« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#164 — Cause & Effect

2019-08-05 | 🔗

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Judea Pearl about his work on the mathematics of causality and artificial intelligence. They discuss how science has generally failed to understand causation, different levels of causal inference, counterfactuals, the foundations of knowledge, the nature of possibility, the illusion of free will, artificial intelligence, the nature of consciousness, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the making sense podcast. This is SAM Harris, okay! Well, I'm recording this intro in the immediate aftermath of now to mass shootings, the one in El Paso, and it appears there was one in Dayton a few hours ago
Needless to say, social media is now a cess pool. I guess there are a few things I could say about this. Actually I wrote a piece on my blog's when I used to blogged rather than podcast about six years ago, in response to some jihadist violence and uh. It really is the clearest articulation of what I have to say at moments like this. The conversation about atrocities of this kind, mass shootings, it's generally so confused and it's so frustrating to see people talking past one another for political or otherwise, emotional reasons that um. I don't know it just. I think I'll read the first part
of this blonde post. Just Thio put my argument in view in the clearest form and then maybe say a few things relevant to the current moment. This comes from a post titled, no ordinary violence, which was published October 11th, two thousand and thirteen. A young man enters a public place, a school shopping, mall and airport carrying a small arsenal. He begins killing at random. He has no demands and no one is spared. Eventually, the police arrive and after an excruciating delay as a marshal their forces, the young man is brought down or arrested. This has happened many times and it will happen again. After each of these crimes, we lose our innocence, but then innocence magically returns in the aftermath of horror, We seem to learn nothing of value. Indeed, many of us from and committed to denying the one thing of value that is there to be learned after the
in marathon bombing, a journalist, asked me why, is it always angry young men who do these terrible things? She then sought to connect the behavior of Tsarnaev brothers, with that of Jared Oftener James Holmes and Adam Lanza. Like many people, she believed that similar actions must have similar, because But there are many sources of human evil and if we want to protect ourselves and our societies, we must understand this. To that end, we should differentiate at least four types of violent actor, and now. This is a sidebar that there may be one new subtype here that all I'll add, but here's the first one. Those who are suffering from some form of mental illness that causes them to think and act irrationally, given access to guns or explosives. These people may harm. Others, for reasons that wouldn't make a bit of sense, even if they could be articulated. We may never hear Jared Lochner and James Holmes give accounts of their crimes.
And we do not know what drove Adam Lanza to shoot his mother in the face and then slaughtered. Dozens of children but these mass murderers appear to be perfect examples of this first type, Aaron Alexis the Navy Yard shooter is yet another. What provoked him here repeatedly complained that he was being bombarded with quote ultra low frequency electromagnetic waves, he thought that killing people at random would offer some relief. It seems there's little to understand about the experiences of these men or about their beliefs. Except the symptoms of underlying mental illness. Two, this the second type pro typically evil psychopaths. These people are
delusion their malignant Lee selfish, ruthless and prone to violence. Our maximum security prisons are full of such men. Given half a chance and half a reason cycle pass will harm others, because that is what cycle past due is worth observing that these first two types trouble as for reasons that have nothing to do with culture, ideology or any other social variable. Of course it matters if a psychotic or cycle path happens to be the head of a nation or otherwise has power and influence That is what is so abhorrent about North Korea. The child king is mad or simply evil and he's building a nuclear arsenal, while millions starve, but even here, there's very little to be learned about what we the billions of
out of the normal human beings struggling to maintain open societies, are doing wrong. We didn't create your loft apart from making it too easy for him to get a gun and we didn't create Kim Jong IL apart from making it too easy for him to get nuclear bombs again. This was written six years ago. Given access to powerful weapons, such people pose a threat, no matter how rational, tolerant or circumspect we become- and I guess I would add another descriptor here- their people, it's Teams who fall into one of these two categories, who are living in an online culture of trolling. Now, where killing people and writing semi bogus or entirely bogus manifestos merely designed to confuse the media is becoming a new phenomenon right. These are people who
are not moved by a sincere ideology. There just quote: shitposting the behavior of Tro Ling on web sites like four Chan and eight Chan has been exported to the real world in the form of mass murder, designed as a troll and to some degree I believe, the Christ church shooting in the mosque had this form right still not entirely clear what happened there. So this is a kind of arrangement that social media has introduced, into our lives, where some people are willing to commit murder and even mass murder simply to enjoy the spectacle it creates online again there, either crazy or evil or both, but in certain cases
tunes for their behavior or not, as they appear right and the media seems to get very confused about this. Okay, the third Type here, normal men and women who harm others, while believing that they're doing the right thing or on the acting to notice the consequences of their actions. These people are not insane and they're, not necessarily bad they're, just part of a system in which the negative consequences of ordinary selfishness and fear can become horrible, magnified, think of a soldier fighting in a war that may be ill conceived or even on just who has no rational alternative but to defend himself and his friends. Think of a boy going up in the inner city who joins a gang for protection, only to perpetuate the very cycle of violence that makes gang membership and necessity or think of a c. YO who's, short term interest, motivate him to put innocent lives, the environment or the economy itself in peril. Most of these people aren't monsters, however, they can
He create suffering for others that only a monster would bring about by design. This is the true banality of evil. Whatever Hana or rent, actually meant by that phrase, but is worth remembering that not all evil is banal, normal men and women who are motivated by ideology to waste their lives and the lives of others, in extraordinary ways some of these belief systems are merely political or otherwise secular in at their aim is to bring about specific changes in this world, but the worst of these doctrines are religious, whether or not they are attached to a mainstream religion, in that they are informed by ideas about other worldly rewards and punishments, prophecies, magic and so forth, which are especially conducive to fanaticism and self sacrifice.
