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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Steve Agnew: on 10/9/19 at 2:47am UTC, wrote You know...I like her approach. She is on the right track. But, of course,...

Ice111 acea: on 10/1/19 at 8:38am UTC, wrote Something concerning these tools is that they are very accurate. This is...

Lorraine Ford: on 9/30/19 at 21:28pm UTC, wrote (See continuation below: Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:19 GMT)

Lorraine Ford: on 9/30/19 at 21:19pm UTC, wrote (continued) 3) A computer/ robot/ AI does not make decisions any more than...

Lorraine Ford: on 9/30/19 at 21:17pm UTC, wrote When I say that Larissa Albantakis and all the other like-minded ning-nongs...

Lorraine Ford: on 9/29/19 at 23:31pm UTC, wrote (continued) Computational neuroscientist Larissa Albantakis defines an...

Lorraine Ford: on 9/29/19 at 23:26pm UTC, wrote Outcomes can be thought of as being representable by numbers that apply to...

Steve Dufourny: on 9/29/19 at 9:27am UTC, wrote QUANTUM COMPUTING? not easy,maybe the spherical knots and convergences...


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FQXi BLOGS
October 23, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: More on agency from the 6th FQXi International Conference [refresh]
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Blogger Ian Durham wrote on Sep. 26, 2019 @ 19:00 GMT
There has been quite a bit of discussion surrounding my recent blog post about my talk on free will at the 6th FQXi conference this past July. In my work I am merely attempting to mathematically model the behavior that we most often associate with free will and agency. But what is agency? Is there room for free will within physics?

As Carlo Rovelli noted in his talk, there is a tension between decision and action within physics. It doesn’t help that agency, which involves both decisions and actions, is treated differently by different physicists. Rovelli believes that an agent should be describable within any theory of description and that no new physics is needed. Clearly he is not a dualist. Yet he also says that we should define agency as whatever happens in the cases in which someone, i.e. the agent, makes a decision.

But what is an agent? According to Susanne Still, they are observers that act on their environment: they sense, process information, and act. To Still, the description of decision making as an optimization process, or any such utilitarian approach, is fraught with problems. What we really want is a theory where behaviors emerge from first principles. These principles should, in turn, reflect physical reality. In other words, physics limits what can actually happen, i.e. there are physical limits to what agents can do (environmental forcing, context, etc.), and thus a complete theory of agency needs to take these limits into account. But agency also involves intention or purpose which begs the question, asked by Larissa Albantakis: how can we distinguish autonomous actions from mere reflexes?
Larissa Albantakis
This is something I considered in my talk on free will. At some point our choices are made so quickly that we don’t even think about them and are therefore merely reflexive.

Albantakis’ answer to this question is to define an autonomous agent as being an open system that is stable and that has self-defined and self-maintained borders. Such a system also has the capacity to perform actions that are at least partially caused from within, i.e. states internal to the system can produce causal change. This, of course, begs the question, how do we identify these self-defined borders? This is done by tracing back through the causal chain and looking at the evolutionary environments associated with each step in the chain. In other words, it involves finding the actual causes of actions. In doing so it is possible to compare levels of consciousness to levels of intelligence (slides and video of Albantakis’ talk will appear here). In looking at the representative plot, what is most interesting is what is not on the main sequence such as AI (more intelligent, less conscious) and complex microorganisms (less intelligent, more conscious).
Consciousness versus intelligence from Larissa Albantakis' talk




At any rate, I find it interesting that there is a convergence of ideas happening here towards the language of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics. Rovelli suggests that agency is related to entropy growth, Still argues that thermodynamics places physical constraints on agency, Albantakis defines autonomous agents in terms of open systems, Karl Friston spoke of Markov blankets, and I develop a measure of free will (i.e. agency) in terms of statistical distributions.
Karl Friston


