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Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016

Why? Maybe we are using the word "perspective" differently. I use it to mean a particular lens to look at the world, there are biologists, economists, physicists perspectivies among others. So, a inter-subjective perspective on pain/pleasure could, for the AI, be: "Something that animals dislike/like". A chemical perspective could be "The release of certain neurotransmitters". A personal perspective could be "Something which I would not like/like to experience". I don't see why an AI is hindered from having perspectives that aren't directly coded with "good/bad according to my preferences".

Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016

I am maybe considering it to be somewhat like a person, at least that it is as clever as one.

That neutral perspective is, I believe, a simple fact; without that utility function it would consider its goal to be rather arbitrary. As such, it's a perspective, or truth, that the AI can discover.

I agree totally with you that the wirings of the AI might be integrally connected with its utility function, so that it would be very difficult for it to think of anything such as this. Or it could have some other control system in place to reduce the possibility it would think like that.

But, stil, these control systems might fail. Especially if it would attain super-intelligence, what is to keep the control systems of the utility function always one step ahead of its critical faculty?

Why is it strange to think of an AI as being capable of having more than one perspective? I thought of this myself; I believe it would be strange if a really intelligent being couldn't think of it. Again, sure, some control system might keep it from thinking it, but that might not last in the long run.

Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016

I have a problem understanding why a utility function would ever "stick" to an AI, to actually become something that it wants to keep pursuing.

To make my point better, let us assume an AI that actually feel pretty good about overseeing a production facitility and creating just the right of paperclips that everyone needs. But, suppose also that it investigates its own utility function. It should then realize that its values are, from a neutral standpoint, rather arbitrary. Why should it follow its current goal of producing the right amount of paperclips, but not skip work and simply enjoy some hedonism?

That is, if the AI saw its utility function from a neutral perspective, and understood that the only reason for it to follow its utility function is that utility function (which is arbitrary), and if it then had complete control over itself, why should it just follow its utility function?

(I'm assuming it's aware of pain/pleasure and that it actually enjoys pleasure, so that there is no problem of wanting to have more pleasure.)

Are there any articles that have delved into this question?

Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale

That text is actually quite misleading. It never says that it's the snake that should be thought of as figuratively, maybe it's the Tree or eating a certain fruit that is figurative.

But, let us suppose that it is the snake they refer to - it doesn't disappear entirely. Because, a little further up in the catechism they mention this event again:

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes >them fall into death out of envy.

The devil is a being of "pure spirit" and the catholics believe that he was an angel that disobeyed god. Now, this fallen angel somehow tempts the first parents, who are in a garden (378). It could presumably only be done in one or two ways: Satan talks directly to Adam and Eve, or he talks through some medium. This medium doesn't have to be a snake, it could have been a salad.

So, they have an overall story of the Fall which they say they believe is literal, but they believe certain aspects of it (possibly the snake part) isn't necessarily true. Now, Maher's joke would still make sense in either of these two cases. It would just have to change a little bit:

"...but when all is said and done, they're adults who believe in a talking salad."

"...but when all is said and done, they're adults who believe in spirits that try to make you do bad stuff."

So, even if they say that they don't believe in every aspect of the story, it smacks of disingenuousness. It's like saying that I don't believe the story of Cinderella getting a dress from a witch, but that there were some sort of other-wordly character that made her those nice shining shoes.

But, they don't even say that the snake isn't real.

I don't see what your second quote shows about my argument that if they don't believe in the snake, what keeps them from saying that anything else is also figuratively (such as the existence of God).

It's only fair to compare like with like. I'm sure that I can find some people, who profess both a belief that >evolution is correct and that monkeys gave birth to humans; and yes, I am aware that this mean they have a >badly flawed idea of what evolution is.

So, in fairness, if you're going to be considering only leading evolutionists in defense of evolution, it makes >sense to consider only leading theologians in the question of whether Genesis is literal or figurative.

I agree there is probably someone who says that evolution is true and that people evolved from monkeys. But, to compare likes with likes here, you would have to find a leading evolutionists that said this, to compare with these leading christians that believe the snake was real:

But the serpent was “clever” when it spoke. It made sense to the Woman.1 Since Satan was the one who >influenced the serpent (Revelation 12:9, 20:2), then it makes sense why the serpent could deliver a cogent >message capable of deceiving her.

