Test Information Space

Journal of Tech, Testing and Trends

Netropic

Posted by cadsmith on June 9, 2010

100606

Where there’s a bit, there’s a bot may become an aphorism of digital consciousness, at least until something is picked as the universal standard. There may be some new principles of order, somewhere between anthropic and entropy, introduced by the impending Singularity. Approximations of these turn up in the literature of fiction as well as technology. This may also be an engineering topic for successive approximation by neural nets or intermediate computational agents which can parse relevant external worlds.

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Book reviews:

Philosophy and Engineering: An Emerging Agenda, by Ibo van de Poel and David Goldberg, 2009

This book details a variety of claims which, together, do not appear consistent, but may provide methods for further study. Engineering applies science and produces technology. The effects on society can be ethically evaluated through cooperation of philosophers. The recognized set of philosophical problems is still being determined including epistemological, methodological, metaphysical and ontological. It may also address other existing philosophical problems. The book has contributions by thirty-two authors in three parts for twenty-eight papers.
Engineering as a discipline is historically distinct from architecture.A well-defined philosophy does not exist, though efforts date from the start of the 21st century having arisen independently in the East and West, and following, yet distinct from, the philosophies of science and technology. A pluralistic approach can be linguistic, phenomenological, post-modern, analytic, pragmatic, and Thomist. It is within the field of philosophy of technology. Science and engineering are often treated as simplified notions based on politics of funding rather than examination of what people actually do in particular. Generalization differs in engineering from natural sciences, including artifact type, function and structure, which combine causes and concepts. The models used to represent reality are idealized, tested, and compared to eachother. Sociotechnical system boundaries include the behaviors and relations of elements impacted by it. Integrity is uniquely complex for engineers, the profession and its education. The engineering priority of technical ingenuity over helping people needs to be rebalanced to avoid becoming lost in the labyrinth of technology. Engineering ethics needs a global foundation based on principles of public safety, human rights, environmental and animal preservation, engineering competence, scientifically founded judgment, openness and honesty. Research in engineering ethics has spread to Asia and Europe from North American origins. The scale extends through individual, group, company, profession and planet. Imagination of the engineering world is a way to deal with conditions of epistemic opacity. Responsibility for artifacts eventually transfer from engineer to user through knowledge of their workings. Ethics concerns the amount of harm from artifacts produced by solutions to engineering problems Ethicists have observed an actual design project where participants were characterized as actors in a network, and intermediate results were presented which affected the outcome of the project. This is helpful in mapping risks, responsibilities and ethical issues. Future comparisons may be made between engineering and medical science. Role-playing games can be used to teach ethics if they are felt and articulated, have a lengthy process, use case studies, and realistically up-to-date. The Norms Evolving in Response to Dilemmas (NERD) platform was used for experimentation in the ethics of technology as a form of stress testing. There is a crisis of a creative era which.is resulting in the philosophical interest similar to what Kuhn showed had occurred in science, and which leads to dialectics, data mining, and reliance upon either brute or social facts or institutional artifacts, it may be short-lived. Wittgenstein had engineering training and his philosophy was based on the realworld of things rather than ideology. Design methodologies include top-down, layered, platform-based or network-based and are related to human organizational structures and national cultural emphases. Computer science builds abstractions from bits, engineering configures solutions, and stigmergic design in nature is bottom up. The settings of engineering are ad hoc realworld or systematic hyperrealworld. Technology is ubiquitous; engineering is either denial or determinacy; Where survival of the human species is the goal, all is heuristic; A quantitative measure of ethics is defined.
Issues concerning posthumanist theories would require other sources.

Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time to Superintelligence, edited by Susan Schneider, 2009

This book is an advanced treatment of philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and scifi which can be considered narrative of thought experiments about puzzling scenarios. The editor is especially interested in neural enhancements, AI and the problems of disparity between Humans 2.0, whose flaws can only be judged by their own, and those who have not been upgraded. The book prevents a variety of views and methods rather than a concluding thesis. Authors range from classic philosophers, such as Plato and Descartes, through scifi writers such as Asimov and Bradbury. Others of each type are discussed in the contents. There are a couple of entries each from the modern literature of Dennett, Kurzweil and Andy Clark. There are five parts for twenty-seven papers, some of which have additional references. Each part lists related works of scifi, mostly from movies. There are diagrams for some of the mathematical and scientific concepts. Rather than commenting on each entry, there is a lengthy introduction by the editor about the themes and philosophical questions including reality as simulation, free will, mind and ethics and politics, and spacetime. A few recommendations that provide more depth in technology and risks are listed. Superintelligence is expected to arise due to the computational theory of mind, and identity based on information patternism. The philosophies of the reader’s favorite authors may yield to the kinds of approaches here, but there would probably be interest in more of such comparative volumes, also for the newest engineering fields, at least until a cyborg editor can do this in realtime for anyone as hinted by the iRobot-style cover picture.

The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film, edited by Steven M. Sanders, 2008

The editor lists three types of analysis: context, film, and topics. Classic films were selected for philosophical treatment, e.g. the Matrix is likened to Plato’s Cave. Other popular philosophers are Descartes, Heidegger, Hobbes, Hume and Nietzsche. There are three parts having four papers each, by a total of thirteen contributors. Films often quote influential predecessors and seek either general or improved solutions, e.g. Metropolis’ machine woman is like Wizard of Oz’ tin woodsman later echoed in C3PO. Settings are often case studies for logic problems that may introduce new assumptions, e.g. previously hidden forces or actors. Paradoxes are highlighted and heuristics proposed. The look and feel may have unique aesthetic texture, e.g. tech noir. Ethical questions often form themes and may be treated mythically, displaced by alien culture or time travel, for a different perspective that changes the intellectual and political constraints, e.g. involving power, laws, sex or war. Metaphysical questions around death are pursued, e.g. resurrection. The future may be seen as utopian or dystopian, or time may be flexible so that future or past can be changed. Reviewers are sometimes aware of their own cognitive processes so that interpretation is an art.

Minds and Computers: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence By Matt Carter 2007

This book is a basic introduction to AI as a philosophical theory of mind. It covers cognitive science topics on the human mind, computation, reasoning, language and philosophical considerations. For example, humans recognize repetitive sensory patterns and dedicate response structures to them; embodied experience is a basis for semantics. Each chapter indicates theory and objections. The style is mildly technical and philosophical. History of the field is broadly sketched and problems are not really delved into, e.g. consciousness, identity and emotions are briefly summarized in a chapter at the end. It does get into some detail about functional neuroanatomy and neural networks. There are twenty chapters, occasional exercises, some of which are labeled “challenge”, further readings, glossary, and index.
Further advanced conclusions are out of the scope of this text, e.g. by Minsky, Kurzweil, Hawkins or Wolfram on computation,.or Noë on consciousness. It does not discuss biological reuse for robotics, e.g. as has been demonstrated using animal brains, or cloning for this purpose. Trends such as functional brain emulation models from scopes and visualization, quantum mechanics and computation, or synthetic life would need additional sources.

 

 

Documents of interest:

An Experimental Philosophy Manifesto, Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols, 2008 (PDF)

 

Blogs of interest:

The New Atlantis – A Journal of Technology & Society

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual: Illustrated Interactive Fiction from Retropolis and Beyond

 

Videos of interest:

Authors@Google: Paolo Bacigalupi

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