Thursday, June 16, 2005

I hate to be so blunt, but some people don't have a clue

One of the regulars in Jackie Passey's chat (an extention of her blog) insists that an economy has an intelligence of its own. Good heavens. I have never been able to fathom how people anthropromorphise what is only natural phenomena.

A definable economy is the sum of economic activity among a defined population in a defined area. It has natural market forces, such as supply and demand. However, those are derivatives and manifestations of natural law. Those are not any sort of intelligence, no more so than a few electrons rubbing together in a cloud and producing a lightning bolt.

An economy can be manipulated by intelligence, but the intelligence is still external; there is still no intelligence within the economy itself.

Scott (a contributor to the GNXP blog) pointed out that intelligence requires the ability to learn from information. Of course, an economy itself cannot, only its participants. I argue that an intelligence must exist to where it has a definable location. Biologically, a person's intelligence can be traced to a physically existing set of neural pathways. Even the concept of an omnipresent God fits with that; if God exists everywhere, so is God's intelligence.

7 Comments:

Blogger TKC said...

Cafe Hayek gives an interesting explanation here:
http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2005/05/the_spontaneity.html

"When we talk about spontaneous order, the adjective is trying to capture the fact that no one is in charge, controlling the economic system—the order we see around us is spontaneous, organic, emergent, rather than controlled, directed or managed.

I've never liked the word spontaneous in that context. It captures the unplanned aspect but there's an implication of suddenness and out of-the-blue that seems misleading. Emergent order is a little better. Hayek complains in the Fatal Conceit and elsewhere about our language not having phrases and words for things that are not directed or planned.

But I've been thinking lately about a different sense of the word spontaneous. It's the ability of the modern economy to deal with our spontaneity as economic actors. (Notice how that sentence suggests the economy is doing something consciously to cope with our spontaneity. Try and reword it to get rid of that implied management. How about this: It's how order re-emerges in the face of our spontaneity as economic actors. Better.)"

However, to be fair, we personify all sorts of things. You name it and we've applied human actions to it.
Cars are 'muscular' or 'sexy' or 'protective'. Really, they're just nifty machines.
Houses are 'forlorn' or 'dark' if something bad has happened there or 'happy' or 'loving' if a nice family lives there. Really, they're just four walls and a roof.
Hurricanes are 'angry' and have a 'mind of their own' so we don't know what they are going to do. Really, we've become very good at predicting them.
Guns kill people. No they don't. People kill people. Or more humorously put, husbands coming home to find their wives in bed with other men kill people.

Why do we do this? I don't know. Maybe it is just a convienent way to describe things by using a context we are all familiar with. Our own emotions. So the economy may appear to be living but in reality what we are observing are the results of millions of individual choices. We are not seeing intelligence in the economy, we are seeing the results of economic behavior defined by individual intelligent (for the most part) choices.

Okay.... I'll stop rambling.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 2:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Wayne said...

intelligence requires the ability to learn from information.

No it does not. Intelligence means nothing more than any ability to produce rational behavior in accordance with various inputs. Many automobiles have intelligence in that they rationally control the fuel mixture based in the inputs from various sensors.

In addition to mere intelligence the typical human mind possess further capacities such as recall, learning, abstraction, creativity, and empathy. Recognizing minute degrees of intelligence in nonliving things does not lessen the specialness of the human mind at all.

I have never been able to fathom how people anthropomorphise what is only natural phenomena.

Humans are natural phenomena. There is no a priori reason for rejecting the idea that other natural phenomena might share various emergent traits with us.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 7:28:00 PM  
Blogger TKC said...

"Many automobiles have intelligence in that they rationally control the fuel mixture based in the inputs from various sensors."

This is not intelligence. It is merely a machine doing what it is programmed to do. It may react to things as it is designed to do but it is incapable of learning beyond that. I have to agree with Perry. Without the ability to learn outside of what it is designed to do then a machine is just a machine and is not intelligent. Very intricate machines may do a good job of feigning intelligence but that does not acutally make them intelligent.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 8:08:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Wayne, give it up. You lost last night, and you're losing again today.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

And I'm still waiting for your answer as to where the economy's intelligence is located. Even if we accept your ridiculous assertion that machines can be "intelligent," ENIAC's intelligence was still located definably in time and space. Even so, that's only simulated intelligence. Our most complex "thinking" machines can receive input, process data and output information. Yet they cannot improve themselves, not beyond the extent of their own programming.