Of course, a person can inhabit more than one of the above categories at once, and thus have his anti social behavior over determined. There must be someone somewhere who is simultaneously psychotic and psychopathic part of a corrupt system and devoted to a dangerous transcendent cause. But many examples of each of these types exist in their pure forms. For instance, in recent weeks, a spate of especially appalling jihadist attacks occurred one in a shopping mall in Nairobi, where Non Must have been systematically tortured before being murdered, one on a church in Peshawar and one on a school playground in Baghdad targeting children. Whenever I point out the role that This ideology plays in atrocities of this kind, specifically the islamic doctrines related to G
God, martyrdom apostasy and so forth. I met with some version of the following quote: bad people always do these things. Religion is nothing more than a pretext. This is an increasingly dangerous misconception to have about human violence, here's. My pick for the most terrifying and depressing phenomenon on earth, a smart, capable, compassionate and honorable person grows infected with ludicrous ideas about a holy book and a Paradise and then becomes capable of murdering innocent people, even children, while in a state of religious ecstasy to say this problem is rendered all the more terrifying and depressing because so many, us deny that it even exists. Okay, I think I'll stop there again. I wrote this six years ago in the aftermath of some jihadist
max and I'm reading to you in the aftermath of some mass shootings in the United States, which it test at least to the problem of gun violence here, as well as to our failure to make it difficult for bad people, crazy people, dangerous people, get access to guns, and it might in fact attest to a rise of white supremacist violence at the time. I'm recording this. It's not yet clear. What's what here, but whatever is true of El Paso and Dayton, two things are absolutely clear. One is that again we need some rational,
gun control in the? U S and I've written about guns, my views on guns and gun control or hard enough to parse that they resist easy summary. You can listen to the podcast or read the Associated essay titled, the riddle of the gun. I can sound very pro gun for part of that, but the punch line you should not lose sight of is that the regulations I recommend on guns in the? U S are more stringent than anyone on the left is calling for. So don't lose sight of that. If you freak out over the other parts of that essay that sound like they were written by the NRA, an organization which I hope will one day be destroyed, the short form of this point is that we licensed people to drive cars. We license them even more stringently toe
fly airplanes and I think getting a license to own. A firearm should be like getting a pilot's license. It shouldn't be easy and if you're mentally ill or prone to suicidal depression, it should be very difficult to get your hands on a gun but with three hundred million guns already in existence in the US. This is a hard thing to bring about not to mention the political religion around gun ownership enshrined in the second amendment. Anyway, we need a conversation and research and political change around the epidemiology of gun violence. It's insane that we suffer this in the: U S! To this degree, it's also true, that we should keep some perspective in the hours where I think is now thirty. Eight people have died in two,
shootings in the US more people have died from ordinary shootings and by suicide and even by medical errors in hospitals right. So we should keep some proportion here and finally, whatever is the case with these specific shooters, whether or not they're, both people of the fourth type I described in this essay people who are motivated in this case by the lunatic ideology of white nationalism, and that may yet prove to be the case. It is obviously a bad thing that we have a president who utterly fails to be clearly and consistently posed to these ideas. Yes, you can find him in the aftermath of Charlottesville, saying one measly thing against white supremacy, but
to say that he has been ambiguous on this issue is an understatement right to say that he has given comfort to racists is an understatement. He completely lacks a decent ethical, political response to these trends. I'm not a fan of dog whistle theory. I don't actually think he's dog whistling in his statements to white supremacists. I think he's just an ordinary Archie Bunker style racist who doesn't care about these issues and doesn't want to alienate anyone in his base. And I think the people who are endlessly talking about dog was are doing much more harm than good in our political discourse. Things a dog whistle, in fact, almost nothing is a dog whistle. I'm not saying the phenomenon doesn't exist, but generally racist. What they think and when they talk to other racists, they're explicit about their racism.
And it really does matter that the left's allegations against Trump and his supporters are so poorly targeted. You know, when he tells a lawn Omar to go back to where she came from on the left. That is proof positive of racism, again, I have no doubt that Donald Trump is actually racist, but that's a bad example of racism. It can be read in other ways, and I think that is a dog whistle to NEO Nazis, it's just an active leftist clairvoyance. That strikes me as totally counterproductive to remind you how crazy this to become. There was a Washington Post opinion editor, who claimed that Nancy Pelosi was dog whistling to racists when she criticized AOC, and I Omar and the rest of these so called squad Nancy Pelosi. The
dog. Whistle meme is going to prove politically suicidal on the left. We have to be precise, Even when attacking racists, so whatever turns out to be true in this case whether either one of these mass shootings is a clear example of white nationalist terrorism. The problem with Trump is not that he is a clear supporter of white nationalist terrorism or even white nationalism the problem is, he is an obscenely, a moral president who can't be counted upon to say anything beyond what he imagines is narrowly self serving politically and financially to use a great word, which is now much overused this is the US presidency reduced to a grift and it's all
but is not always precisely awful in the ways that are alleged on the left and again, every error matters we're guaranteed to have trump for four more years. If the Democrats can't their house in order. So my political concern here is that this not get over plate and over Spahn, it's totally possible that one of the shooters is mentally ill and if this still gets talked about as white now journalist terrorism, rather than a symptom of mental illness. That is going to be a political problem and no. This is not a double standard, their acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims that are not examples of jihadism, much less jihadist terrorism,
sometimes people really are violent. For other reasons, as I sought to make clear in this essay. However, it is yet another very dark moment- and this is all been horrible news, but I will leave it there and now for today's podcast. Okay, when this episode of the podcast I speak with today, a pearl today is a professor of computer science at C L, a he's, the author of three highly influential scholarly books he's also the winner of the Alan Turing Award, often considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for computer science. He's a member of the? U S: National Academy of Sciences he's one of the first ten inductees into the IEEE Intelligence systems. Hall of fame he's received numerous, awards and honorary doctorates, including the Rumelhart Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Metal and the Lakatos Award at
