Archive for July, 2006

Searching for Artificial Intelligence in Artificial Life

Monday, July 31st, 2006

In 2000, several prominent artificial life researchers published their co-authored list of 14 “open problems in artificial life”. Of special interest is their open problem number 11: “Demonstrate the emergence of intelligence and mind in an artificial living system. ” (p. 365). Not only do the authors pose the problem, but they give what strikes me as excellent advice towards its solution:

“To make progress, one must have a method to detect intelligence and mind when they are present in a system. Consciousness is the most difficult aspect of mind to detect, and initial progress is certain to be somewhere else. A more tractable aspect of mind to detect is meaning, that is, internal states that have semantic or representational significance for the entity and that influence the entity’s behavior by means of their semantic content.” (pp 372-373).

Progress along these recommended lines toward the solution of problem 11 will also involve work of relevance to what they identify as open problem number 10: “Develop a theory of information processing, information flow, and information generation for evolving systems.” Among their remarks on information, one in particular strikes me as especially significant:

“Firstly, there appear to be two complementary kinds of information transmission in living systems. One is the conservative hereditary transmission of information through evolutionary time. The other is transmission of information specified in a system’s physical environment to components of the system, possibly mediated by the components themselves, with the concomitant possibility of a combination of information processing and transmission. The latter is clearly also linked with the generation of information (to be discussed last). Clarifying the range of possibilities for information transmission, and determining which of those possibilities the biosphere exploits, is a fundamental enquiry of artificial life. ” ( p. 372)

As I read the quoted passage, the first kind of information transmission is that which passes from parent to offspring in virtue of reproduction. This is information transmission that traverses generations. The second kind of information transmission is from the environment to the organism. This is something that can happen over multiple generations as populations adapt and evolve. But the transmission of information from environment to organism can also take place within the lifetime of a single organism and this is especially evident in creatures capable of sensory perception and memory. Both perception and memory are amenable to information-theoretic analyses: perception involves the transmission of a signal across space and memory involves the transmission of a signal across time.

The search for mind will be guided by the search for entities that have states with “semantic or representational significance”. The earliest instances of such states will be ones that constitute the pick-up by organisms of information about their environments via sensory components. Slightly more sophisticated instances will involve the retention and processing of that information over time via mechanisms of memory and computation. These forms of information transmission and processing—the ones that constitute the earliest instances of cognition—will emerge in the course of the evolution of organisms that are not themselves in possession of anything cognitive, but may nonetheless be understood in informational terms as follows. The pre-cognitive forbears of cognizers, the non-cognitive mere organism from which cognitive organisms evolve, can be characterized in terms of the transmission of information from parents to offspring via inheritance and the acquisition of novel information at the species level. Non-cognitive or “mere” organisms are not capable of the acquisition of information except by inheritance: novel information is acquired only at the species level over evolutionary time. In contrast, cognitive organisms are the ones capable of the acquisition of novel information in their own lifetime.

These remarks help to suggest a method for addressing open problem number 11: develop a method for evolving artificial organisms in ways such that we (1) are able to detect which of the various kinds of information transmission are present in the system and (2) manipulate factors such as environments and fitness functions to encourage the evolution of the modes of information transmission distinctive of cognitive activity.

Fig 1.:Single artificial organism. Seeks food, companionship. IQ = 2.

Bedau, M., McCaskill, J. S., Packard, N., Rasmussen, S., Adami, C., Green, D. G., Ikegami, T., Kaneko, K., and Ray, T. (2000). Open problems in artificial life. Artificial Life 6, 363-376. [ Link]

See also:
Varieties of Representation in Evolved and Embodied Neural Networks. Biology and Philosophy. 18 (1): 95-130. 2003.

Evolving Artificial Minds and Brains. (with Mike Collins and Alex Vereschagin). Categorisation, Mental States, and Development. Andrea Schalley and Drew Khlentzos (eds.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishers. In press.

Synthetic Neuroethology. Metaphilosophy. 33 (1-2): 11-29. Reprinted in CyberPhilosophy: The Intersection of Philosophy and Computing, James H. Moor and Terrell Ward Bynum, (eds.), Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.


Friday, July 28th, 2006


Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

“Luck favors the prepared mind.”
—Louis Pasteur

Making this pic turned out to be a lot easier than I initially suspected. I photographed the die in three different orientations, layered the three images in photoshop, erased the relevant portions, and blammo: game prop for the risk averse.

How do you know that you know what you are talking about when you talk about qualia?

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

I am interested in the exploring the possible answers to this post’s titular question available to those who answer “yes” to the following questions. Do you have qualia? Can others have qualia?

At first glance, it seems that there would be two general options in answering “How do you know what you are talking about when you talk about qualia?”;

option 1: by description.

option 2: by inner ostension.

One “problem” with option 1 is that it opens the door to the identification of qualia with physical and/or functional kinds. This, of course, is not really a problem unless you were hoping you would get to be a dualist at the end of the day.

