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  1. #1
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Default Anthropic Mechanism

    I recently read about an idea called Anthropic Mechanism, which purports that everything about people can be explained mechanically, in the same sense that natural phenomena like gravity or heat usually can be. However, we don't actually have any way of knowing this for certain one way or the other.

    When I first heard about this, I was a little surprised, and didn't really want to believe such a thing. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized we didn't really think weather, navigation, or many other things could be explained scientifically either before they were. It's possible I would simply be resistant to such an idea because it would at first seem to deprive life of meaning, but I don't think it really would. All it would actually mean is that our behavior/thinking could be explained, not that we had any reason to stop behaving in such ways, just that we would have more control/awareness over such. It would simply show us how we find meaning, and actually make it easier for us to do so.

    It has been becoming a more appealing idea to me, because it's been difficult for me to find meaning in things. If I understood how my mind worked, and thus how it sought meaning, it would be easier to set things up so that I found it.

    What do you think of this idea? Impossible? Interesting? Do you feel opposed to it? Indifferent? Accepting of it as a possibility?

  2. #2
    Per Ardua Metamorphosis's Avatar
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    I always just assumed that this was the case. But then again, science is just a collection of guesses that are difficult to disprove.
    "You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit."

    Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office
    than to serve and obey them. - David Hume

  3. #3
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    I recently read about an idea called Anthropic Mechanism, which purports that everything about people can be explained mechanically, in the same sense that natural phenomena like gravity or heat usually can be. However, we don't actually have any way of knowing this for certain one way or the other.

    When I first heard about this, I was a little surprised, and didn't really want to believe such a thing. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized we didn't really think weather, navigation, or many other things could be explained scientifically either before they were.
    I will read more about this later, it sounds interesting.

    As far as weather (and similar things go), I think that we've figured out a great deal over the centuries and especially in the last 50 years, so we can have predictive power over it... but the chance of success seems to dwindle the further away we move from the target date due simply to the complexity of the system. We understand how the components work, how the elements of nature interact (jet stream, hot/cold fronts, etc.), and we also have collected a body of weather experience to inform our judgment; but the system is simply so complex that the potential future options vary considerably within only a few days of the target.

    And people are not different, in many ways. Someone's behavior in a situation can be predicted if you know enough about them -- but there's a certain factor of error introduced depending on the surrounding elements (i.e., other people, unexpected environmental influences, etc.) that will throw off readings. But the complexity of the social system is very large and can impact behavior, making it deviate from expectations.

    [I know this is probably a diversion, you seem to be discussing more the personal ramifications of being more of an automaton where behavior can be explained in things other than "personal independent volition" and how it might take away from feelings of person-hood, while I am focusing more on the predictive success of our understanding.]

    It has been becoming a more appealing idea to me, because it's been difficult for me to find meaning in things. If I understood how my mind worked, and thus how it sought meaning, it would be easier to set things up so that I found it.
    That's interesting, Ath -- something to think about.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Arcesso pulli gingerios! Eldanen's Avatar
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    The map is not the territory.

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    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    The fact that an equation can be written does not mean that it can be solved.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    I recently read about an idea called Anthropic Mechanism, which purports that everything about people can be explained mechanically, in the same sense that natural phenomena like gravity or heat usually can be. However, we don't actually have any way of knowing this for certain one way or the other.

    When I first heard about this, I was a little surprised, and didn't really want to believe such a thing. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized we didn't really think weather, navigation, or many other things could be explained scientifically either before they were. It's possible I would simply be resistant to such an idea because it would at first seem to deprive life of meaning, but I don't think it really would. All it would actually mean is that our behavior/thinking could be explained, not that we had any reason to stop behaving in such ways, just that we would have more control/awareness over such. It would simply show us how we find meaning, and actually make it easier for us to do so.

    It has been becoming a more appealing idea to me, because it's been difficult for me to find meaning in things. If I understood how my mind worked, and thus how it sought meaning, it would be easier to set things up so that I found it.

    What do you think of this idea? Impossible? Interesting? Do you feel opposed to it? Indifferent? Accepting of it as a possibility?
    Navigation? Anyway.... I think you hit the mark, with the other parts I highlighted.

    I believe, that finding out more about how things work, gives more meaning not less. We now know how barometer readings and expected weather are related. More meaning, not less.

    Imagine if someone had some Alzheimer's and the disease hadn't been discovered yet. Would that person's dementia be more meaningful to family members, if they didn't know about a neurological disease causing it? I think not.

    Was there a time, when you didn't understand how your computer worked? Do you find your computing experience is less meaningful now that you know more about them? For me, it is an emphatic no. It is no longer just a machine that I do my HW on. I know when there has been a resource conflict on my system. I know when there is a buffer overrun. I actually know what an un-handled exception is now. More meaning, not less.

    It is my experience, in general, that the more we understand, the more meaning there is. I find it baffling that people think it is the other way around.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldanen View Post
    The map is not the territory.
    But a good map guides us through the territory.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Imagine if someone had some Alzheimer's and the disease hadn't been discovered yet. Would that person's dementia be more meaningful to family members, if they didn't know about a neurological disease causing it? I think not.

    Was there a time, when you didn't understand how your computer worked? Do you find your computing experience is less meaningful now that you know more about them? For me, it is an emphatic no. ...

    It is my experience, in general, that the more we understand, the more meaning there is. I find it baffling that people think it is the other way around.
    But aren't you comparing giraffes to elephants here?