be in London School of Economics, he's also the founder and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, and that is because he is the Father of Daniel Pearl. Who was the I believe, the first journalist killed by Al Qaeda, at least the first that came to the attention of everyone in the aftermath of September 11th anyway, I mentioned this at the beginning because it would have awkward to have just ignored it, but, as you'll hear, I didn't have the heart Thio to make today's experience there a topic of conversation, so I opened that door only to close it, then we just go on to have a fairly high brow conversation about how science has generally failed to understand causation, but I
at the different levels of causal inference: counterfactual Tze, the foundations of knowledge, the nature of possibility, the illusion of free will artificial intelligence, the nature of consciousness and other topics anyway. One point: I get confused about what we're talking about. So it's a bit of ah nerd FEST, but I really enjoyed it and as well. Here Judah is a. Dear person and was a great privilege to meet him so now without further delay. I bring you today Pearl, I I'm here with Judea Pearl today, thanks for coming on the podcast. Thank you. Sam great to be here. So we have we've been circling this podcast for quite some time. It's it's taken, awhile to actually get together We have many areas of overlapping interests, so I'm looking or to talk to you about your work. I was prepared, as I say,
offline to just talk about your academic work and and we'll get deep into that given my background as a critic of Islam and as a warrior about the link between specific religious ideas and and specific forms of violence. It's awkward for me to get up it's awkward for me to ignore it as well Danny Pearl, your son, who was, I believe, the first at least first most visible person murdered turn murders, journalist yeah after two thousand and one. So I just want it kind of just mention that the out said we can talk about it or not. If you I talk about these topics separately, so we can separate it to discussions. Ok, ok, I don't feel the strange talking about it. I get used to talk about it, but I think for in terms of listen. There was
twist some people have interest in the technical part and some have in the you. Right right, it's good to separate it toe okay! Well, let's, let's dive into your work and and then see what happens because your work is fascinating so how would you describe what you what you're in electoral focus has been in your career? lately has been the mathematician of off cause and effect. Let's put it very very concisely, and precisely but there's a direct connection to artificial intelligence. So you talk about us if we want the robot to behave, behave like us to communicate That's thousand our language. We have to equip with them with the ability to communicate in terms of cause and effect. This is our language. If they act, stupid without knowing the difference between coalition
ocean and causation, they will not be be to supply us. A answers to questions. Here without burning for us, even simple questions like Why did the milk spilled because I pushed it or because I was irritated the things of the sort you want a good answers, a good, so we can communicate so you just mentioned this, this opposition between relation and causation, and this is a phrase that will be familiar to many people Think many people will be surprised that it has impeded scientific understanding to the degree that it? Has you make a very strong case that science has more less, ignored causation and yet I think in the pop. Understanding science is all about finding the causes of phenomenon, so it may
We speak for a few minutes about how statistics has rendered us unable to speak about causes historian statistic, I think general yeah, you see, we learn physics. Every high school kids can solve physics homework. And if you look at the physics homework it's you have boundary additional condition. You have the equation of motions and find out. What's going to happen, or even what's going to happen. If you intervene and you change the spring length to dub this previous value, it's a cuddle question marine every child can do that. But when you trying to transfer this knowledge to a
computer, robot you know put is facing the clash. Hill is a question of physical symmetric, which means that S gotta swipe to the same degree as Y causes X, which means that the movement of the barometer depends on the pressure the same with that apply should depends on the move to the parameter right. So we know Roberts comes in and look at the equation. So let me change the weather tomorrow by moving this parameter a little bit right. What would prevent the robots for doing that? Gas is the same thing that prevents the high school, kids, for not giving the same answer right yeah, but what the high school kids had the notion of causes, so their high school kids filters, the quick in his or her mind, beef giving you the answer and
because the kind a kind of filtering that we need to do through to introduce of symmetry between cause and effect and do it mathematically, because the robot doesn't understand the hand, leaving yeah, I not understand rations. We need in the algebra, which is a symmetry to capture the hearts. Imagery in nature preserves asymmetric with respect to Influence the time is usually the signature of influence men with, but it's not necessarily yes, not only a time. Yeah we can show me in cases in reach the Temple direction. Temporal order, is different and still exclude us. Why and why doesn't cause the x ray it's this simple I mean you, don't you don't actually need chili ology if you have something on the the new rule, still Krumm receives the some ways the room and no one will say that the rooster Crow called us. The sun.
Is highly correlated to high, so the route, the rooster Crow appears to be a cause, if time were your only signature. If the time is the only thing of their rights, it's not sufficient. So you talk about three levels: causation and maybe back up for a second to do a little more history of ideas. So David Hume, philosopher, has been very influential here in alleging that place in his work that we never. We have no direct knowledge of causes. Ever all we have is the conjunction or the or the correlation. The coincidence of events and when you know event be reliably, follows event, a we impute station, where in fact there's no other knowledge ever gained there, and you know I've always felt that that's almost a kind of semantic game which ignores some background in
tuitions. We have that reach deeper into the way the world is thin, just mirror the following, a it ignore experiments. Can get a little lived before you right. So I'm surprised attention to very low. Although Galileo didn't make it explicit that with experiments, we get additional knowledge that you cannot get by passive observation, but uhm, Um puts too much This is on regularity, which was created please by many other people, but then you change his mind. Yeah between his in the in the treaties on human nature, and he after I think, seven or nine years he he said in other words, and then he he brought up a counterfactual definition of causation rap head
project being different. The results would I don't have the exact phrasing but in my book it he chew in some regularity, two counter factual, head object being different than the reserve. The outcome will be different and even put the way words, in other words between them as if they are who they were the same right, but they're totally different. The first one is, a statistical regularity which sits on the first level of the ladder in the delta function is a top layer, the third layer. Yes, let's talk about that three layers. You you describe them at one point as seen: doing and imagining right so seen, is this while let you describe it, what is seen is saying: is you are sitting there like an astronomer passively, observing phenomena with your hand, tied behind your back and you are talking about.
