I'm amused by things that almost make sense but don't. Arguably, that's the basis of all humor. Humor works best when there is some truth in it while still being an exaggeration into the realm of nonsense. It's the juxtaposition of truth and nonsense that triggers the brain hiccup called laughter.

I was reminded of this by a comment on this blog from Jengineer. Her argument was a bit different than the one I am about to make, but it sparked the following thought: There are only two conditions in the universe: Programmed or random. In other words, action is either a simple chain of cause and effect, or it is somehow immune to cause and effect.

Intelligence can't be random. That would be the opposite of intelligence. But intelligence also can't be programmed, for if that were allowed, your alarm clock would be called intelligent, and obviously it isn't.

So if there are only two possibilites -- programmed or random -- and intelligence can be neither then intelligence must not exist. It must be an illusion.

The thing that amuses me about that argument is that I'm sure it is wrong, but I don't know why. And that is further evidence that intelligence is an illusion. At least my own.

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Nov 17, 2008
The dichotomy you describe is true for all effects/results in the universe but not for all causes. An effect is either programmed or random, but the cause of the effect is either purposeful or non-purposeful. Intelligence is a purposeful cause.
Nov 17, 2008
I don't see why intelligence can't be programmed. That's what AI is supposed to be, after all. You have the perfect argument against free will though.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
If all the conclusions in an argument are not possible, then

1.) the initial assumtions/definitions are wrong


2.) the logic is wrong.
Nov 17, 2008
Scott, I've heard your theory about the basis of comedy a few times, and I thought you'd be interested to know another one. Isaac Asimov wrote in his "Treasury of Humor" that all comedy is the result of a sudden, precipitous change in point of view. That's why the punchline in a joke is so important: if you give anything about it away, it will tip off the listener and they will start making a slow - rather than sudden - change in the way they are looking at the situation in the joke.

I realize this isn't really related to your question but in my defense, all my actions are programmed and I just can't help myself.
Nov 17, 2008
Before you can argue whether or not something exists, you need a good definition for it. If you can come up with a good solid definition for intelligence, that will probalby give you your answer. Sorry I can't give any kind of guidance on what a good definition for intelligence would be.
Nov 17, 2008
There is only one possibility. Anyone who says there are only two possibilities is wrong :-)
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
Scott, your argument is wrong because your definitions are wrong.

"Random" does not mean the same thing as "non-deterministic" and most certainly is not the "antonym" of "programmed".

So for the argument to make some logical sense you have to revise your premise to read: "The universe is ether programmed or non-programmed" or "The universe is either deterministic or non-deterministic", or "The universe is either described by a known, continuous, mathematical function or an unknown, random, or probabilistic function". Then you can try to argue with correct logic.

If you argue with correct logic you will then see that with these new (more "correct") premises there is no way to arrive to your "intelligence does not exist" conclusion using the kind of reasoning and examples you subsequently used in the original post.

I guess what you illustrated in your post is the classical, very amusing term that people call "sophistry". Basically, using nuances in language and using secondary or even tertiary meanings of common words for premises but then using the primary meanings of such words to draw a patently absurd (i.e. does not follow correct and formal logic) conclusion. You changed the definition in the middle of the argument, basically, a Sophist's typical "sleight of hand".

This is a well known tool of good debaters and anyone who is familiar with the rules of true formal logic.

(But I bet you already knew that! It is even detailed in your book: "The Joy of Work", if I remember correctly ;P).
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
I think it is all down to how you define intelligence. A clock is very good at being a clock, way better at it than a blender so if you were to define intelligence as the ability to show the time then a clock is much more intelligent than a blender.
Nov 17, 2008
I cannot believe I am saying this:
Please bring back the presidential election. The eveloution vs. creation debate is wearisome in comparison.

There has to be other condistions besides random or programmed, and that is why you are not seeing why it is wrong. But don't ask me why.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
What would you classify as "random"? A flip of a coin? Rolling a pair of dice? How are they really random? Their results are all dependent on a whole list of other external variables (albeit an immense list).

I believe more in determinism. I find it a theory that I can wrap my head around and makes sense. (Free will also cannot exist if determinism is in fact true). It also seems to be well accepted in philosophy as true and follows/explains/works with our current knowledge of science and the universe.

With determinism, all previous events--no matter how small--dictate the outcome of the next, in effect.

However apparently the only real random events occur at the sub-atomic level in quantum physics... at this level, some physicists will say, atoms will behave or react (I guess technically it would be "act.") for no obvious reason or cause observable.

So... to now classify everything into the two categories given...

Random = Quantum physics.
Programmed = Everything else.

As far as the "illusion" of intelligence? Well, intelligence is used to define the level of sophistication and complexity of programming... so therefore intelligence cannot be an illusion. *That's* what's wrong with that argument. Intelligence is a **definition** of a skill level or ability and is not itself an ability.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
"Random" doesn't exist. The rest of your post is irrelevant.

I've also seen an incredible amount of evidence that intelligence doesn't exist, either. Don't ask me to prove it, though. I'm not smart enough ;)
Nov 17, 2008
Are you sure you're not related to Douglas Adams? This sounds remarkably like something he would have come up with, too. Sort of like proving the non-existence of God.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 17, 2008
Intelligence is programmed doesn't mean all programmed things are intelligent. It's like saying desks are furniture therefore all furniture is desk.
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