Just like Popper, you're taking a word and expanding it to fit what you want. That's poor philosophy. That's what Humpty Dumpty told Alice: when she protested that "glory" doesn't mean how he used it, he said that a word means what he wants it to mean.

Hayek may have had a few kind things to say about him, but if Popper can't get a few concepts straight (like "intelligence," and "abstract" versus "real"), he's just a third-rate philosopher. It's no wonder he, like so many philosophers, did little more than sit around and think. They couldn't do, and thereby offer something practical to the world.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Wayne said...

... but if Popper can't get a few concepts straight (like "intelligence," and "abstract" versus "real"), he's just a third-rate philosopher.

Now you are misattributing my error to Popper. I warned you yesterday not to base your opinion of Karl Popper on my poor explanation of one small portion of one of his works. And I do not recall writing anything at all to you regarding Popper's conception of intelligence. I brought him up first in reference to his treatise On the Three Worlds, and how he justifies calling all three of the worlds real. After that I was stunned by your claim that you had not heard of Popper before, given how generally knowledgable you seem to be. So then a brought up a political text of his "The Open Society and Its Enemies" (which I have on my "new books" shelf but have not started reading). If, due to me, you now think Popper was third-rate, that is your loss. I invite you to reconsider that specific point. Personally, I haven't read enough of his writings to say if it is first-rate or not. I've just had many other people recommend him to me.

The opposite of "abstract" isn't "real"; it is "concrete" or "particular". Philosophical realists believe that abstractions are real entities. Nominalists believe abstractions are unreal. There are also other positions, such as conceptualism. But all sides, for the most part, agree on the meaning of "abstract". You are the one who doesn't seem to understand what abstract means. An abstraction is that which inheres in particulars, and gives multiple particulars membership in a common class. If you are going to quiz someone one the meaning of a term, you should first know for yourself what it means!

--

you're taking a word and expanding it to fit what you want.

Notice that a google search for "intelligent devices" finds 85,000 hits. Are you claiming my usage is significantly different from the most of those?

--

Wayne, give it up. You lost last night, and you're losing again today.

Losing what? Not every discussion is a contest. In a discussion, the only real way to win to come away having learned something.

Friday, June 17, 2005 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Why should I waste my time on a third-rate philosopher who you revere too much? As I pointed out last night, you yourself are very ignorant about world events and important figures. You'd do better to pay attention to the news, instead of wasting time paying attention to "philosophers" who produce nothing of real value.

Again, you're going by whose definitions of "abstract" and "real"? Oh, someone whose expanded definitions suit the point you want to prove. Honestly, that's a trick worthy of Krugman.

In the ways we were discussing, "real" means having a definable existence in time and space. This is not the connotation that means "genuine" or "true," but you are confusing that connotation with the strict definition in regard to "things."

Something that is "abstract" does not have a concrete existence. That's it. But you were also claiming that "roundness" is abstract, when in fact it's a physical property and very real.

I already told you last night that having numbers on your side is meaningless. You can also pull up Google hits for websites that claim the Earth is flat, that the Holocaust never occurred, and so on. Does that make them true?

"Thinking machines" still do not truly think. They're merely programmed. Man has yet to design a machine that can exceed its own programming. Again, even our most sophisticated "learning" machines are still restricted by the finite If-Then-Else routines that the programmers input. There is a limit to the new routines they can create for themselves. Someone like you, who claims to know a thing or two about computers and technology, should know this.

You believe in evolution, I'm sure? Well, that's all about a particular species exceeding its genetic programming. That's the difference between life and man's artificial creations.

You're turning my blog into a pissing contest because you lost the argument last night. Your abuse of your posting privileges will end now.

Friday, June 17, 2005 1:11:00 AM  

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