Emergence of behavior through software

Lynn H. Maxson lmaxson@pacbell.net
Sat, 30 Sep 2000 23:42:10 -0700 (PDT)

Alik Widge wrote:
"I'd argue that this requires definition of the term volition, and 
also an understanding of where exactly one obtains volition. ..."

A reasonable argument.  Let me provide you with a definition 
within the context of this discussion.  Are the results consistent 
with the embedded logic of the software?  If they are, then no 
volition, no "independent" action on the part of the software 
occurs.  On the other hand if the results are inconsistent with 
the embedded logic, then the software on it own, i.e. 
independently, created instructions (or data).  If it did so 
behave independently, then it acted on its own volition.

" To the best of my knowledge, this is not a solvable problem with 
existing knowledge of the human mind."

Fortunately the question does not involve volition within the 
human mind.  Thus how it occurs there it of no interest to us 
here.  If no one can provide a instance whereby software behaves 
inconsistent with the its embedded logic, then it makes no 
difference whether we understand volition or not.  At least in the 
human system it occurs without our knowing why.  It does not occur 
in a computing system of hardware and software.

"However, I wonder at your statement that an organism which has 
inherited behaviors from an external source cannot claim those 
behaviors as its own I have behaviors inherited from my parents, 
from my society, and from my evolutionary ancestors going back to 
single-celled life."

Well, you are going to have some difficulty developing software in 
the same manner of all other living organisms which for the sake 
of argument let's agree evolved from single-cell life.  In fact 
even considering a computing system as an organism puts you in a 
rather deep hole.  Now you have to take something not derived from 
single-cell life, expanding the definition of organism such that 
it becomes the universal class as now there is nothing which we 
cannot consider in some manner belonging to it, e.g. my radial 
saw.  All we have to have is a system and bingo we have an 

Software by itself cannot execute.  It must reside in a machine 
and together they constitute a computing system.  The software in 
or out of the machine is not alive nor is the host machine.  Thus 
we do not have what biology defines as an organism.

Secondly you may have inherited physical traits, but you certainly 
did not inherit behavior.  Behavior in society is not inherited, 
neither the society's behavior nor the individuals which compose 
it.  The behavior of software is not inherited for software does 
not engage in procreative activities as organisms do.

Technically we construct the software's behavior.  We do so 
entirely within the realm of formal logic.  We do the same with 
the machine.  We define both as 100% formal logic systems.  Jecel 
disagrees with me on this, but the machine is 100% based on the 
use of logic circuits (which obey formal logic) and the software 
can do no more than supply a sequence of 100% logic-based 
instructions.  Organisms are not bound by logic.  They cannot be 
constructed with "and", "or", and "not" circuits.  The computer is 
not a brain and the brain is not a computer.

"There is a credible argument that all my actions can be predicted 
by a sufficiently complex simulation containing all these terms."

On the contrary it is an incredible argument.  You should stop 
listening to such drivel.  As humans we can posit the impossible, 
the sufficiently complex simulation, in this instance.  I'm not 
going to invoke Penrose here, but any time you believe that you 
can simulate a living organism to the quantum detail, you best 
rethink it.

"A program could achieve this by stringing together two function 
calls in a way no programmer had instructed it to do."

That's the crux of the argument here.  A program "could" if it 
could free itself of its own instructions.  Then you see you would 
have to come up with where it "acquired" the instructions, i.e. 
told itself, to do this and then where it acquired the 
instructions to do this.  Then you have to at least point out the 
means it used to generate both these sets of instructions without 
acquiring control of the processor.  There is no means from within 
software to address a non-existent set of instructions, to pass 
control to something which does not exist.  In all computing 
systems of which I am aware this generates a "hard" error (or at 
least an address exception<g>).

"But being limited to an instruction set does not preclude 
generation of new strings of instructions."

Not at all.  Again the issue is whether or not any such generated 
string is consistent with the embedded logic.  If you say it may 
not be, then you have to explain how it can occur.  It must occur 
through invoking logic not present with the software.  By 
definition as every meta-program has embedded logic.  Therefore it 
cannot occur through meta-programming.

"You can know the circuit diagrams. You can know the physical 
equations governing the circuit components. However, you cannot 
actually know the behavior of the individual particles which 
comprise the machine, and perturbing a few of those can have 
significant effects, especially as component size decreases and we 
shove fewer charges per operation."

Considering the logic of this I might have saved myself some 
effort by letting you destroy your own "credible argument" about a 
"sufficiently complex simulation".<g>  Nevertheless regardless of 
how small the circuits become their logical function remains the 

"Many have proposed building a true random-number generator into 
processors --- something that would sample noisy physical data and 
produce genuinely unpredictable (as guaranteed by Dr. Heisenberg) 
numbers. What if I use those numbers to generate valid opcodes and 
feed those back into the processor? If I do this an infinite 
number of times, probability says that I will eventually produce 
working programs."

It doesn't bother me to have someone talk about doing the 
impossible, e.g. performing an operation an infinite number of 
times.  I have a somewhat clear picture of the difference between 
science fiction and science fact.

The fascination with random numbers or randomness in general as a 
source for spontaneity in a computing system I find amusing.  
Decision logic in software (if...then...else, 
case...when...otherwise) determines what occurs with any random 
number regardless of its source.  There is no randomness in 
software logic, all possibilities are covered...or else you have a 
software error.

We keep acting as if software were only a set of instructions when 
in reality it has two inter-related spaces, an instruction space 
and a data space.  Moreover the data space has two subspaces, a 
read-only subspace and a read/write subspace.  Instructions 
operate on data or on machine state indicators e.g. branch on 

As one who began his career writing in machine language (actual) 
as no other option existed for the system let me assure you that 
beginning with that time and continuing up until now (and into the 
future) great care in maintaining harmony among data and 
instructions and among instructions and instructions takes place.  
Otherwise the "system" fails.

Now Tunes is involved with avoiding such failures, to have 
reliability not present in current software.  Supposedly this 
occurs through elaboration and sophistication of sufficiently high 
HLL in combination with meta^n-programming and the use of 
reflexive programming.  None of these, however, "allow" 
inconsistent software behavior as they insure consistency with 
their embedded logic.  They have no means within themselves to 
escape their own consistency nor to transfer it somehow to virtual 
software which has no means of self-generation.

Software cannot escape its own consistency.  It cannot avoid its 
own errors.  Randomness does no more than transfer control 
(decision control structure) within consistent boundaries.  It is 
simply another way of making a decision on which path to take 

"> Meaning, if it exists at all, does so only in the observer.

This is an acceptable claim, but how does it exist in this 
observer? Our limited understanding of the mind suggests that it 
is somehow encoded in the structure of the brain and the currents 
flowing therein. If one constructs an analogue of that within the 
computer, is it not then capable of deriving meaning from data?"

While you say analog here instead of "sufficiently complex 
simulation" the same piece of science fiction comes to the fore.  
You cannot create a brain or any part of a human system with a 
computer.  One is an organism, fashioned in the same manner as any 
other, while a computer is not.  von Neumann architecture is not.  
Turing rules of computation are not.  Machines of any stripe are 

I do not know how an observer acquires meaning from data.  I do 
know that you can train observers to do so.  However I do not know 
how that training does what it does.  Basically from what you have 
said I assume that we agree that we do not know. At that we are 
one up on a non-intelligent computing system whose current 
architecture hasn't a chance in hell of becoming anything else.  
At least we know we don't know.