(c) October 7, 1986 - John P. Wsol

© 2013 – my latest improvements.

 

Understanding
Understanding

 

by John P. Wsol

 

 

PREFACE

 

Cognitive Science integrates an interwoven cross-section of sciences that inquire into the nature of the human mind.  These areas are: neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science.  Work in Artificial Intelligence has created a need for a fundamental theory on which to base it.  This book is my attempt at confronting that need.

 

John McCarthy coined the term "Artificial Intelligence" at the "Dartmounth Conference" in 1956.  It was based on an idea suggested by the work of Alan Turing in 1937:

 

That every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence
can in principle be so precisely described
that a machine can be made to simulate it.

 

What many people have taken this statement to mean is that a machine can artificially simulate intelligence AS OPPOSED TO human intelligence being 'real' intelligence.  In other words...

 

Artificial Intelligence is to Intelligence
as
a multi-symptom cold medicine is to a cold cure.

 

You see, a multi-symptom cold medicine deals with the symptoms of a cold, but it does not actually cure the cold.  Artificial Intelligence has been characterized as being an 'illusion of intelligence' -- the art of mimicing the symptoms of intelligence without an actual basis of true

understanding.

 

Believing in this concept of Artificial Intelligence is like believing in 'Artificial Truth'.  There is no such thing as Artificial Truth!  At least not unless you base you rationale on faith in misconceptions.

 

To clear up this misconception ask yourself the question: "To what extent do humans exhibit 'artificial' intelligence?"  Perhaps it is when we try to manifest symptoms of intelligence when we don't really understand what we're talking about.  Or perhaps it is when we create artificial problems which consume our time in non-beneficial endeavor.

 

The real question is: "What is intelligence?", independent of who or what possesses it!  To answer this question let’s consider two distinct aspects of intelligence that mirror each other: analysis and creativity.

 

Let's use the invention of the light bulb to illustrate analytical perception verses creative thinking.  Thomas Edison conceived the light bulb when he brought five concepts together: electricity, a filament, a stem, a vacuum, and a glass envelope.  In this over-simplified allegorical model: let the filament be the mind.  Let the stem -- which supports the filament in the vacuum -- and the vacuum itself be the nerveus system and brain.  Let the bulb be the skull.

 

The electrical current (perceptions) runs thru the wires up the stem (the brain) thru the filament (the mind) which causes the structure of its atoms to vibrate (thought) at various frequencies which causes light to be emitted (intellegent manifestations) at the same frequencies.

 

(The lack of memory and “processing” make this a poor example, but there is a higher perspective of “this conversation” in the context of what “invention” requires: an acknowledgement of laws that govern physical existence AND, while working within the framework of that understanding, to connect concepts together in meaningful/useful ways.  THIS I what the reader needs to become aware of.)

 

Meanwhile the bulb (the skull) is protecting the system from the outside world.  The brain is a structure (the stem and vacuum) which supports a more abstract structure (the mind).  An interesting thing to note here is that 'nothing' (the vacuum) is one of the essential ingredients that enable the mind (the filament) to live a long time (insure structural integrity).

 

True understanding, it cannot be created -- only discovered.  What do I mean?  The incandescent light became highly reliable and efficient with an important discovery: that tungsten would make a good filament. My point being, that inventions require acknowledgement of the laws that govern existence.

 

Now to address analytical thinking.  A ray of pure white light when passed through a prism or defracted with a defraction grating is broken up into a continuous spectrum of colors.  Actual light sources such as the Sun or incandescent bulbs emit somewhat less than pure white light. The spectrums of these light sources, at close inspection, are not continuous, they, in fact, have dark lines within the spectrum (known as Fraunhofer Lines) or may even exclude whole segments of color.  (Lasers emit coherent light at various specific wavelengths.)  The dark lines represent the absorption of energies at specific frequencies.

 

Pure white light, in this paradigm, represents the total span of consciousness.  The colors represent various analytical realms.  Light, however, is only a narrow segment -- a single octive -- of the many harmonics of electro-magnetic phenomena.  The harmonics above and below visible light represent realms of consciousness outside our sensory perception.

 

The mind is a conceptual mechanism.  Intelligence is the rational correlation of one's perception of reality. It is the content and, when applied to an objective, it is the manifestations of the mind.  To the extent that it does not correlate to reality it is not intellegent.

 

Thinking is the mechanism of mind put into action.  Whether a mind is hosted by organic neuron tissues or by a software system within the electronic circuitry of a computer --

 

The mind perceives, thru its analytical abilities,
by modeling the context in which it exists.

 

The mind imagines, thru its creative abilities,
by molding the context in which it exists.

 

              ,

As Jose Y Glasset, put it in "The Dehumanization of Art" (1925):

 

Thinking is the endeavor to capture reality by means of ideas.

 

We're born with a mind -- relatively empty though it may be -- intelligence is something we aquire.  My hope, herein, is to show you how, thru consciousness, one can model the geometry of understanding -- the framework of the mind.  The understanding of this geometry is essential to the creation of a synthetic mind which can host genuine intelligence.

