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Cardinal Utilities?

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Put another way. Rothbard is saying that the method of our ratiocination must correspond to the level of sentience of the object of our ratiocination.

If we are deducing things about objects with no understanding, our rules of deduction must be of one sort. But if we are thinking about beings with brains, our rules of deduction must meet a higher standard.

I totally disagree and assert that such a thesis cannot be proven. I further go on a limb and assert that it defys common snese. Rules of deduction are always the same, no matter the subject.

Rothbard's argument reminds me of the Marxian atitude that there is one logic for the rich, and another for the poor. Marx decided logic is different depending on the thinker. Rothbard is saying the rules are different depending on the subject. No way.

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A final thought. A computer certainly cannot understand the intermediate steps of a logical chain of reasoning. It cannot understand anything. It is a dead lump of machinery. And yet one can create a program that wiil deduce things correctly about thinking human beings.

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Dave, all a computer can do is deduce what the programmer has already deducted or is capable of deducting.  Garbage in, garbage out.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Eric replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 12:01 PM

A final thought. A computer certainly cannot understand the intermediate steps of a logical chain of reasoning. It cannot understand anything. It is a dead lump of machinery. And yet one can create a program that wiil deduce things correctly about thinking human beings.

A computer (assuming the technology is availible) can do anything a brian can do. If brains can "understand," so can computers.

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Giant_Joe replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 12:31 PM

A computer (assuming the technology is availible) can do anything a brian can do. If brains can "understand," so can computers.

Care to elaborate? Deduction through electronics (or through thought) is different from senses and experience. No?

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1. I meant meaningful in the sense Rothbard meant, that the intermediate step can be translated into English and assert something about the real world. [As opposed to, say, [-1][-1]=1]

With your understanding of meaningful [=of benefit to the human] symbolic logic is also meaningful every step of the way, which R. says it isnt.

How can Mu/P=Mu/P, an intermediate step, being translated into English and assert an actual thing about the world?

I don't see why. The only thing of interest is the conclusion. Who cares if the middle steps, such as the use of -1 times -1 equals one, has meaning?

Then the analysis isn't correct, since you aren't describing how humans actually make choices. Economics tries to explain things how they occur in the real world. Neoclassical economics has a tendency to create mathematical worlds where individuals compute dozens of equations in their heads to make simple decisions in life. Whats the point of doing all of that if you aren't actually explaining real world phemoneon?

A good example of this is probability theory. Wondering if it is a good idea to bet that heads will land ten thousand times in a row [or another more complictaed question that needs adcnaced math], our human actor writes a string of uninterpretable equations and comes up with "the odds are a zillion to one of you winning." That's all he needs. He need not have an interpreatation of the process of integration from - infinity to plus infinity etc etc.

Here you have it. Analyzing the formation of a price [how much is alottery ticket with suc odds worth], dealing with a concious human being freely making a choice [to buy or not to buy, that is the question], and each step along the analysis cannot possibly describe human decision making and thought.

Actors can certainly compute complicated equations trying to forecast expected class probabilities. But those are class probabilities, and the coins don't have minds of their own, unlike humans. But this has nothing to do with the formation of price. Regardless of whether an actor computes extensive equations about probabilities of coins or to compare the efficiencies of different machines, he still treats them as goods and must rank them on value scales with units of money. Regardless of whatever the equations about our outcome, he still has to weigh the expected servicability of the good with forgoing money units. And that is where the value scale approach suceeds, because every step can coherently explain how individuals make purhcases.

3. The only arguments Ive seen that are valid about why math is inapplicable to economics deal not with the process of mathematical reasoning after the initial assumptions are made, but with the initial assumptions themselves being a farce. But once you grant the initial assumptions implicit in an equation about economic life, you can't stop the ride anymore. The use of math will lead only to conclusions that indeed follow logically and impeccably from the intial equation.

