Emergence of behavior through software
Sun, 01 Oct 2000 12:26:53 -0400
--On Saturday, September 30, 2000 11:42 PM -0700 "Lynn H. Maxson"
> 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
All right. That's a definition. Now I ask for a justification. Why can
volition not arise within the constraints of a rule set?
> 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
I personally would put some requirements on that, such that a system which
wished to be an organism must at least be capable of sustaining itself
indefinitely, but otherwise, I do not see this as a problem.
> 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.
Careful. A parasite cannot survive on its own --- it must live in a host.
In fact, all known species exist only as part of ecosystems. Being
dependent on other parts of a system does not preclude being 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.
1) Behavior has been shown to be partially inherited, especially in the
case of mental disorders. It's not a very strong effect, but it's
statistically significant. (I will admit that I was being loose with the
word "inherit" and including those things I picked up from my parents by
2) Why can software not procreate? What about viruses? I could program a
virus (well, if I knew anything about virus-writing) which went around and
extracted bits of code from programs on its host and then tried to breed
with other copies of itself. It would take a long time to be an effective
virus, and someone would kill it first, but it could be done.
> 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.
Again, be careful. You can't prove either of those. I have yet to find a
task which a human can do and a Turing machine cannot. The brain and
computer are superficially different, but that doesn't mean that they
aren't just two implementations of a central theme.
> 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.
You yourself say that it doesn't matter whether or not we can actually do
the prediction, as long as it's possible on paper. Would it take more
space and time than is available in the universe? Sure.
> 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 they're not non-existent. Have the program create them, then pass
control to them. I see where you're coming from --- you're saying that this
is still the programmer telling the program to make them. But did the
programmer have no volition if someone else told him to write that program?
Seems like we're chasing a chain back to the Big Bang.
> 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
But their conformance to that logical function does not. At some point,
their statistical nonconformance becomes perceptible.
I'm trying to catch you in a contradiction here. If obeying some rules, any
rules, which are mathematically expressible precludes volition, I argue
that you must declare humans non-volitional. Since you don't seem willing
to do that, I sense a contradiction.
> 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.
All right... I'll set myself up a warehouse of old x86es and let them
compute for as long as they can continue to run. If they go a hundred
years, do you think that no valid programs will be generated? Give me some
numbers for the size (in ops) of "Hello, world" and the average
ops-per-second for the entire warehouse, and we'll do the calculation.
> The fascination with random numbers or randomness in general as a
> source for spontaneity in a computing system I find amusing.
Hm. We keep coming back to this idea that following rules means you're not
spontaneous. I suppose that as long as you're using that as an assumption,
your argument is consistent.
> 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
This isn't inherent to the system, though. A processor may be able to
detect overflow, and it may raise a signal, but it makes no requirement
that you do anything about it. It doesn't have inherent code/data
separation (or at least, it need not). It just fetches things from the
memory and puts them into instruction or data registers as needed
Moreover, you can use HLLs to cheat. Consider the LISPs. Their code space
is simply the interpreter. In the data space, one can put any executable
program. These programs can be used to generate other programs, and in fact
this is one of the standard stupid LISP tricks. If the instruction space
contains "Look in data for things that look like programs and try to run
them, letting them work on other things in the data space", you effectively
have a single space.
> 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
All quite true, and I do not argue it. I merely challenge your further
statement that this means software can never have volition.
> 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
This is *definitely* an assumption. All known neural pathways can be
modeled in software. It's a statistical process, but so is the brain, from
what we know. Now, if you want to say that that's still never going to be a
real organism, that's fine, but you're heading for the realm of theology.
Is it hard to put an entire brain into software? Of course. We're going to
need something that can automate the process, because the connections are
too numerous to be coded by hand. On the other hand, the process of
brain-construction is by definition automatable, since the brain
self-assembles from embryonic tissue.