How your believe changes with additional observation that statistics. If you see some, you see Another piece of evidence? You change your belief whether you see simp, Can you change your belief about disease? see a disease and you have expectation about symptoms, and so this is what the statistics is all about, and so that's the domain of mirror correlation the man you mean Humi in juxtaposition at least the first human is first mood and that, by the way, the domain off machine learning today right, kill, fitted yeah him under noise course right. So that has been the dominant, the almost energy? Maybe we're we're to head tour de I for a second, but maybe we should should elaborate on that just for a stretch of thirty seconds machine learning takes in an immense
amount of data and finds correlations which prove useful as as long as we give it information as to what constitutes success. So if I take a a facial recognition task was you know something and there's just there's that mirror correlation combined with sufficient computational power can prove very useful. Israel is not it's just amazingly use yeah, just obviously not the basis of of general intelligence of the sort that we are later talk about. This is debatable whether it is sufficient for intelligence seems. Opinion is not because I have seen mathematically without burials that you cannot cross right. Ok, so we'll get to AI in a second and and the robots that may or may not kill us so scene, then there's doing what is doing doing his running experiments. I'm I'm
I'm wondering whether cancel smoking causes cancer, so I conduct experiment. It is old. Is it Daniel in the land? The in the book of Danielle. You have the first experiment. A Daniel and his fellows easily lights were exiled refused to eat the food, it wasn't kosher, and the king that couldn't had meter commanded them to eat the kings foods, because it was much healthier, and he depended on their talents to run the empire. So then you propose an experiment. Okay, take a few of us, give them vegetarian food, and Take the other groups and give them the kings food and see who is gonna be more health, healthier looking, and that was the first, the sperm in that we know of almost
controlled dollars, run idea. I don't know which the control is there, but yeah. Dick group, yes, so, let's take a view, you split the group into two parts, one of the control, other one is treatment, they call them and then you see the difference in the outcome has an experiment, but of course was invented only in the 1930s there right randomize experiments randomized can. I we have been dealing with cause and effect much before that's right. Even what time of day, one hopes, how do they manage well child manages by conducting a playful manipulation in the but child. The finds out moving one bowl cause. The other one bowl to move playing with one toy makes a noise
and the other one doesn't know. It's called playful manipulation. And that I believe, where we get most of our knowledge about cause and effect in the world. Yeah yeah you push world and something happens with your own muscles like the Galileo dropped the two objects from the tow of pizza and looked at them with his own eyes right. That was essential So the third level is imagining third one is imagining some people do not see here You can sit back if you want, I can just swing yeah is imagining is looking. With your theory of the world sing it in your mind, talking about imagining by showing the first sculpture, they described impossible objects.
It was a line head connected to human body. That was the first, the figurine ivory figurines discovered from thirty two one thousand years ago in a cage, in Germany. The first object out, if it they describe an impossible object? How was it created? Well, the artists in his or her mind probably was his. Am he imagines taking up Do the human body it's and putting on a lion head met, only in your mind first and then put it in the ivory, and that was a key okay. You can manipulate things in your mind, what doing it in the physical world, and that is a terrific idea
does that create according to Harare and market of promises? Your your you you've all know. Her are a yeah we we've he's been on the podcast and yeah. You know he's he's very interesting his of the of the month and personally, the communique it in one message? If you guys should get together, So imagining is the domain of counterfactuals and counterfactuals are a very important part of this story. It's essential science. How would you define a counterfactual is figuring out an outcome. Will have prevail. Head's Certain observation not taking place. Had Hillary won, the election had Cleopatra nose being long enough, and it was really ok at Julius Caesar. Not Robert Kuttner don't have
cause, that's how historian communicate ok and they understand each other and they form a consensus. So they communicate head awful, not killed Kennedy who, how would the american politics develop when would have been pulled out of Vietnam and things of that sort and they can community yeah that way, despite the fact that awful did kill, kill Kennedy, how can we form a consensus, but things that the conflicting with the real project, lily of history. So it's it's a discussion of what might have been my activity and it's it's anything that falls into the bin of had the world been different. What could we say then? Could it right if I hadn't crossed the street at percent?
I see that moment? How would my life be different and that comes all the ethics, you- should have known better great yeah, so that the such a sound like a very dry export from the ivory tower? This notion of counterfactual is but it under pins. So much of what we care about and I think we'll we'll get into that have a but there's another connection for me to the foundation of knowledge about what does real knowledge consistent. It's not enough to be right by accident Can't, like you know, if I look at my watch and it's actually broken, but it happen. To show the correct time at this moment it's wrong to say that I am in knowledge of what time it is. I know, because a minute later I know I will. I will reveal that my methodology is such that it's not delivering me actual knowledge about the world, so we need to be able to ask- and this is
this is problem problem I always get into with religious people know when I criticize religion. I criticize it for this. When you ask yourself I would invite any any believer to ask this question of themselves now. Would you believe even God, if God didn't exist right, do you stand in such relation to the truth of his existence, such that you would not form a false belief that he is just is your belief in God, the result of being in some contact with reality such that? If God didn't exist, you wouldn't believe he exists, and I think any look at the the history and psychology of religion demonstrates that in almost every case, apart from the the mystics who have vision of God that you may in fact be a vision of God. You know who are we to judge believe
where is routinely violate this principle, because the truth is they inherit these doctrines from this generations that have merely asserted that certain books were dictated by the creator of the universe and there's no no more burden of evidence than that and there's no more reality, testing or up dating of beliefs generation after generation. Is there still the mirror, Sir, Shin, that these ancient books are the perfect record of God's existence? why you are facing now a specimen of a personal who answer your descrip? I don't believe in God. Actually I know that God doesn't okay, maybe one better and I still believe in him: okay! Well, that's it Gonna get complicated, okay, okay! Well, so all right, so I'm reluctant to take a full detour here, but it's it's too interesting! So, okay! So what do you mean? What were you gathered religion, regional, just poetry,
well, I'm using certain metal for sure will very helpful due to my cognition. I'm using them to communicate with you with my children. I say young God will punish you feel, you talk like that. Why not M, which means the I of the be more scientific about it. He most of listening works around me. The falls similar with this in the deepest metaphor that we have. The or family relations onto mother and father. We are, our perception system is, Do it soon, together our mother, frown all smiles near first but we we we learn. You grew up.