Mathematical equations can lead to logically "correct" statements about human action. But as I stated earlier, are they logically correct statements that pertain to the real world? You can use functions that treat utility scales as continous, but humans only think in discrete units. Or how humans by X goods at Y price by choosing the optimal bundle of X goods along with Z goods based on how a particular indifference curve of bundles X/Z hit a particular budget constriant according to the price already posted. But none of that actually explains the formation of prices, nor how individuals conduct themselves in real life.

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Eric replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 12:47 PM

Care to elaborate? Deduction through electronics (or through thought) is different from senses and experience. No?

There is nothing special about being carbon based as opposed to silicon based which allows the brain to do things which a computer in principle can't do. Is there anything specificaly about a brain which makes it unable to be replicated by a computer in your opinion?

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Is there anything specificaly about a brain which makes it unable to be replicated by a computer in your opinion?

I don't know. Maybe. I just thing it's bold to be certain it's the case that a computer can do anything that a brain can do. I'm skeptical, either way.

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I wish that bold statement would have been backed up by sound reasoning rather than a shameless attempt to shift the burden of proof.

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Eric replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 6:46 PM

What about the brain being carbon based makes it so special? Is there some algorithm which it can carry out that in principle cannot be carried out by a computer?

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What about the brain being carbon based makes it so special?

People think the brain is special because it's carbon based?

Is there some algorithm which it can carry out that in principle cannot be carried out by a computer?

I don't know. You tell us. You were the one so confident as to exclaim that a computer can do anything a brain can.

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Eric replied on Sun, Apr 10 2011 1:32 PM

People think the brain is special because it's carbon based?

People think the brain is special for a lot of fallacious reasons.

I don't know. You tell us. You were the one so confident as to exclaim that a computer can do anything a brain can.

Okay then. No, there is no sequence of operations carried out by the brain which in principle cannot be carried out by a computer. The only difference betwen a brain and a computer other than the materials each are composed of is their degree of complication.

If you think otherwise, point out an example.

 

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Humans can do meta-thinking, which a computer cannot.

For example, a computer cannot prove Godel's incompleteness theorem for the language the computer is programmed in, but Godel can.

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 9:07 PM

Why couldn't you create a computer with a brain infrastructure exactly like that of a human?

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i dont think anyone knows what it is inside our skulls that make us self aware, or what lets us think about what we are thinking about. This latter is needed to produce a Godels theorem.

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 10:25 PM

We definitely do not currently know it. We are, however, moving in that direction.

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dchernik replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 10:52 PM

Oh guys, you made me laugh... Aren't you assuming materialistic monism, at least for humans?

And who says human minds "carry out algorithms"? I mean, I have an algorithm in mind on how to make a sandwich, but I am not a number-crunching machine. Look, I think thoughts; I do not execute instructions like (0 volts AND 5 volts) fed through the right transistor yields 0 volts or anything like that. The computer does not "know" that 0 volts to me means "false," and 5 volts, "true."

Even in terms of the brain, the brain is a living organ, and it obviously functions differently from a microprocessor. For example, there are no logic gates in it.

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 10:58 PM

there are no logic gates in it.

Neurons work like on/off switches.

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dchernik replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 11:12 PM

On/off switches that work exactly like the circuits in an ALU?

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 11:25 PM

I don't know the details of ALUs in computers, but if you know more about the structure of the neuron you can create a model neuron in a computer.

We use simplified neuron models in machine learning to create "neural networks" that act similarly to human systems.

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dchernik replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 11:34 PM

Way to go, certainly. Next thing you know, you'll be yelling "It's alive!"

Here's a philosophical point.

Unlike the will, which is not bound to any particular good, the intellect is bound to the true. In seeking truth, the intellect works according to rules of thinking, such as logic. But a machine is also law-bound. For that reason, it can simulate certain aspects of the search for truth. But not replace it.

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dchernik replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 11:56 PM

The point of the brain seems to be to serve the mind or the psychosomatic union of the mind and body. Thinking, like practical decision-making and abstract science, understanding, and wisdom, takes place on the level of conscious experience. This is one level higher than the workings of inanimate nature. You seem to be arguing that anything the mind can discover, a machine can, too. Thus, a robot in some distant future may produce the works of Shakespeare or be a better economist than Mises quite despite, for example, the fact that the robot can have no beliefs (including justified true ones). If true, that would be pretty neat: 1st-level nature will be shown to be just as capable as 2nd-level consciousness. But why bother discussing such science fiction? Let's stick with "simplified neuron models" for now.