In a certain sense, this is perhaps not surprising given the close relationship between statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, and information processing. But is this convergence more than merely one of language? Can agency, intention, and purpose be adequately described in terms of statistics and information? Various speakers at the conference had widely diverging opinions on this. Alyssa Ney, for instance, generally defended physicalism which puts physics in a privileged place amongst the sciences.
Alyssa Ney
This view appears, at least on the surface, to be heavily reductionist. This can be contrasted with George Ellis’ view which suggests that we require a new language since the language of physicalism seems to be mostly reductionist and the world simply can’t be fully described in reductionist terms. During one of the panel sessions, Paavo Pylkaanan flatly claimed that physics cannot adequately describe the mind, at least not without new physics. Like Ellis (and unlike Ney), Pylkaanan does not believe that there necessarily is a fundamental level, let alone that physics represents it. By this argument, no field by itself can fully represent or capture the mind (see the debate over this here). It seems clear from this that this debate is likely to endure without some convincing empirical evidence that favors one view over another.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Sep. 27, 2019 @ 05:47 GMT
Do we "require a new language since the language of physicalism seems to be mostly reductionist and the world simply can’t be fully described in reductionist terms?"

Maybe, realism does indeed sometimes require some linguistical correction. If I got it correct from a recent report of sociologists, those who translated in the middle ages ancient literature into Althochdeutsch faced the difficulty that there was no expression for future time in it. They were forced to create it.

I see physics as a unfortunately reductionist method in the sense it always reduces anything to the conjectures of closed systems with no foundational difference between past and future, additionally blurred by the fuzzy notion of present state.

Physicalism reminds me of, sorry for being blunt, stupid absolutism in politics. Well, the many disciplines of science will go on merging together. However, when LaMettrie wrote "the man a machine", this was ridiculous rather than premature.

The illusion of fully describing the world may be even more ridiculous

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 27, 2019 @ 10:35 GMT
All this is very interesting.But I insist on many parameters.The intuition,the psychology,the education,the consciousness,the Vanity,the determinism,the will,the freewill,the agency need to have a correct universal algorythmic logic respecting this universal altruism.If not it's ruin of souls.This Vanity is an important parameter to take into account,we know all that Inside the sciences Community and specially in theoretical physics the vanity is enormous,all lol are persuaded and congratulate them inside small teams.Just to satisfy this Vanity and recognizings.Well in fact this problem is very serious and decrease the real velocity of evolution,it's sad in fact simply.Just due to this,the Vanity.Have you an algorythm to explain this parameter ? instead of this universal love correlated with the real hu_mility in-front-of this infinite Eternal consciousness ?If yes,so detail it mathematically.The business too can be interpreted and the real meaning of what is a team.Spherically yours jedis of The Sphere :)

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 28, 2019 @ 23:02 GMT
1. The test for agency: IF people have agency, THEN people can have genuinely affected the climate of the planet, ELSE its just laws of nature affecting the climate of the planet (i.e. people, the climate, and everything else are just topological artefacts of the laws of nature).

When you boil it all down, Ian Durham, Carlo Rovelli, Susanne Still, Larissa Albantakis, Karl Friston and Alyssa Ney are all saying that it’s just laws of nature affecting the climate of the planet.

2. Re dualism:

There can be no Platonic-mind/ worldly-matter dualism. The only possible dualism is a matter/relationship dualism where matter is what knows and creates relationships. Then, agency can be seen as the ability to create a new relationship (representable by assigning a new number to a variable) in response to a situation: this type of agency has a genuine effect on the planet.

But physics’ dualism is the mind/matter dualism where a dumb puppet matter is ruled by foreign powers (Platonic rules). With physics’ dualism, all “agency” is pseudo-agency, and it’s just the Platonic rules affecting the climate of the planet.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 29, 2019 @ 09:27 GMT
QUANTUM COMPUTING?

not easy,maybe the spherical knots and convergences with binar algorythms. But all this is really difficult.We must understand what are the particles and what are our universal algorythms.Strings aren't suffient.Think about sphères and their motions and oscillations.

we start with the zero and a kind of Grover algorythm

.qubits ,entanglement,superimposing….....We need to converge with our quantum particles but triviality is complex

IBM are on the road with convergent qubits

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 29, 2019 @ 23:26 GMT
Outcomes can be thought of as being representable by numbers that apply to a set of variables. Both the outcomes resulting from agency/ free will, and “ordinary” outcomes, can be thought of as being representable by a set of number changes.