 

The basic thesis of this work is that human understanding is typically confined within artificial limitations that we place on our own minds.  It is only by becoming conscious of these limitations and then by penetrating and by transending them that human intelligence will be able to understand understanding.


 

INTRODUCTION

 

The first step to understand understanding is to confront the possibility that it may be beyond the grasp of human comprehension.  Note that the attitude here is one of confrontation not one of admitting defeat before we have even started.

 

Human understanding is limited by human perception.

 

The contents of this text will cause you to question the bounds of your understanding: including the perspectives, beliefs and attitudes which may restrict your perception.  Your conscious mind must transend these barriers in order to grasp the subsequent text.

 

LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE

 

                        1.     EXPERIENCE:   realms of our perception

                        2.        LANGUAGE:   when words get in the way

                        3.            BELIEFS:   myths & misconceptions

                        4.                PRIDE:   don’t confuse me with facts

                        5.                 FEAR:   faith afraid of challenge

                        6.            ANXIETY:   patience which yields to despair

                        7.             APATHY:   lack of reason to reason

 

The realms of our experience is the only limitation which the author believes is real.  Perhaps language can be considered a real limitation also, however intuitive, common sense and viseo-spatial understanding most often goes beyond ones linguistic abilities of expression.  The others are all artificial limitations.

 

 

LIMITATION 1:  EXPERIENCE -- realms of our perception

 

That which we come to know
is grasped in terms of that which is known.

 

In Albert Einstein's book  Out of My Later Years (1950) he wrote:

 

Science is the attempt to make
the chaotic diversity of our sense-experience
correspond
to a logically uniform system of thought.

 

Sense-experience is what we see, hear, smell, taste, or feel.  "Perception" is how we interpret these senses.  It is the "mind set" -- the basis against which the mind interprets reality.  "Perception" is simply the mind's perspective or 'reference frame'.  It is a mental vantagepoint from which our "mind's eye" views knowledge.

 

To understand any problem it is necessary to view it from above the problem domain.  That is to say, to understand a N-dimensional problem view it from a (N+1)-dimensional perspective.

 

Higher perspective is the key to understanding.

 

To understand our own minds we need to be able to see our mind from outside of ourselves.  In other words we have got to be out of our minds!  This is the topic of Chapter 1, meta-consciousness; the consciousness of consciousness. It is what triggers the need to reason.  Where reasoning is the correlation of two perspectives of a problem domain, meta-consciousness is the awareness that those perspectives are distinct. 

 

Consider the “peer review” process, all too often, this means your peers have been indoctrinated into the same way of looking at the problem domain.  If everybody’s thinking is trapped inside the same box then peer review means you will be critised if you think more than one-step outside the box. 

 

Human perception is currently confined to the context of space-time.  Only by transending this domain to an timeless perspective can one understand the geometry of space-time.  From this perspective one could see the end from the beginning.  It is only from this perspective that omniscience could be possible.

 

 

LIMITATION 2:  LANGUAGE -- when words get in the way

 

Language is intened to be a means of communication.  Communication is the process of conveying knowledge thru a medium in such a way that the recipient of the communication can comprehend, that is, to conceive within their own mind the same IN-FORMATION.  It is the process of reaching a COMMon UNIfiCATION of knowledge.

 

There are several ways that language can be an obstacle; from subtle misconceptions to blatant distortions.  The most pronounced of these is that various schools of thought have different dictionaries to define the meanings of words.  This can be very deceptive if you are not aware of the different meanings.  Or it can be extremely enlightning if these meanings are pointed out up front.

 

Words are not symbols related to other symbols.  They are symbols related to meanings.  The meanings are related to each other.  This INternal FORMATION is called a 'semantic network'.  Understanding is the foundation on which this infra-structure is built.  In other words...

 

Understanding is knowledge of the foundational laws
that govern a given realm of existence
not just the relational rules that describe observable behaviours.

 

A realm considered along with the laws that govern it will be refered to as a domain (or dimensional domain) in the remainder of this book.

 

If there is something which is on our mind's frontier of knowledge, then the ideas governing that domain will not yet have a distinct, clear defintion.  Those ideas will be the meanings of words yet to be coined.

 

Expect language to be both the tool with which to solve the problem and the obstacle standing in the way.  This is especially true if the language does not have the semantic expressability to deal with the abstract constructs of the subject matter.

 

Humans tend to be inexacting creatures.  The words in our mind's dictionaries often have slightly blurry meanings.  To comprehend understanding it is necessary to bring into focus the fine distinctions between words of simular meanings. Subtle differences in abstract meaning have profound implications on one's comprehension.

 


LIMITATION 3: BELIEFS -- myths & misconceptions

 

Beware of those who use language
as a means to avoid communication.

 

The famous French novelist Marcel Proust (1871-1922) stated:

 

The kind of fraud which consists in daring to proclaim the truth
while mixing it with a large share of lies that falsify it,
is more wide-spread that is generally thought.