And you find out that the world is not only mother and father's, it has stars and it had other things. So you create a metaphor because I understand mother and father. I don't understand this movement of the stars, so I would immediately come out with the conclusion They did some force, like my father, that moves the styles around and like my father teaches me things, and this me things sometimes very natural. So that's the basics of our cognition, so I do not fight it use it, but I remember the the only met on the point. Okay. Well, then, you have a you're you're in a parish of with very few members at the moment, but the in I mean that's a a legitimate use of of poetry and literature, certainly, but it's what most people most of the time mean by God.
Has you know just to say that in about what might have been different in the level of belief, so believe certain things about the world and I believe I'm in touch with the world? I believe that, for instance, I'm staring at a microphone that I put here, I believe, there's a microphone in front of me on the desk. Sit in that belief. Just say that really is my propositional attitude that there's a microphone on the desk is the assertion that, if there weren't a microphone on the desk. I wouldn't think there was one right. So there is a counter factual built into just the assertion that this is a Michael whether anyone ever thinks about it. But, as you point out, an understanding of factual. Our own ability to model them is
the necessary ingredient to understanding what, in fact is a cause. As opposed to a merely a an event that happens to proceed some other event in time or be associated with it, A miracle is necessarily too believe in actual cause by uh, actually is different than than average calls. Smoking is on the average, Smoking is harmful to your health on the average. Something could be could benefit from smoking Talk about the individual, then you talk about counterfactual right. Had I not small I would have lived cancer, it's number of heals. Well, let's talk about the smoking case, because that was a fascinating bit of history in your book, which I thought I was aware of, but it was actually
a four bit more grim and delusion all then. I realized that that that there was a period of such active and protracted debate about whether or not smoking cause cancer that it went on for too long, and you had people who had signed those who were smoking two and three and four packs a day to nine the linkage and there nicotine empowered level of confirmation bias that was ruling the conversation there. What lessons do you draw from period in our history. Show me only me. It means something, that's different than other people. For me, it was in example, of this can argue about things. For which they don't have a language they did. Have a language of causation at that time. They had a language of randomized experiment which they couldn't conduct on smoking right
The game official was his top the the decision at the time and avid pipe smoker yeah I, with all his life, It gave him ammunition to claim, maybe maybe what We see just coincidental correlation doing some genetic factor that makes you you crave food, nicotine on one hand and it put you in the council risk on the other. So what we're saying is just the effect of a confounder. Rightly no. I felt they're through. Causes both. I am not sure that he did it because he was a smoker or because he was he wanted to be an ip. Mister bra, which means Justice Mouth is A smart, ass, okay and to show
he is knowledge about statistics and about the possibility that you I'd get the same results. The different hypothesis right, yeah, I'm not sure what which was the case but the hill. The fact that he resisted The conclusion of other people, whom went on for more years. Nothing. Many millions of people died. The result of that eventually, it was resolved by commissioner. And they came out of the surgery general came out with a statement that it does cause cancer. And the way that came about it was interesting. The looked looks into The plausibility argument in order calculated the degree to which, did hidden genetic factors will have to.
Change, your craving for nicotine, and that made it impossible or implausible that If you have this genetic factor, the Unigram eight times more than if you didn't have it, they don't have any mechanism between GEN the with to make this craving plausible. That was a key for the conclusion that they came up with in consensus. They came up with, and things have been different since that, but still what confronts. There is the sense that, based on a purely statistical argument, it's always an overreach to establish causation, no matter how much data you have of correlation correctly and that is not been appreciated to the greed should be no cause is in no causes out
that was a Nancy Cartwright, which people make sense, but no causation without correlation everybody understand. Ok, the idea is that if you want to go because of conclusion, you must have some clothes some for some. Please experiments one of the two right. This is so important because some of the people who. Have for forgotten, let's linger on this notion of of counterfactuals for another moment, because so it it does suggest that Possibility is a real thing and occasionally wondered in fact the last time I wondered this in public I was, it was John Brock, final edge question and, and the one I suggested was, I don't know we were in that particular round, but my last edge question
the question that year was what should the last edge edge question be, and I believe my question was: is the actual all that is possible, which is to say that is possibility. An illusion. Is there only? What is actual is the notion that something else could have happened, always just an idea, and does it actually not reach into anything that we can profitably? Think about? Is there sim? We just the fact of the matter in every case and actual thinking is, is explicitly thinking about what what is possible. What what might have been had things been different, and I guess so. I guess I'll just put it to you. How do we know that possibility is even a thing. It's useful to speak as though it were thing, and it's actually connects to the. Topic of free will, which you write about in the book, because you know you and I are convinced happily
Not many people agree with us, but you and I are both convinced that free will is an illusion, but in one way or another it's a useful or inevitable illusions. You don't understand what makes it useful right right, and we you and I might disagree a little bit about how useful it is, but is it possible- and here there's the useful invocation of the concept is it possible that possibility is an illusion as well. It is goes ooh that his so it progresses along one trajectory, and that is the trajectory that was dictated by the big and the improve Little way that, however, Oh mind is full to him. The notion of possible worlds. And that the could be other trajectories because
the equation of physics, if you take them, invite manipulation. A Dick one equation: I throw it out: ok, okay, this is a possible world, the with only three equation. Instead of the four four Maxwell equation, you have only three, it's still world right so because we have it symbolically holding the whole mine, I'm talking about an equation of physics. We have the invitation to manipulate it. Take away equation, manipulates change, parameters being being easy. We done and because it's so easily done with manipulated and the child understand had you know, spilled the milk. It's still could be a kind of fiction. They could have a status analogous to us talking about the possible world of hamlet right and we have. We have a completely a vivid sense of
no hamlet being the Prince of Denmark and I've had a having a certain personality and various problems, and that's we don't talk about it. That is a possible world. We talk about. That is a fictional world, but what doing we're doing a simple plan, a similar game? Cognitively we do that. Perhaps it's doesn't have, could be hamlet or poetry. It's simply do. Am I going to touch this table or not I don't know him noise, but I don't know, but I do live very, very vivid sensation that I have the option correct and you too, if you have option of deciding whether to touch or not look at my finger, I'm not sure. I'm not sure you have the option, but I'm pretty sure I have the odd hey. No, this vivid sensation is illusion I don't, have the option eventually my neural system will dictate. If I do or don't touch it, but now we seem to be talking.
