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Willy K: on 3/22/17 at 8:41am UTC, wrote Hi Georgina It is interesting that you suggest that your measures of...

Wilhelmus Wilde: on 3/21/17 at 9:52am UTC, wrote Dear Georgina, Thanks for reading my contribution to the contest. I have...

Georgina Woodward: on 3/20/17 at 21:56pm UTC, wrote Peter, I was distinguishing life able to set goals and work toward the...

Peter Jackson: on 3/19/17 at 18:04pm UTC, wrote Hi Georgina, Good essay, nicely distinguishing some key differences...

Alan Kadin: on 3/12/17 at 14:27pm UTC, wrote Dear Georgina, I read your essay with great interest, particularly your...

Georgina Woodward: on 3/12/17 at 8:52am UTC, wrote Hi Hector, since this is the thread for discussing my essay or ideas...

Héctor Gianni: on 3/12/17 at 0:06am UTC, wrote Dear Georgina Woodward I invite you and every physicist to read my work...

Steve Dufourny: on 3/7/17 at 13:40pm UTC, wrote Hi Georgina, Good to see your papper.Relevant like always :) good luck...


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March 23, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Imagined Goals in a Material World by Georgina Woodward [refresh]
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This essay's rating: Community = 4.9; Public = 5.3

Author Georgina Woodward wrote on Feb. 24, 2017 @ 21:43 GMT
Essay Abstract

Some key ideas: Inanimate processes or simple organisms do not have the ability or means to imagine goals. Goals are from the internal perspective, perceived as within the future (that is imagined.). In material reality, they are in material brain structure and brain activity Now. Tasks not goals are related to the “arrows of time”. Prediction is a calculation or estimation or informed opinion of an outcome, without intention or desire to cause its happening. Function does not have to be the outcome of a goal. Function should be differentiated from purpose. Agency, the ability to perform tasks, is different from producing and accomplishing goals. It is the complex structure of the brain and endocrine system that produces and facilitates accomplishment of goals. The limbic system allows 1. emotion driven goal setting, and 2. motivation to act, as well as 3. Attention, to relevant stimuli giving feedback on tasks. Simple linear causality based on known knowns is a simplification that can give erroneous conclusions. Avoid anthropomorphism and be aware of the many biases affecting ideas about causality. Indicators of intelligence: 1. Does it do more than follow its instincts or programming? 2. Is it able to generate, plan and achieve its own goals? 3. Under new conditions, does it have a range of problem solving ability. Or does it acquire the necessary information or skill. 3. Does it choose an appropriately efficient solution. Emergent complexity can arise from simple rules. Emergent complexity does not require an external pre-written plan, program separate from the existing material configuration of the Object universe, to direct change. Energy input to a system can drive a cycle of simplicity to complexity tending towards simplicity. The universe/nature does not prefer complexity, it does not have it as a goal. It is a stage of development.

Author Bio

Biological sciences graduate and former teacher of 'the sciences'. Interest in foundational physics, especially the nature of time, spanning many years.

Download Essay PDF File

Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 16:25 GMT
Dear Georgina

delighted to see you refer to Panksepp and the primary emotions - this is where motivation comes from. Thank you for taking the psychological level seriously. It does of course arise out of lower level neural processes, in turn arising out of gene activation and protein effects in regulatory networks; but these are activated in a top down way from the psychological level, which does have real causal power.

Nice essay.

George Ellis

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 01:29 GMT
Thank you.

Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 16:42 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Good to meet again here on FQXi.

I really appreciate your essay with its beautifull (as ever) illustrations.

Your viewpoint that can be compressed to your sentence(in my opinion)


Complexity can arise from reiteration of simple rules


I would like to interpret complexity as a result from the excitaion of consciousness. What we are experiencing as "our life" (untill NOW) is explained in my contribution in this conquest. I try to reach out to the essence of reality, it is only an effort.

So I hope that you will find some time to read and eventually give a rating for

my essay : "The Purpose of Life"

Thank you

Wilhelmus de Wilde

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 01:31 GMT
Thank you.