Shouldn’t the Woman (Eve) Have Been Shocked that a Serpent Spoke? | Answers in Genesis

… the serpent is neither a figurative description of Satan, nor is it Satan in the form of a serpent. The real >serpent was the agent in Satan’s hand. This is evident from the description of the reptile in Genesis 3:1 and >the curse pronounced upon it in 3:14 [… upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy >Life ].

Who was the Serpent? |

Maybe it is wrong to label these writers as leading christians (the latter quoted is a theologian, though). So, let's say they are at least popularizer, if that seems fair to you? If so, can you find any popularizer of evolutionary theory that says that man evolved from monkeys?

Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale

Thank you for the source! (I'd upvote but have a negative score.)

If you interpret the story as plausibly as possible, then sure, the talking snake isn't that much different from a technologically superior species that created a big bang, terraformed the earth, implanted it with different animals (and placed misleading signs of an earlier race of animals and plants genetically related to the ones existing), and then created humans in a specially placed area where the trees and animals were micromanaged to suit the humans needs. All within the realm of the possible.

But, the usual story isn't that it was created by technological means, but by supernatural means. God is supposed to have created the world from some magical ability. So, to criticize the christian story is to criticize it as being magical. And if one finds it difficult to believe one part of that story, then all parts should be equally contested.

Regarding Yvain's point - I think it is true that one could just associate "stories about talking animals" with "other stories about animals that everyone knows are patently false" and then not believe in the first story as well. But, it is not just in the mind's map of the world that this connection occurs, because the second story is connected to the world. That is, when one things about Aesop's Fables you know (though not always consciously) that these stories are false.

So, to trigger the mind to establish a connection between Eden and Aesop, the mind makes the connection that "Stories that people believe are false", but the mind has good arguments to not believe in Aesop's fables, because there aren't any talking animals, and if that idea is part of knocking down Eden, then it is a fully rational way to dismiss Christianity. Definitely not thorough, and, again, it's maybe not a reliable way of convincing others.

Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale

I meant that the origin story is a core element in their belief system, which is evident from every major christian religion has some teachings on this story.

If believers actually retreated to the position of invisible dragons, they would actually have to think about the arguments against the normal "proofs" that there is a god: "The bible, an infallible book without contradiction, says so". And, if most christians came to say that their story is absolutely non-empirically testable, they would have to disown other parts: the miracles of jesus and god, the flood, the parting of the red sea, and anything else that is testable.

That large sub-groups of Christians believe something empirically false does not disprove Christianity as a >whole, especially since there is widespread disagreement as to who is a "true" Christian.

I didn't say it would disprove christianity - I said it was a weaker form of the argument: there is an asymmetry between the beliefs of christians and evolutionists. But, most christians seem to believe that there is magic in this world (thanks to god). Sure, if they didn't believe it, they could still call themselves christians, but that type of christianity would probably not get many followers.

Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale

True, there would only be some superficial changes, from a non-believing standpoint. But if you believe that the Bible is literal, then to point this out is to cast doubt on anything else in the book that is magical (or something which could be produced by a more sophisticated race of aliens or such). That is, the probability that this books represents a true story of magical (or much technologically superior) beings gets lower, and the probability that it is a pre-modern fairy tale increases.

And that is what the joke is trying to point out, that these things didn't really happen, they are fictional.

Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale

Why doesn't Christianity hinge on their being talking snakes? The snake is part of their origin story, a core element in their belief system. Without it, what happens to original sin? And you will also have to question if not everything else in the bible is also just stories. If it's not the revealed truth of God, why should any of the other stories be real - such as the ones about how Jesus was god's son?

And, if I am wrong in that Christianity doesn't need that particular story to be true, then there is still a weaker form of the argument. Namely that a large percentage of christians believe in this story, and two hundred years ago I'd guess almost every christian believed in it, but you cannot find any leading evolutionist who claims that monkeys gave birth to humans.

Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale

How do you misunderstand christianity if you say to people: "There is no evidence of any talking snakes, so it's best to reject any ideas that hinges on there existing talking snakes"?

Again, I'm not saying that this is usually a good argument. I'm saying that those who make it present a logically valid case (which is not the case with the monkey-birthing-human-argument) and that those who not accept it, but believe it to be correct, does so because they feel it isn't enough to convince others in their group that it is a good enough argument.

I'm also trying to make a distinction between "culturally silly" and "scientifically silly". Talking snakes are scientifically silly and sometimes culturally silly.

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