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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • I read, liked, and agreed with most everything. There were a couple of points that still have me scratching my head:

    Why do humans have "self awareness"? Basically the same reason -- if can't communicate a concept of self and aggressively protect it, our real, actual physical self would easily be lost and we wouldn't have offspring.

    Are you saying that self-awareness is necessary for self-defense and generating offspring? If so, it is an interesting perspective not restricted to humans. It makes me think about a book called The Red Queen. The book can be boiled down to the following premise: The net sum of evolution has been to stay 1 step ahead of conditions that would wipe us out. I have always asked myself - why bother. Why not just go gently into that good night.

    Why do humans have "free will"? Because looking out for our own interests rather than those higher on the pecking order, even if only in fits and bursts and in little rebellions, is beneficial to our own survival and the survival of our race.

    Similar question: Why is self-preservation, generation of offspring, and the perpetuation of our race important? I have only read the first few chapters of GEB, but from what I can gather - any self-referencing system of sufficient complexity becomes what the author calls "a strange loop" which is not governed by deterministic rules. Self-preservation need not be necessary. Biologically speaking, if I take what I believe to be your premise to the extreme - the properties of self-awareness and free-will seem like they would have been present very early on for things to have evolved to the point they are now. Or perhaps it is just dumb luck that things survived long enough to develop those qualities and now that they are here we are doing a better job of staying alive.

    To be honest, I don't buy it. Then again, I am a Christian and believe that purpose has been woven into the fabric of the universe though not the traditional creationist perspective.

    With regards to AI: Oh what fun I would have if I had a disposable income and free time.

    • Similar question: Why is self-preservation, generation of offspring, and the perpetuation of our race important?

      It isn't just important -- it's inevitably important. Let me put it another way... let's assume that there was a creature for which self-preservation and offspring wasn't important. Since those weren't priorities, that creature died without offspring and then there were no more. End of story. It is only the entities which self-perpetuate (and protect that process) which continue to exist. Therefore any entity which exists and has existed continuously has those traits :)

      • I have interpreted what scrottie said to mean "free will" is necessary for the perpetuation of our species.

        My first point I attempt to make, is that perpetuation of the species is not at all necessary for "free will" to exist. Any sufficiently complex self-referencing system can be non-deterministic.

        The second point is that it is extremely doubtful that "free will" is necessary for the perpetuation of the species. I take your own argument to the extreme. Take any lower form of life that is not extinct -
    • It’s really very simple. If you extrapolate “survival of the fittest” (which people always confuse with “survival of the best” or “survival of the most advanced”, but that is a rant for another day), the logical conclusion is that under the given conditions, having self-awareness and free will (if we do have free will, which personally I am not so convinced of) has allowed us to survive better than ancestors that did not, at least at one point in the past.

      There wa

      • that's not what I am contending.

        If scrottie had said "self-awareness and free-will help perpetuate the species", I wouldn't have asked for further clarification. I believe that statement to be true.

        I likely have read too much into and too literally his comments, but it seemed to me he was saying:

        1. Free will has come as a result of it being required for survival of the fittest.

        I contend that free will, if equated to non-deterministic behavior, can arise in any sufficiently complex self-referencing system.
        • Well, the point I was making is that free will is clearly unnecessary for survival in general, but may well have been necessary for the survival of mankind. Scott’s statements did start “why do humans have”, after all.

      • I had the same confusion as Limbic Region on these points, though I'm not "Christian".

        You say it's very simple. But you make the qualification that you're not convinced we have "free will". If we do not -- that is if we have no control over our actions but are, rather, subject to deterministic laws of physics -- then it's nonsense to say that "free will" would have anything to do with "our survival", since "our survival" would be just part of a kind of inevitable unfolding of events. And if by "free will",

        • I agree entirely. :-)

          Well, almost – I have to point out that our current understanding of physics is that there is no determinism at the quantum level. Determinism exists only at the macro scale as a probabilistic effect (essentially, there are so overwhelmingly many quantum systems interacting in any meso- or macroscopic system that all statistical deviations are wiped out in the aggregate). But since our brains are composed of parts that operate at small enough scales that quantum effects can con