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Relationship to error as distinguishing trait between automated process and creative minds?

Discuss the January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month, The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt.
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Scott
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Relationship to error as distinguishing trait between automated process and creative minds?

Post by Scott » January 13th, 2019, 10:01 am

When comparing automated processes to the creative aspects of the human mind, the authors of The Runaway Species write the following (page 160):
We count on automated behavior to be free from mistakes. In situations where outcomes need to be reliable, such as getting the fork to our moth, neural pruning removes superfluous options. We want to type correctly, run without falling, play a perfect scale on the violin. But proliferating options requires a different attitude towards error. Error is to be embraced, not avoided. In automated behavior, error is failure; in creative thinking, it is a necessity.
That is an interesting way of distinguishing the automated and/or subconscious aspects of the human brain with the more creative and conscious aspects. Even more, I think it starts to speak to one of the differences between current machines and human minds, perhaps illustrating one of the obstacles in creating strong general AI.

What do you think?
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Dorian
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Re: Relationship to error as distinguishing trait between automated process and creative minds?

Post by Dorian » January 13th, 2019, 1:26 pm

I have been a reader of this forum for some time, but the serendipity of this post inspired me to create an account. Just yesterday I read an paper titled "Erro, Ergo Sum" in the Philosophy Pathways journal which hit on this exact subject. The author takes a more extreme stance than The Runaway Species to hypothesize that error making isn't just a necessity for creative endeavors, but the defining characteristic of a conscious mind.
Although errors vary greatly in nature and degree, this discussion will focus on the
most fundamental manners in which we might err, which will be referred to as perceptual
errors. These occur when sensory information is either ambiguous or misinterpreted, and
suffers an encoding error from which we derive an inaccurate picture of reality. The
theory proposed is a framework in which consciousness, cognition and free will may
have emerged from a single evolutionary adaptation to safeguard against these perceptual
errors.
I have been thinking on it all weekend, and it is really weird when you hear a new idea and it seems to start popping up all over the place. I watched David Eagleman's PBS series on The Brain, and now it looks like this book will move to the front of the queue when it arrives.

To your point regarding error making as an obstacle for a strong AI, I agree it is an obstacle and one of the most profound differences between current machines and human minds. It seems to go part and parcel with the enormous undercurrent of hidden motivations (evolutionary pressures, social dynamics, biological drives, ect.) that there is no obvious way to program into a computer in order to replicate or approximate human thinking.

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cavacava
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Re: Relationship to error as distinguishing trait between automated process and creative minds?

Post by cavacava » January 13th, 2019, 5:47 pm

The process of creating automate behavior, involves error, and I imagine the engineer working on such a process does embrace error as something to be overcome, a bug. The machine process once complete, may be error free and as such it is available for use by others who may want to incorporate part or all of it for some other project. Common structures may arise depending on purpose and these may get incorporated in many schematics.

If all creativity is confined to syntactical changes then perhaps machines can be as creative or more creative than its creators (although it may be that 'the cause cannot exceed its effects').

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Re: Relationship to error as distinguishing trait between automated process and creative minds?

Post by Tehsorso » January 17th, 2019, 2:52 pm

Dorian and Cavacava - very good observations. I strongly recommend The Fourth Age by Byron Reese, incidentally the February club book, for an interesting discussion on the error-related limitations of AI. The book is really philosophical in its approach, by the way, with a multitude of perspective being explored equally convincingly.

Cavacava - error may be a bug for the engineer if we think of error as a malfunctioning operation, but building an AI that would process error in a constructive way would be something of a holy grail. Wouldn't that be what you mean by "incorporated in many schematics"?

I agree, though - if AI were to use error the way human do - that is, for creative (generally speaking) purposes - they would probably be able to generate more creative output than humans. But, as Reese suggests, it's highly unlikely that they'll be able to replicate human error processing.

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LuckyR
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Re: Relationship to error as distinguishing trait between automated process and creative minds?

Post by LuckyR » Today, 3:16 am

This topic's controversy reminds me of the splash and then backlash for and against fuzzy logic awhile back.
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