About possibility and free will, as though they were synonyms and so free Will the area of the set of all assertions and concerns that that fall into the free Will Bin is a subset of counterfactual thinking and and and possible? right, so we can talk about possibility like had the And the you know the constants of nature been slightly different. The universe would have been had a different character right. Obviously doesn't have anything directly. Any direct connection to free will, but we're still talking about a possibility. Has very strong connection well ultimately, but that could be a universe without creatures like ours elves that with every well. That I'll give you the connection. We you have equations of physics for the world, so we can figure out how it would behave if I change Planck Constant well fact of two: ok I do have a model of myself
was it that I have with stole doing some symbol of form. In my mind, I have the invitation to change. If you put a little slow tell you what would happen had I not touch the table in this similarity between the two is Heaven a symbolical presentation of the world not only about what happened in the world, but also the robes behind the data right in the same thing you know in order to think about free, will you have to think out, possibility and counterfactuals? And yet we can think about possibility and counterfactuals with respect to the constants of nature prior to any beans like ourselves that may or may not have Had the illusion of free will, but let me add one more piece here and then then we'll see, if there's more to say so, there's another phenomenon that is related here, which is the notion of emergence? I can't remember if you touch this in your book.
It's widely alleged in science that there are, there are emergent properties of complex cyst right, so you have atoms. And then you have atoms arranged in in various molecular structures, and you can have certain molecule. Is that find themselves in living systems and the systems make have nervous systems and process information in various ways and minds emerge treasures at some level of that complexity and mine's do things and direct behavior in the world and at each level of emergence phenomenon that conceptually can't be reduced to their lower level constituents so it it you. Can't really talk about economic systems at the level of of atoms. Right and yet anything you're going to point to in the world. That is an economic system
at least in our world is made of atoms and we're talking about the behavior of atoms. But it's much easier to summarize their behavior. If you say well, you know the stock market crashed that day and you know everyone went home early, we're never going to get there. Merely talking about Adams and it, and the high level description gives a very easy summary of of what have a What happened? You know, why did? Why did all those atoms move in the way that they did merely understanding the you know. The electromagnetic forces involved is is gonna, be a very long route to understanding the behavior of all those atoms on that day. So people many people draw the conclusion from this picture of emergence that there is a disconnect from the lower level on the higher level and the higher level things whether their minds or economic systems have a reality that
not only is not best explained in terms of its lower level constituents or defy find in those terms, but it has a kind of top down causal power so that mines do things to Adams, that can never be explained at the level of atoms themselves, and this is this: is where I've always felt that something spooky is, is sneaking into the conversation items that may take consciousness as a as a simple case or take the idea that we should meet here for this conversation today now on one level, this is a higher level, there's a higher level, abstraction and you know it's? A linguistic phenomenon is a cognitive phenomenon. It's a phenomenon we can talk about. We can't really talk about the level of neurotransmitters and their effects we talk about it
terms of buildings on a university campus and the time of day were supposed to meet, and the reasons why we wanted to speak and many people would would would jump from that disconnect and say well. There's this this reality of reasons and ideas about buildings and abstract concepts that has top down concept this for the behavior of living beans in this case ourselves, but I would say that in that case, whatever the, physical, neural instantiation is of all of these ideas. That is the level at which it has causal efficacy right. So it's like a so my idea that you know I'm running fifteen minutes late. You know, I better send today an email telling him I'm going to be late. I Ian sit on the level of of of
SAM and the experience of looking at my watch, you know that that's the phenomenology, but it only has causal power. At the level of neurotransmitters and signals to motor neurons and all the rest right. So, There really isn't at the level of causation the cat ash value of of experience has to be run at the level of the physics of things. So there is no, it's not true to say that there's ever top down causation. In that sense, this top neurologically top top down causation because there's you know frontal lobe influence on the so called lower structures in the brain, but we're still just talking about the physics there's no topped causation from some other layer of so called emergent phenomenon. I wonder if you have any opinion on that. I never thought the top down thing. I was no intrigued by the clash between the layers
like the possible world. Is it clash turn on the atomic level? There's no possible worlds is just one trajectory but on in our mind, I could have done things differently, so there are possible world ok and look at the clash, for instance no food symmetry of time with the equation of physics symmetrical in time, whatever. If you run a picture forward or backwards of the atomic motions, you would not be able to tell which is the correct picture, Both of them are compatible with the equation. A frustrating is equation. So the on the other hand, you never see really see these smoke going back into teaching chimney. It's a microscopic level, so you have a clash.