 

The Italian playwrite Ugo Betti in Struggle Till Dawn (1949) wrote:

 

When you want to believe in something
you also have to believe in everything
that's necessary for believing in it.

 

These statements encompass the understanding of "belief systems".  If your faith is in truth then your subsequent actions will continue in the right direction.  This usually leads to a perspective of simplicity and beauty.  However, if your faith is placed in non-truth it will eventually lead to a dead end.  But, before it gets there it usually leads you through ever increasing complexity and perplexity.  This is what fallacious reasoning (sophistry) is all about.

 

Know what you believe
and who or what you believed
in order to believe it.

 

Look beyond what people have told you to believe.  Ask yourself if you could have faith (reliance) in your belief inspite of 'who' told you.

 

Please do not place faith in what I write here, but rather consider it and introspect your own mind to see if what is written corresponds with your common sense experience, then search your heart as you ask yourself if, perhaps, your current faith is unjustified.

 

The adhereance to the supposed merits of a particular philosphical school of thought can inhibit ones ability to perceive truths beyond the confines of that school of thought.  Note it is necessary to draw a clear distinction between religion and theology or between belief and faith.  This may not be easy because pride gets in the way.  So...

 

 

LIMITATION 4:  PRIDE -- don't confuse me with facts

 

Franҫois duc de La Rochefoucauld, in his book Maximes (1665-78) wrote:

 

While we cannot endure to be
deceived by our enemies or betrayed by our friends,
we are often content so to serve ourselves.

 

People tend to believe what they want to believe. Often they just want to belong, so they choose to go along with the herd mentality of their social group. What if that group bought into some  misconception or, in some cases, an outright lie?  Then the further they go on in life believing in this non-truth, the more uncomfortable they become in the presence of truth.  In this situation, watch their behavior, they throw reason out the window and emotionally react – kind of like when a parent catches their kid in a lie. First trying to rationalize it, then transfering blame, and hopefully, acknowledge it is wrong and finally out-grows it. 

 

Analyze your motives.  Are they selfish and self-centered, or are they selfless and truth-centered?  The mind of the flesh is emnity to the mind of the spirit.

 

Seek truth more diligently than
you seek to prove that you know truth.

 

 

LIMITATION 5: FEAR -- faith afraid of challenge

 

Faith casts out all fear, so...

 

Faith afraid of challenge is not faith.

 

If your faith was placed in a lie, then reason will condemn the lie.  If your faith is placed in the truth, then reason will confirm it.  You have to be careful as to the origins of your faith.  Fear of peer group acceptance is often a huge consideration.  It takes a lot of courage to step outside the herd and climb to that mountain top, alone.

 

The mind's eye can take on any point of view for which we dare let it. It is sometimes helpful to say "Just hypothetically, let's consider..." followed by whatever you may be having difficulty considering.

 

You see...

Faith is not blind,
faith is the ability to see
the invisible so clearly
so as to act upon it.

 

Faith, in order to really be faith, must be a product of reason.  Faith is not nebulous; it must have a direct object -- faith must be 'in' something.  Faith is a form of reliance; a confidence in what cannot be seen.  Faith enables us to confront an issue, to consider a possibility, to comprehend and achieve an understanding.  That understanding becomes the new foundation on which to base future judgements.

 

 

LIMITATION 6: ANXIETY -- patience that yields to despair

 

And then -- anxiety set in...

There is never time to do it right,
but there is always time to do it over.

 

Be careful of setting expectations on how long it will take to discover what lies beyond the current limits of your understanding.  If you do, then, when that estimate is exceeded, your patience is challenged -- soon anxiety swells up -- in turn shutting down the potential of your analytical and creative minds.  Wait till discovery "Whacks you on the side of the head".

 

To understand any problem, the approach to the problem will have a great deal to do with how easy it is to resolve.  The approach is entirely dependent on how one perceives the problem.  Perception, in turn, depends on the perspective.

 

Perspective is ones consciousness of
a given domain of existense.

 

Step outside the problem domain and circle the domain whilst contemplating the possiblities.  Seek a perspective from which the problem appears simple then start your approach.

 

 

LIMITATION 7: APATHY -- lack of reason to reason

 

Apathy is a disease of the mind thats rooted in the heart. Its passivity allows entropy to effect structural decay and... eventual collapse.  The mind, being a immaterial mechanism, is reliant on its own structural integrety for existense.

 

Determine WHAT it is you wish to achieve,
then BE determined to achieve it.

 

Be committed to know and understand truth.  Truth rings with astonishing clarity.  When you hear it you something deep in your heart or soul resonates with it.  Keep your anxieties, fears and pride in-check.  Focus on the crux of the problem.  Look beyond the perceivable, look beyond the words into the fine distinctions of meaning, look beyond beliefs in order to believe beyond belief.

 

There is a higher level of reality than can be directly perceived by our senses.  Only by looking and listening deep within can we penetrate and transend the current boundries of our consciousness to see... to understand... understanding.