough about them in detail to comment.) Factoring primes is always easy. For any prime p, it has no non-trivial factorizations. You seem to be confusing factorization with primality testing. The second is much easier than the first; we've had Agrawal's algorithm [] which is provably polynomial time for about a decade. Prior to that we had a lot of efficient tests that were empirically faster than our best factorization procedures. We can determine the primality of numbers much larger than those we can factor. Really? The general number field sieve is simple and short? Have you tried to understand it or write an implementation? Simple and short compared to what exactly? There are some tasks where we can argue that humans are doing a good job by comparison to others in the animal kingdom. Vision is a good example of

Theists are wrong; is theism?

by Will_Newsome 1 min read20th Jan 2011539 comments


Many folk here on LW take the simulation argument (in its more general forms) seriously. Many others take Singularitarianism1 seriously. Still others take Tegmark cosmology (and related big universe hypotheses) seriously. But then I see them proceed to self-describe as atheist (instead of omnitheist, theist, deist, having a predictive distribution over states of religious belief, et cetera), and many tend to be overtly dismissive of theism. Is this signalling cultural affiliation, an attempt to communicate a point estimate, or what?

I am especially confused that the theism/atheism debate is considered a closed question on Less Wrong. Eliezer's reformulations of the Problem of Evil in terms of Fun Theory provided a fresh look at theodicy, but I do not find those arguments conclusive. A look at Luke Muehlhauser's blog surprised me; the arguments against theism are just not nearly as convincing as I'd been brought up to believe2, nor nearly convincing enough to cause what I saw as massive overconfidence on the part of most atheists, aspiring rationalists or no.

It may be that theism is in the class of hypotheses that we have yet to develop a strong enough practice of rationality to handle, even if the hypothesis has non-negligible probability given our best understanding of the evidence. We are becoming adept at wielding Occam's razor, but it may be that we are still too foolhardy to wield Solomonoff's lightsaber Tegmark's Black Blade of Disaster without chopping off our own arm. The literature on cognitive biases gives us every reason to believe we are poorly equipped to reason about infinite cosmology, decision theory, the motives of superintelligences, or our place in the universe.

Due to these considerations, it is unclear if we should go ahead doing the equivalent of philosoraptorizing amidst these poorly asked questions so far outside the realm of science. This is not the sort of domain where one should tread if one is feeling insecure in one's sanity, and it is possible that no one should tread here. Human philosophers are probably not as good at philosophy as hypothetical Friendly AI philosophers (though we've seen in the cases of decision theory and utility functions that not everything can be left for the AI to solve). I don't want to stress your epistemology too much, since it's not like your immortal soul3 matters very much. Does it?

Added: By theism I do not mean the hypothesis that Jehovah created the universe. (Well, mostly.) I am talking about the possibility of agenty processes in general creating this universe, as opposed to impersonal math-like processes like cosmological natural selection.

Added: The answer to the question raised by the post is "Yes, theism is wrong, and we don't have good words for the thing that looks a lot like theism but has less unfortunate connotations, but we do know that calling it theism would be stupid." As to whether this universe gets most of its reality fluid from agenty creators... perhaps we will come back to that argument on a day with less distracting terminology on the table.



1 Of either the 'AI-go-FOOM' or 'someday we'll be able to do lots of brain emulations' variety.

2 I was never a theist, and only recently began to question some old assumptions about the likelihood of various Creators. This perhaps either lends credibility to my interest, or lends credibility to the idea that I'm insane.

Or the set of things that would have been translated to Archimedes by the Chronophone as the equivalent of an immortal soul (id est, whatever concept ends up being actually significant).