In atomic description of things, which said everything is symmetrical in time, you hear the macroscopic that you know his time is direction. This is a typical clash. The other clashes were talking about. Causation We know that neurons act, these cause mission in our neural system community is no possible world. The world could not have been different in my action and still I sent we send people to prison for not for not knowing better for doing things that you have done, and the prisoner claims but the you you may be that way. I was born that way. You program it that way, is a clash between two level of description. One is the level of our software
maybe talk about free will and we talk about responsibility and regret full of neural connections, where these no regret is only one trajectory. So that's the right analogy to use, perhaps the song software hardware analogy, so we can't understand a specific program in terms of its of justice, machine code or just the the electrical changes in the hardware. There's a higher level. Description of this is a word processing program, or this is you know this isn't net browser, and then we can have it. We can. We can understand what's happening, but it's actual causal efficacy is happening at the level of the machine code or beneath that. The actual physical changes in the hardware, the hardware that there's a level of abstraction and a then there's a level of actual instantiation, but the level of abstraction does have
power, because these things are platform independent and minds could be minds like our own, even could be substrate into and if we could actually run them on an artificial platform, so if, in fact, there's no top down influence well that he's a top down, abstraction is it is? It is an influence from from above the layer of the physics of things right, because it because that that that that's the one thing allows for platform independence in the case of like the software hardware distinction. So the obstruction tells me You have an option to act. One way or the other six tells me you don't have an option, is the flash mmm. If I follow my, struction and I act according to some normal rules as normal protocol. If I have the option I may or may not go to prison
in prison, I may fall and break my head, which will affect my Newell architecture. Ok, so of course, there's some You stop down in in bottom up, I'm talking about only the logical conflict between the two level of abstraction, and I think this idea that we have up and we have will and regret for it. Okay in the level of obstruction abstraction of normal communication communication, which do we have a model of ourselves of our software or different level of detail, and this into action between the level of description gift of the illusion that we have free will yeah, so I think I'm still confused, but I'm not confused, that I said so I think you and I are going to agree about free will almost entirely. I guess I'm confused man
confused myself on this on this notion of top down influence, because- and you know it's to close the loop here- it is often the he, the intellectual claim that is underwriting a a very smart and educated persons. Belief in free will, as as you know, as I would imagine, you know there, many scientists and philosophers who will defend apparently to the death, or at least the the death of their logic, the notion of free will in a way that we, you- and I would challenge in the sense that it really does exist on some level. Even there, people who think even libertarian free will likely. You really really really could have done. Otherwise, even if the universe were exactly the way, the way it had been a moment ago. There are other p plus, you know who call themselves compatible compatible. My friend Dan Dennett is one I'm one you're one but you're different than than I could already tell yes, because I'm agreeing with you and I'm fighting with them so they're different
of compatibilism, but let me just just see if I can close the door to this one piece of confusion. I now suffer this notion that an emergent property of a higher level of abstraction can have downward causal power right now, Most of the other examples I entertain seem to be unconvincing for me on the on this front, because I have. If you talk about my desire to drink a cup of coffee having causal power being the proximate cause, am I actually going to get coffee it's not at the level of the phenomenology that it had the experience that has causal power. Is it the le all of whatever that desire is at the level of my brain that is linked to my arms and legs, sending me to the coffee machine? So it's still is at the level of the physics that it is causally efficacious.
I happen to experience it at a at another level, or at least my experiences is other component. But when you talk about software and the power of abstraction, there seems to be a no element which is here? We have logical structure of a computer program which can on Lee, be talked about at the level of the language in which is written here and it's and it's logical structure because- and it is in principle irreducible what any specific machine is doing with it, because it can be run on many different machines and and highly non analogous machines? Okay can be run on machines that presumably don't use is any form of electricity and then, and so how do you deal with the fact that there is this layer of abstraction? That where the causal power seems to be best placed
When you run it in the world that each instantiation, it is, the cash value is in the form of what it's doing at the level of hardware, but still it's logical relationships matter at the level of the where you would never know what I don't get from. You is the interpretation of the world. How do you deal? How do you do you have to deal with. If I don't see slash I don't have to do, is fine. I see clash in the U interpreting and how? How is that not top down fine, the causal causal, have an engineer I want to design a robot that that has a certain has a certain behavior right now I see a clash here. I want to robota me that he wants to do something. I don't know how to program once so I have an engineering problem once
I understand how you and I you and I mean by I- want. Oh, I made it out of free will. If I understand that I can this is my dealing okay it's an engineering problem is in terms of free will any great I have this ocean day have a sketch that all it is: is one level of software looking at a bloop end of a layer below it and changing it, changing priorities that what I mean by next time don't spill your miracle next time now rubber bank here next I'm don't rob a bank if you don't prison so when she gets for he next time, you'll twice get it how to change the priority. The government, the software layer below below the one we're talking about,
because you have a blue print off the layer below you and you can change parameters off it and you don't have a total description off your software, because that will violate the halting problem blueprint. So you have the power to change on software by changing few parameters, and that means next time. I'm going to remember my punishment and. And go to another bank, but of course yes, but of course yes, yes, yes, but of course all of these changes in you you're changing your priorities, you're regretting what you did all of this is more just pure cause station at the level of the universe. So this is not the free will that people think they have. These are just more lawful changes in a complex system on atomic level you haven't made into for you haven't changed any prayer. What is given than a thing you just follow. The law
