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Old 05-19-2019, 05:35 PM
Half Man Half Wit's Avatar
Half Man Half Wit is offline
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Originally Posted by wolfpup View Post
First, a preface. I've had a number of discussions with you and enjoyed all of them, and I've learned a lot, particularly about quantum mechanics. And for that, thank you.

Now on this, I have pointed out its flaws, several times, and the second part of that quote is just flat-out wrong. You're describing the phenomenon generally referred to as weak emergence -- properties that may or may not be inferrible from those of the constituent components. Now, while I may not agree with David Chalmers on various issues, at least he has his definitions right on strong emergence [PDF, emphasis mine]: "We can say that a high-level phenomenon is strongly emergent with respect to a low-level domain when the high-level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning that phenomenon are not deducible even in principle from truths in the low-level domain."

I would then point out the example of an electronic calculator that is built from logic gates. It performs calculations, but it's not hard to show that there is nothing about this device that is even remotely "intelligent" in any meaningful sense of the word. It does arithmetic. One could even posit creative multiple interpretations of its results that are other than arithmetic. It's a lot like your box with lights and switches.

But in a very true and fundamental sense, systems like Deep Blue and subsequent chess champions were built out of the same kinds of logical devices. So was Watson, the Jeopardy champion. And they are fundamentally and qualitatively different systems from any calculator. Would you like to posit an alternative interpretation of Watson's computational results? You can't, not because it's such a complex system that it's hard to do, it's because it's qualitatively a different kind of system entirely.
Strong emergence is a very contentious notion, and to be honest, having to appeal to it rather weakens your position. While it's true that a strongly emergent property can't even in principle be inferred from lower-level properties, that also means that knowledge of the lower-level properties can never yield sufficient reason for belief in strongly emergent features---so we're back with faith.

On the whole, the main idea behind computationalism and other physicalist ideas is essentially a rejection of such notions. So until you can point to any example of strong emergence (and no computer ever will yield one, since the breaking down of their large-scale 'intelligent' behavior into elementary logical operations is kind of their point, and their very computational nature entails the deducibility of this behavior from the lower level), the default position ought to be a strong skepticism. I tend to agree with this:

Originally Posted by Mark Bedau
Although strong emergence is logically possible, it is uncomfortably like magic. How does an irreducible but supervenient downward causal power arise, since by definition it cannot be due to the aggregation of the micro-level potentialities? Such causal powers would be quite unlike anything within our scientific ken. This not only indicates how they will discomfort reasonable forms of materialism. Their mysteriousness will only heighten the traditional worry that emergence entails illegitimately getting something from nothing.

Last edited by Half Man Half Wit; 05-19-2019 at 05:39 PM.