Option 2 leads to similar “problems”. The first is that if your physical or functional doppleganger has states that it knows by inner ostension, then what is there to prevent the identification of such physical/functional states with qualia? If the answer is that you can imagine your dopplganger having those phys/func states w/o having qualia, then there’s a serious question of whether you do indeed know what you are talking about when you answer yes to the question of whether others can have qualia. This leads to the (Wittgensteinian?) question of how you can coherently conceive of this sort of thing, a thing you know by inner ostension as an element of your awareness, as existing independently of your awareness. How is it that inner ostension gives you the grasp of something that may also exist outside of your mental act of ostension? The trick will involve answering this latter question in a way that isn’t simply a tacit switch from option 2 to option 1.

Figs. 1 & 2: Neon Color Spreading. Are the gaps beetween the black and the blue being filled in by your brain with qualia? If you answer that question, how do you know that you know what you are talking about?

Speed Face

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Speed Face

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Taken in the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

‘Zombies’ arrested in downtown Minneapolis

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

From KSTP via BoingBoing:

“They were arrested for behavior that was suspicious and disturbing,” said Lt. Gregory Reinhardt, a police spokesman. Police also said the group was uncooperative and intimidated people with their “ghoulish” makeup.

Neurophilosophy Update, July ‘06

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Floating Brain

Originally uploaded by abanesta.

My Neurophilosophy Resources page has been updated. Updates include:

Clark, Austen. Viccissitudes of
Consciousness, Varieties of Correlates
, American Journal of
, Spring 2003, 128-140. [landscape

Clark, Austen. Some logical features of feature
in Werner Backhaus, (ed), Neuronal
Coding of Perceptual Systems
, . New Jersey: World
Scientific, Series on Biophysics and Biocybernetics, vol 9,
2001, ISBN 981-02-4164-X, pp 3-20. [landscape

Clark, Austen. Qualia and the Psychophysiological
Explanation of Color Perception
, Synthese, 65 (2),
November 1985, 377-405.

Clark, Austen. Seeing and Summing: Implications of
Computational Theories of Vision
. Cognition and Brain Theory,
7 (1), 1984, 1-23.

Hot Cats

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Why didn’t anyone tell me how cool cats look in infrared? I think I like them (more) now. Now all we need is for genetic engineers to make cats look like this all of the time. Observe:

Fig 1.: His heat vision is not nearly as deadly as his extremely cold nose. On your leg. Source:

Fig 2.: Choo Choo? Or Satan? Source:

Evans, Experience, and Abiding Causal Grounds

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Gareth Evans (1985) developed several arguments for the Kantian thesis that our concept of things existing objectively necessitates conceiving of those things as existing in space. One of Evans’ arguments is what I call “The Causal Ground” argument. The gist of the argument is as follows. Our conception of objectively existing things involves attributing sensory properties to them. Sensory properties are dispositions to cause certain experiences in us. However, if sensory properties were pure experience-related dispositions, it would be unclear how we could conceive of objective existence, of perceptible objects existing unperceived. We must, instead, attribute, in addition to sensory properties of objects, an abiding causal ground of the dispositions in question. The conception of an abiding causal ground of sensory properties cannot be constructed merely of sensory properties themselves. We conceive of this causal ground in terms of primary, not secondary, qualities and thus as inhering in spatially extended material objects.

Evans’s argument concerns the spatial requirements on the objectivity of the objects of experience, on the things experienced. I want to address the question of whether a similar conclusion follows for the subjects of experience. Not only do I conceive of things that I experience yet exist independently of my experience, I also conceive of other subjects of experience that exist independently of any of my experiences. In short, I conceive of the objective existence of other minds. In part, this conception of other minds involves the conception of subjects of experience independent of me that are nonetheless able to have experiences of (at least some of) the same objects that I experience. Not only must the sensory properties of objects have abiding causal grounds, but the experiences themselves must have abiding causal grounds. In what inhere the abiding causal grounds of experiences themselves? They cannot be in the objects experienced, otherwise they would not suffice to account for occasions in which something is experienced by one subject but not another. Nor can the abiding causal ground of the experiences had by other minds be identical to my own, for this would fail to make these minds other minds. How, then, are we able to conceive of other minds? We do so by conceiving the abiding causal grounds of the experiences of distinct subjects as inhering in distinct spatially extended material objects.

One might ask whether the qualities of the experiences themselves suffice to distinguish the various subjects of experience. This might seem promising when we think of distinct subjects viewing a perceptibly asymmetrical object. However, it is possible to conceive of distinct subjects viewing a symmetrical object in such a way that the qualities of their experiences are identical.


Evans, G. (1985) “Things Without the Mind” In Collected Papers. New York : Oxford University Press.

The Little Red Lighthouse (Jeffrey’s Hook)

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

The Little Red Lighthouse (Jeffrey’s Hook)

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Panoramic stitch of three shots of The Little Red Lighthouse near the George Washington Bridge. The Lighthouse is in Fort Washington Park,178th Street & Hudson River, New York, NY.

Fictional Musical Genres and the Fictional Bands Who Play Them

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Acoustic Electronica consists in the boops, beeps, and dance rhythms common to so much electronic music, but it is created entirely without electronic assistance.” Or so says Acoustic Electronica pioneers, Videofoot.

Cowboy Lounge, the country/lounge mash-up perfected by Buck Nood and the Suede Playboys can be heard on their full-length debut, “Recreation Without Pants.”

–with thanks to Ray Gunn