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 01:40 GMT
Hi Georgina Parry,

Your wonderful essay clarifies so many things and addresses most of the questions FQXi suggested. You appear to answer most of the "mindless math" questions without defining or even focusing on either "mind" or "math". Instead you focus on the 'Objective Reality of Now' that you have been developing for years (and with which I largely agree) while only using the words 'conscious' or 'mind' a few times. You seem to let cellular automata stand-in for math, and make the excellent point that

"Emergent patterns of some cellular automata are too complex to work back to the rules that formed them."

You note that "a goal is in the future imagined by the thinker", existing wholly Now in the only material existent reality. I view consciousness as consciousness of Now, while past and future are "thoughts" associated with neural networks and biochemical flows. I think we agree on this. I also agree that "mimicry of intelligence is not intelligence."

I tend to agree with your objective reality and I assume this as my background in the same way that you seem to assume conscious mind in the background of your essay. I believe our essays are almost 100% compatible in that sense.

Congratulations on a first-rate essay.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 01:30 GMT
Thank you.

Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 13:52 GMT
Dear Parry,

Thank you for your nice essay.

You are observations are excellent, “ Inanimate things and processes, and simple organisms do not have the ability or means to imagine goals.”…. and…. “Though reproductive success is necessary for the passing on of genetic code to the next generation, it is questionable whether most higher organisms too achieve...

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Joe Fisher wrote on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 16:27 GMT
Dear Ms. Parry,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Joe Fisher replied on Feb. 27, 2017 @ 16:35 GMT
Dear Georgina,

I am terribly sorry for using the wrong name on my comment. Please forgive me.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 10:46 GMT

good to see someone else tackling the questions proposed by this contest, head-on. some questions for you if i may:

" It would be incorrect to say that the water has intention to move

into the bag or that the bag the goal of increasing its volume."

why would it be incorrect? or, another way to put it would be: under what circumstances or perspective could it be invisioned that the water *does* have the aim / intent to move into the bag? or, what law or aspect of our universe *does* have intent (if the water may said to definitely not have its own "intent")?

"Simple organisms are incapable of imagining goals and merely reproduce in an automatic way via the physics and biochemistry and material reality of the situation as it happens"

... yet simple organisms are extremely successful at colonisation and self-replication in their chosen environments. if the *organisms* are not capable of imagining goals, then what *is*?

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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 21:16 GMT
Hi Luke, thanks for reading the essay and for your thoughtful questions. An intention to do something is about something that is going to happen at a time outside of Now. A bag of saline, or some water in a flask is incapable of forming a concept of a future as it is too simple. What happens happens because of the physics and chemistry, water molecules will move from a weaker to a stronger solution through a semipermeable membrane. The water can pass through the membrane but the salt can't. There isn't any goal, aim or intention of the inanimate apparatus /ingredients prior to or during what happens. It is unnecessary to account for things that happen with intentions. I have, I hope, shown that that teleological perspective is unnecessary. That is different from saying things just happen by accident. There can be clear causes without intention. Survival and reproduction and complex behaviours do not necessarily require the ability to imagine what will occur at a future time. My argument was that goals require a certain level of brain organisation. That organisation is found in higher organisms, birds and mammals. Tool production and use by birds (corvids) and apes is a good indication that the future success of a task is anticipated, there is a goal, as the tool is made purposefully. Caledonian crows making a number of different tool designs for different purposes.Hook tool manufacture by Caledonian crows

Steve Dufourny wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 13:40 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Good to see your papper.Relevant like always :)

good luck also


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Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 00:06 GMT
Dear Georgina Woodward

I invite you and every physicist to read my work “TIME ORIGIN,DEFINITION AND EMPIRICAL MEANING FOR PHYSICISTS, Héctor Daniel Gianni ,I’m not a physicist.

How people interested in “Time” could feel about related things to the subject.

1) Intellectuals interested in Time issues usually have a nice and creative wander for the unknown.


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 08:52 GMT
Hi Hector,

since this is the thread for discussing my essay or ideas relevant to its content, what did you think of my essay? Was it at all thought provoking? Do you have any questions about what was written? Did you find it relevant to the topic of the contest?


