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Workshop - I've Changed My Mind
Written by Alex   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:56

2. My Computer (What is Intelligence?)

Society, and even psychology, abounds with conflicting definitions of the word 'intelligence'. 'Intelligence is defined in our dictionaries primarily as 'intellectual skill or knowledge', also as 'mental brightness', and 'information communicated'. Although I realize this latter definition is meant, in the dictionary, to refer to 'intelligence' in the context of espionage, I find it to be the definition of intelligence which fits most closely with observable reality, whilst the former, most widely accepted meaning of the word turns out to be gravely misleading about the true nature of intelligence.

It is not my aim to argue about semantics however, and if my use of the word in this way seems inaccurate to you then feel free to replace it with 'competence', 'savvy', or even an invented term like 'narf'.

The thing which I am here referring to as 'intelligence', the thing I am focusing the spotlight on and pointing a finger at, is the important issue here; not what it is called. When one is addressing a general public containing members with a very high IQ who still believe in god, others who judge 'intelligence' on the basis of emotional maturity, and still others who consider their pet dog to be more 'intelligent' than most humans, it is impossible to agree on a term which suits all persons. So I ask your tolerance if you feel I have misused the word, and your open-mindedness in pursuing what I am actually talking about.

Life does not need intellect in order to survive. Most life on this planet proves this by surviving without any. There is an old joke, which goes: 'What is it that beetles have, which no other creature can ever have?' and the answer is, 'baby beetles'. Pure physical survival and reproduction needs no prefrontal lobes, and stripped down to its simplest forms it needs no midbrain either; this much must be blindingly obvious because if it were not true, every form of life without these would not exist.

By existing, it pokes us in the eye with the plain fact that life can survive and thrive without intellect, emotion, or imagination, but I believe it cannot survive without intelligence. This may seem a startling claim; surely, you may think, there is no real intelligence in an ameba, and certainly not within a clump of fungi. What I hope to do here, is to question our preconceptions about intelligence, because I have come to believe that intelligence is inherent in the very stuff of life itself.

To avoid misunderstanding here let me make it clear that I do not have any inclination to the belief that rocks and plants (or even crocodiles) can think. Intelligence doesn't start thinking until it has built the tools with which to think. Its first priority is to carry on existing for long enough to build those tools, to stay alive. And it does this by providing itself with a matrix.

The concept of 'intelligent life' is a grave misnomer, if one cannot have life without intelligence. Intelligence is the software program behind all life on earth, self-modifying software which improves itself and redesigns its own hardware to form an ever more efficient matrix to further develop in. It does not need consciousness or intellect and its beginnings are inherent in the nature of all matter, observable as replication in clays and minerals before it ever gets as far as organic molecules. Organic soup provides a richer template for its activities, and it is the program that forms the molecules of DNA as the building blocks of all organic life. Intelligence is a natural emergent of matter and energy, as surely as salt is a natural emergent of sodium and chlorine.

There is nothing uncanny or supernatural about this, and it needs no deity to explain it away. Nor is it random chance, any more than in mixing black and white pigments together one might create a shade of gray by accident; one will always create a shade of gray. Its designer dice are loaded because of physical forces and the structure of matter itself. Round pegs will fit round holes, and they will not fit square ones. Galaxies and solar systems emerge from big bangs, and intelligence emerges from the chemistry of matter and energy. Physical forces determine which molecules will stick together and which will not, and attraction and repulsion are the progenitors of all biochemistry and all life, everywhere. Intelligence is inherent in all information flow and interaction. It manifests as the ability to interact (augmentation of energy through exchange of it), all the way up from covalence in atomic chemistry, to human survival and success. Without it, entropy happens, and with it, things live long, and prosper. Intelligence is the movement of information from chaos into order, and the flow of information is what the program called intelligence catalyses and controls. The whole does indeed become more than the sum of its parts. Intelligence emerges in this manner, by bringing things together (through attraction) which can achieve more as a unit than each part could have done alone, and by keeping things apart (through repulsion) which cannot interact or synergise with each other.

Everywhere the software of intelligence runs, it follows the same pattern. It brings order out of chaos and establishes a matrix for itself. Only when this is achieved can it continue to emerge, and until it is achieved, all the energy available to a system will be focused upon trying to achieve it. It works from the bottom up, and only when the basics are established can it move on to the more complicated stuff. One of the earliest essentials it establishes is an ability to replicate its matrix. Matter and energy are volatile; they do not endure in any one form for very long. Even rocks crumble into dust over time, and perpetual change is the only constant. Intelligence must move house if it is to endure, and it must do so constantly. A tree lasts for a very long time compared to most creatures, barring accident, it can feed itself, but it cannot move itself out of danger and it cannot explore new territory for possibilities. Intelligence cannot develop very far if it cannot do these things.

If intelligence could be said to have 'aims', by observation and introspection they would have to be listed simply as 'growth'. Why this is so, is a question for philosophers and outside the scope of this work. How it is so, is what we are looking at in Matrix Theory. That it is a good thing that it is so, and fortunate for us, are ideas that are in our minds only because our brains exist in the service of intelligence and were designed by it, through trial and error, as the best platform it has established so far in order to achieve its aims. It is not our genes that are selfish; it is intelligence, and the difference is, intelligence is on our side; genes are not. Genes are just one more thing intelligence has had to use to keep itself around for this long.

'Growth' for intelligence is the movement from one matrix to another in a pattern which allows an ever more complex flow of information feeding back on itself. The success of the software rests on the ability to interact; to synergise, adapt, and diversify in order to explore any and every possibility for growth. The software itself evolves; becomes more complex in order to increase its own potential for achieving its aims. I do not think that this is volitional, any more than I think salt makes itself on purpose, or plants turning towards the sun is volitional, or evolution is volitional; I think it is inevitable because of the structure of matter and energy. Hence we get a wide variety of matrices in all environments intelligence is presented with. Intelligence is a cold hard scientific process, which does anything it has to do in order to grow. It is a program which exists in its most basic form everywhere, in chemistry, biology and physics, in the formation of gaseous clouds and the birth of new stars, in every element in existence, but only when running in the elements of organic life is it so far able to get seriously ambitious.

For the purpose of staying alive it develops sub programs for maintaining its matrix; it eats, it breathes, it moves around, it replicates, it gets rid of its toxic waste products and it really starts minding if things want to destroy it. It develops sensory apparatus to assist it in these aims, and drives and instincts in order to pursue them.

Organic chemistry provides it with opportunities that other potential matrices do not. Its extreme adaptability and variety is its advantage. Much more complex flows of information are possible in a plant than in a pebble. Actual physical growth occurs in minerals; so does replication, which requires a basic memory of sorts, but these are mere piffling trials when we see what can be done with organics. It is no surprise then, that in the context of biochemistry, intelligence starts to get truly ambitious, ambitious enough in the end, to possibly achieve its aims on a permanent basis. To do this ultimately, it will have to find a way to make itself immortal and indestructible. And I for one do not have a problem with that.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:57