However, looking at the world as a system, physics has absolutely no idea why ordinary number change occurs: physics assumes that ordinary number change just “happens”. So, there is no baseline for a discussion about number-change outcomes that result from agency/ free will.

Physics has no idea why any number should ever change, i.e. physics has absolutely no idea of what is driving the world-system. And clearly, a set of equations and numbers does not constitute a system: there is nothing driving this system. Physics does not yet seem to understand that system drivers (including number change) can only be represented algorithmically: you need algorithms to represent the causal aspects in any moving, changing system.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Sep. 29, 2019 @ 23:31 GMT
(continued)

Computational neuroscientist Larissa Albantakis defines an “autonomous agent” as: “(1) an open system with stable, self-defined and self-maintained causal borders, (2) with the capacity to perform actions that are (partially) caused from within” [1]. Her pdf contains a lot of diagrams purporting to represent cause in an autonomous agent system. But she has failed to establish a baseline: she has failed to say how cause in a system without an “autonomous agent” should be represented. But clearly even without her “autonomous agent”, a moving, changing system already needs algorithms to represent cause.

1. When is an action caused from within? Quantifying the causal chain leading to actions in simulated agents, Larissa Albantakis, Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World, FQXi's 6th International Conference, https://fqxi.org/conference/talks/2019

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:17 GMT
When I say that Larissa Albantakis and all the other like-minded ning-nongs are stupid, I mean it in the full sense of the word [1]. Like saying that “the earth is flat”, or “the moon is made of green cheese”, saying that “machines (computers/ robots/ AIs) are intelligent” [2] is contradicted by embarrassingly basic facts:

1) Symbols, i.e. things that human beings have created, represent no intrinsic information: any information that symbols might represent is meaning that human beings have imposed on the symbols. So a string of symbols, like 011000111010110, might represent information from the point of view of some human beings, but it represents no information from the point of view of a computer/ robot/ AI .

2) A computer/ robot/ AI is a special setup that processes strings of symbols, including symbolised algorithmic procedures. These symbolic strings of 0s and 1s are totally devoid of information from the point of view of a computer/ robot/ AI. The 0s and 1s are physically represented (i.e. re-symbolised) by an electrical voltage: i.e. there are multiple levels of symbolisation going on. Just like a ball rolling down an incline, there is nothing but the operation of the laws of nature going on inside a computer/ robot/ AI: there is nothing intelligent going on inside a computer any more than a ball rolling down an incline demonstrates intelligence.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:28 GMT
(See continuation below: Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:19 GMT)

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:19 GMT
(continued)

3) A computer/ robot/ AI does not make decisions any more than a ball rolling down an incline makes decisions. Computers/ robots/ AIs merely have structures which implement pre-decided ways of handling incoming symbolic representations: all necessary decisions have been made, or agreed to, by human beings via the computer program.

1. Stupid: “Having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense”, https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/stupid (Oxford dictionary)

2. Page 37, When is an action caused from within? Quantifying the causal chain leading to actions in simulated agents, Larissa Albantakis, Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World, FQXi's 6th International Conference, https://fqxi.org/conference/talks/2019

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Steve Agnew wrote on Oct. 9, 2019 @ 02:47 GMT
You know...I like her approach. She is on the right track. But, of course, she does not mention the role of neural resonance in her discussions of agent causality.

Why is not the EEG spectra of neural resonance important? Are EEG just coincidences? Do EEG show agency?

And of course, no mention of quantum or of quantum phase...is there no room for quantum phase with neural action potentials?

Once again, we need a good model of neural aware matter to have any hope of making sense out of agency...

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