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Wheylous replied on Sat, Oct 22 2011 11:59 PM

I didn't understand that post.

the will, which is not bound to any particular good

Good as in "goodness" or as in "good and service"?

a machine is also law-bound. For that reason, it can simulate certain aspects of the search for truth. But not replace it.

I don't see how this follows...

What point are you trying to make?

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 12:05 AM

the mind

The mind is simply a romanticized abstraction from the physical world. There is no mind beyond the brain.

You seem to be arguing that anything the mind can discover, a machine can, too

Not now. Maybe not for a while. But eventually, yes.

1st-level nature will be shown to be just as capable as 2nd-level consciousness

Again, it's all physics, despite what you'd like it to be.

despite, for example, the fact that the robot can have no beliefs

Unsubstantiated claim.

But why bother discussing such science fiction? Let's stick with "simplified neuron models" for now.

My bad, should we start by trying to recreate the whole in its entirety without figuring out how the simplified parts work?

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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 12:16 AM

I'm just drawing a distinction between the will and the intellect. The will is free; the mind is not.

Free-will adds two differentiae to the will: first, the fact that not all desires can be satisfied, and therefore, desires have to be ranked according to urgency or subjective importance; second, the fact that no single state of the trinity within – i.e., ends chosen, knowledge of how to attain those ends, and the powers to make one’s dreams come true – is essential to man. Any material entity, if it stopped obeying its own natural laws, would cease to be what it was. It would instantly corrupt, and some new substance would be generated. It is true that the will seeks happiness by necessity, but a man is able to pursue happiness in a wide variety of ways: no particular manner of this pursuit is essential to him. A man can switch from pursuing x to pursuing y and remain a man, what he is.

On the other hand, the mind is not free to stop believing that 2 + 2 = 4; if it did, it would be in error; whereas the will, in stopping desiring vanilla and starting desiring chocolate, is not in error. There are complications here, too, but that's just what I was talking about.

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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 12:17 AM

That's just where the discussion should have started: with metaphysics (or rather your denial that there is any such thing as metaphysics, because there is nothing "meta" -- beyond or after -- regarding physics), not computer science.

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Malachi replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 11:16 AM

You guys seem to be taking metaphysical materialism as a given out of ignorance of any alternatives rather than a specific choice.

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 11:41 AM

I'm not exactly sure what "metaphysical materialism" is, but what alternatives do yo upresent?

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Malachi replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 11:56 AM

Well you are already familiar with the existence of "immaterial objects" such as ideas and beliefs, and that they have properties such as truth, falsehood, and utility. I submit that immaterial objects affect material objects in ways that metaphysical materialism cannot account for. If you have ever "known" you were being watched without any evidence then you know what I mean.

This phenomenon might be partially or totally absent in your experience. but there is a body of literature that makes these claims and a complete philosophical system should address them. Rand dismissed them as "superstition" and "mysticism." 

To be fair, the material sciences have worked very hard to explain everything they can, and hide everything they cannot. But the existence of auras was proven by kirlian photography, and it is an accepted diagnostic technique in russia, this drive scientists to discover an explanation that conforms with scientific materialism, and they discovered that humans have the ability to perceive magnetic fields with their eyes, just like birds. Its just good p.r. For scientists to dismiss any claims that did not come from one of their own.

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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 3:12 PM

For a person who does not know what materialism is, you are pretty sure that materialism is true.

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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 3:32 PM

Wheylous, so, according to you, the difference between living things (tiger) and inanimate things (rock) is the complexity of the matter out of which the former is made. A tiger is just like a rock, just vastly more complex, and that's what makes him seem different from the rock. But falsely so.

So, in the future, life will be created in the lab out of inanimate matter.

In a still more distant future, when scientists put together a sufficient number of artificial neurons together, we can be quite sure that a consciousness of some sort will also emerge.