Alan M. Kadin wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 14:27 GMT
Dear Georgina,

I read your essay with great interest, particularly your warnings about biases and your identification of goals as based on imagined futures.

I agree with much of your analysis. I also noticed that you cited Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”, which points out the illusions in our conscious thinking.

In my own essay, “No Ghost in the Machine”, I also cited Kahneman, and identified a series of illusions that have obscured our understanding of intelligence and consciousness.

I further propose that consciousness may reflect a specific evolved brain structure based on an adaptive neural network, which creates a simplified dynamical model that recognizes self and other agents in a causal world. I also point out the role of dreams as an alternative consciousness without external sensory input. Finally, analogous electronic networks may be developed to create true artificial intelligence.

Alan Kadin

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Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 18:04 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Good essay, nicely distinguishing some key differences defining intelligent life (in agreement with mine) if not 'diving off' the solid ground to any less solid hypothesis. I also agree that instinctive behaviour needs less 'intelligence', indeed I take that further to suggest WE are to often guilty of that primeval response mode when higher rationalization would be better. Would you agree?

You seem to be suggesting what I say, which I'll word simply; The ability to draw on input (experience/memory) to 'imagine' scenario's lets us 'run' them through to our motor cortex and find responses, (chemical release etc) which are either good or bad. We then have 'feedback' to inform other scenario's, then can make decisions (form 'aims') at a high 'layer' which lower level decisions serve. Was I 'reading in' too much? or wrongly?, or do you agree?

I didn't feel you 'committed' to CA or not, but tended to point to it? I see it as helpful but flawed and actually identify a fundamental 'momentum' not utilized in QM which allows the inherent complex states necessary. It may be 'too QM' for most but it simplifies QM to a classical mechanism it so do let me know how you get on.

Well done for your thoughts. Do correct my interpretations above! Well founded and sound as a pound as usual. (what would we say if we had Euro's?!)

Best of luck in the contest.


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Author Georgina Woodward replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 21:56 GMT

I was distinguishing life able to set goals and work toward the chosen/desired outcome rather than just responding or achieving functional outcomes without imagination of the outcome.

Outside of the discussion in my essay but addressing your point: Some people are highly reactive, acting on impulse and may be described as having poor impulse control. The other side of that is...

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Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 09:52 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Thanks for reading my contribution to the contest.

I have read your essay with great interest.

Your "emerging" comes from complexity, my thinking is also complexity is an emerging phenomenon, our whole experience of reality is an emerging phenomenon.

Causality is (in my latest perception) the effect that EVERYTHING we are consciousness experiencing ihas happened in the PAST (because we are "living" in a time and space-restricted reality). We only are aware of events that were "caused" by earlier events in our memories. This PAST has its origin in what I call Total Simultaneity. There the several moments (ENM's) forming our life-lines are timeless so eternal. The NOW moment we seem to experience is immediately becoming past and no longer "available" in our emergent memory experience. However it is still an eternal ENM in TS. You could then imagine that the NOW moment we seem to experience "contains" ALL the Information of a specific life-line in TS, so it seems a FLOW experience. When going further it could mean that the life we are living is only an emergent NOW moment with all its specific life-line info in our emergent memory. In this way causality and flow of time could be understood. I amaware that this is not yet a complete perception but in this contest all the other opinions are contributing to the basic idea.

I rated your essay and hope that you will rate mine also.

best regards and good luck in the next Eternal Now Moment


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Willy K wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 08:41 GMT
Hi Georgina

It is interesting that you suggest that your measures of intelligence could be applied to “colonies and mankind collectively”, because my measure of intelligence is also meant to do the same thing. I guess the difference is that my measure is designed from the social system or the Constitutional nation state, whereas yours is coming from a great deal of common sense regarding what ought to be considered as intelligent.

I totally agree with you that mimicry, even sophisticated ones, should not be considered as intelligent. As I have written even in my essay, Turing test is definitely flawed in that respect. It is not objective because it requires reference to humans.

Regards, Willy

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