    We can use a computer without understanding how it works.
    And we can deal with a loved one who has Alzheimers without understand exactly why the brain has deteriorated.

    But neither of those things deals with our sense of volition and independence.

    The questions raised by Ath actually are confronting our self-appointed status as autonomous agents in control of our own destiny. That is why we are disturbed by learning that perhaps all of the things we normally attribute to our own "choice" or independence are perhaps just direct and literal products of our genes, our upbringing, and our environment... that perhaps there is no true self but just a machine or little cog following the path that has been foisted upon it.

    So I see these things are entirely different, I do not think your examples are comparable at all to our ideal of "free will."
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  8. #8
    Arcesso pulli gingerios! Eldanen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    But a good map guides us through the territory.


    Yes, a good map will guide us through the territory, but no non-physical map or theory, or perception of a framework of ideas, will ever be totally correct unless you happen to be omniscient. There's always the chance that you've missed something.

    E-Prime - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    "For example, the sentence "the movie was good" can become "I liked the movie" using the rules of E-Prime, which communicates the subjective nature of the speaker's experience, rather than directly imparting a state of goodness to the movie. Using E-Prime makes it harder for a writer or reader to confuse statements of opinion with statements of fact."

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    But aren't you comparing giraffes to elephants here?

    We can use a computer without understanding how it works.
    And we can deal with a loved one who has Alzheimers without understand exactly why the brain has deteriorated.

    But neither of those things deals with our sense of volition and independence.
    Knowing that your weird uncle has a disease at all, I think, would lead to treating him more kindly than if you just thought he was loopy and senile. It could also lead to treatment that can allow the mind to deteriorate less than if the disease is viewed as annoying eccentricities initially. Knowing still more can insure a patient's family against quackery, and allow them to ask for second opinions at the right times.

    I also think the sense of violation is less when you know that your loved one is going through a similar thing as many others(and the experiences are more similar because the disease is the same), and people are able to then share support of people going through a similar illness.

    IMO, we are limiting what this "mechanism" is to a worst case scenario--that of us being automatons, and "loosing" our free-wills.

    I don't believe that to be the case. Imagine a scenario where we find out how will works, and knowing how our will works is the essential part of our "mechanism". In addition, imagine that knowing how will works, allows us to make it more "free". I think we need to open our minds to possibilities when we are talking about possibilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    The questions raised by Ath actually are confronting our self-appointed status as autonomous agents in control of our own destiny. That is why we are disturbed by learning that perhaps all of the things we normally attribute to our own "choice" or independence are perhaps just direct and literal products of our genes, our upbringing, and our environment... that perhaps there is no true self but just a machine or little cog following the path that has been foisted upon it.

    So I see these things are entirely different, I do not think your examples are comparable at all to our ideal of "free will."
    There is that word just again. Why the word just? Why limit our imaginations?

    Reality is just as much in the configuration of elements as it is in the elements themselves.

    I'll use a simple computing example again. A program, or a file, is the same whether it is on a CD, on your hard-drive or on being transfered on the net. They are copies but if the copies didn't get corrupted, they are the same program or file.

    I think who we are is more like software, than hardware (could be my Hindu background that leads me to believe this). It is possible that we will one day be able to preserve ourselves outside our corporeal bodies if we see it to be a good thing to do (I don't believe it is a good thing, though).

    If you want, I may try to give a vivid description of a "mechanism" that preserves "free-will."
    -----------------------

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldanen View Post
    Yes, a good map will guide us through the territory, but no non-physical map or theory, or perception of a framework of ideas, will ever be totally correct unless you happen to be omniscient. There's always the chance that you've missed something.
    We always miss something. That is almost the point of it--to intentionally miss the things that are non-essential to what we are asking or doing.

    One always misses something. This is true whether one thinks one has a map or not. I would say, it is more true if one fools himself/herself into thinking you can see the territory, and not just a map of sorts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldanen View Post
    E-Prime - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    "For example, the sentence "the movie was good" can become "I liked the movie" using the rules of E-Prime, which communicates the subjective nature of the speaker's experience, rather than directly imparting a state of goodness to the movie. Using E-Prime makes it harder for a writer or reader to confuse statements of opinion with statements of fact."
    Passive voice has its place (esp. in scientific description, philosophy, and such). But it seems like using E-Prime is a good exercise for professional writers (I am not a professional writer).

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  10. #10
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    I recently read about an idea called Anthropic Mechanism, which purports that everything about people can be explained mechanically, in the same sense that natural phenomena like gravity or heat usually can be. However, we don't actually have any way of knowing this for certain one way or the other.

    When I first heard about this, I was a little surprised, and didn't really want to believe such a thing. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized we didn't really think weather, navigation, or many other things could be explained scientifically either before they were. It's possible I would simply be resistant to such an idea because it would at first seem to deprive life of meaning, but I don't think it really would. All it would actually mean is that our behavior/thinking could be explained, not that we had any reason to stop behaving in such ways, just that we would have more control/awareness over such. It would simply show us how we find meaning, and actually make it easier for us to do so.

    It has been becoming a more appealing idea to me, because it's been difficult for me to find meaning in things. If I understood how my mind worked, and thus how it sought meaning, it would be easier to set things up so that I found it.

    What do you think of this idea? Impossible? Interesting? Do you feel opposed to it? Indifferent? Accepting of it as a possibility?
    True.
    They should never have divided between the animate and the inanimate in the first place. Where do you find life in the microcosmos? It is not there.
    Just another chimera.

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