The reason why humans are not dumb as doorknobs lies in the complexity of their brains and the apparent primitiveness of doorknobs.

Complexity, then, is a kind of a god, accounting for objects so seemingly (but in fact not) different as a flower and a newspaper.

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 4:15 PM

For a person who does not know what materialism is, you are pretty sure that materialism is true.

It was more of the metaphysical part...

Wheylous, so, according to you ... newspaper.

Basically, though I might disagree with some specific word choice:

A tiger is just like a rock, just vastly more complex, and that's what makes him seem different from the rock. But falsely so.

It is different from a rock (it has different types of atoms and different arrangements of these atoms), but there's nothing to it beyond the physical (no 5th realm of souls, for example).

 

The whole romanticized concept of life breaks down when you look at all the different types of "life."

Are viruses life? They are merely DNA that gets injected into cells to produce more DNA. An analogy is pieces of paper in a box with orders for more pieces of paper in boxes to be randomly mailed out to people.

We are able to take DNA from one creature and put it into the genome of another.

Writing my college essay, I've stumble on another example that leads me to question "what is life?":

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital to receive radiation treatment for cervical cancer. There, cells taken from her body without her knowledge were grown in a culture and are still alive today. 

Her cells live on 60 years after her death. They keep dividing, keep growing, etc. Are they alive? Certainly they're not "a human." But they keep reproducing and multiplying. Is that life?

Also, scientists have created the first artificual genome cell: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703559004575256470152341984.html

They took the DNA of one species, edited it, turned it into whatever they liked, and then put it into a different species and had a new organism that used the new DNA.

Looking at these tiny examples allows us to see that life is quite romanticized.

If you had a petri dish sitting on a table filled with a useless, harmless, naturally-plentiful bacterium, and I told you "if you pour hand sanitizer on the bacteria (killing them) I will give you $100." Would you do it? What if it was a worm? A fly? A rat? A cat? A dog? A monkey?

Where do we draw the line for what life is valued at $100 and what life is not valued at that price?

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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 4:20 PM

Would you still agree that

"0V applied to input A of a transistor coupled with 5V applied to input B yields output 0V"
 
and
 
thinking "true AND false = false"
 
are completely different phenomena?
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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 4:26 PM

Kevin Lomax: What about love?

John Milton: Overrated. Biochemically no different than eating large quantities of chocolate.

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 4:32 PM

Depends on what you mean by "completely different." Comparing extremely complex systems to simple ones isn't as simple as you make it sound. Using reality to see whether apples fall down to earth and running a computer simulation of the entire earth and an apple to see whether apples fall down to earth are not the same thing.

What I'm saying is that there are certain physical processes that allow us to be what we are. Do you think there is something beyond the physical? Some conscience out beyond the physical? And is it this conscience which allows us to think?

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So Wheylous, you are arguing that there are measurable utils, and that once we discover them we can institute Benthamite utilitarianism?

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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 5:51 PM

You should probably allow that people who hold that some things, though fully physical, are not merely physical, are not a priori talking crazy.

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 5:57 PM

Astrippus - is that what it sounds like here? Because you know I'm not. I specifically argue against that in the other thread.

dchernik - maybe not crazy, but irrational and illogical, perhaps.

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dchernik replied on Sun, Oct 23 2011 6:01 PM

Suppose you meet a person, Smith, who calls himself a "freethinker." You object: mind is the brain is matter and not free at all! There is no such thing as free thought. But Smith replies that he can survey possibilities. He can explore ideas. In short, he can contemplate possible worlds. (1) Is he deluding himself? Are men and machines equally unfree in this sense? (2) Can a machine do what Smith claims is the human exclusive priviledge? Are men and machines equally free?

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But you said that everything is physical, therefore it must be possible to discover utils.  In that case you must either argue for the existence of measurable utils or deny that utility exists at all.  Do you still hold to materialist monism?

Mises' answer to this, since he is an economist and not a professional philosopher or neuroscientist, is one of agnosticism and in favour of methodological dualism due to its functionality.  See p. 1 of Theory and History

 

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