cause of physics from Big Bank, okay and we should add that know many people who, I think it's at last last time. I checked something like thirty percent of physics believe in the many worlds view of quantum mechanics, and so in that picture anything that is, possible is happening somewhere so there are many different possible versions of this conversation there. Many many there's there was the one where you touch the table. There was the one where you didn't touch the table. All of those choices are, being made by the universe, and the universe is splitting into increasingly dissimilar copies of itself from this point forward. It's the thing that to believe that he is to me. Yes, I I'm with a land once the mechanics. I know how to socialize you'll get a creation yeah, but it never saw, the problem of free will for me there or not
no, no, no, that doesn't relate to free will. In this case, you don't get to choose which universe you're in right, yeah, yeah, okay, so let's, let's drill down on free will for a second, because you really, I think, you're. The only person I have found who was gonna hit upon some of the same ways of of answering the concerns of people who are still attached to the the ordinary notion of free will and. Like I said just how how we talk about the notion of you should have done. Otherwise, you shouldn't have robbed the bank. I what what? What when I don't believe. Even free will do I mean when I say to my daughter, you should have done your homework last night or you should do it now, and How do I think about my own regrets right? So if I did something turned out badly, I regret it for me,
and now I you know, I think for you, these are not statements that I could have done. Otherwise these are affirmations that In similar or nearly identical circumstances in the future, I will want to do otherwise. This isn't it an evaluation of outcomes and a commitment to being better in the future right. But it's a statement about the future is not a statement about the way the past could have been a computer instruction residences in next time we are facing a similar situation reprioritize. It will not instruction right now, but next time right now reprioritize your software, so that next time, when you're facing the same situation, you shellac differently here yeah, but we are dealing with instructional that be phrased, not at the instruction, but in some
will happen in the past. You should have yes homework. What was interesting that the p, and again I'm referencing, not you know, especially ordinary people, I'm referencing, psychologists and neuroscientists, and philosophers physicists the people who believe in free will also tend to believe not in immortal souls that are pulling the gears of of biology. They believed that human minds are the product of information processing the level of the brain I believe that the mind is what the brain is doing and yet they're not comfortable with this notion free will, as as an order. Conceived, doesn't exist and
they would never, I think, with the exception of Dan Dennett, they wouldn't want to attribute free will to a robot that successfully pass the turing test and- and you know, exhibit a general intelligence I think if you, if you said to most people in this, is why Dan and I fight about this because Dan in my Sudan is redefining, free, will and then saying it's compatible with science, but it's not, and he thinks his redefinition is a virtue, whereas in my world he's just seems to be changing the subject from what people think that what people think they have and think they want and giving them something else. But for Dan. We are biological robots right and if we build robots that function like human beings, it will be appropriate to tree mute free will to them as well. But, of course, if we build robots where the full program is of,
able to us. We know exactly how they're built, we know exactly what they're going to do in various situations. That's precisely the circumstance where free will is absent on most people's account. This is precisely the clash is we know that the robot? This that's the beauty of thinking about the rubble right? Hey is a in the betterment of the philosophical question of free with we know that Roble just follow instructions they're made of deterministic gates, logical gates, and even if they can change the instructions they will be doing by virtue of their prior instruction other planets? Actually you could they can't get out of the causal system that birthed them, but it cannot differently than the way the program this doesn't prevent him from speaking to each other, as if they three wheel- and this is as an engineer- this is my test- will robot team play better soccer
if they were equipped with the law with the hypothetical and the religious uh speech of free will, but you should have passed me, the ball just pass. Okay, I'm looking for the pragmatic, the engineering question of but to be gained by this illusion. Once we the standing gaining the gain where it is on, what level we can enjoy it, we will understand ourself better. We understand what drives us to believe so adamantly in uncompromisingly in the illusion of free will, even though we know that yeah yeah Well, I I've done enough meditation such that actually no longer experience it when I pay attention. Usually I I that's why I don't have the conflict that most people have so it it's. It's absolutely obvious to me: the
that I don't know what I'm going to think until the thought appears. I thought just appear and intentions just appear, if I suddenly remember oh, I forgot my parking ticket that comes out of nowhere right, so the sense that there is an agent who is is authoring those thoughts, a thinker of the thoughts, that left me a long time ago. So so I don't but still imprisoned by their so so I don't so there is actually no conflict and I feel like the getting rid of the conceptual notion of well are recognizing that it doesn't make. Any sense is actually more compatible with my experience when I pay attention to it than the alternative, so that's I don't have that circular problem, I have other problems so if the gun to touch on
a I and what would mean to build a a robot that passes the turing test. I guess what will say something about the current state of things, because what you know a I has made amends gains of late, but not the sort of gains that signal that AG, ire or general intelligence is necessarily around the corner. You have some thoughts about that. The lack of transparency of deep learning systems. Why is that a concern? Yeah? It's I we leave on the first level, it's of concern to people who build it. They don't know how they do not know how to debug it. If you is expected. Then you need to have a guidance for diagnosis and for repair and then doesn't exist. Now,
don't know if the deviation between expectation and performances is due to programming or due to noise, you to some other factors, it's cool z. The northern visits driving call am go over to help the pedestrian. We don't know the cause of that unless we go and break it apart and that's what idea of explanation give it to a level of description. That you can take things apart and examine them, one by one and say all that was the cause of the fault. I repair it. So the pairing is a very important element in system building It's one thing and the other one is a personally, I don't like to work with whom, in the main will end on the stone, my product, that is just a personal preference I like to work with the creation, so I can pick them up but and modify them.
So: I don't have come for comfortable in working with systems that can sub lies me, and I don't know why and then the third question is society. We are building here, unpredictable organisms better than ourselves capable off computation, which wasn't that was it and that's scary, because question comes: how do we control it? What degree will regulate research and regulate construction of such systems if we don't have any idea about the future capability, Tuitions divide here fairly strongly there, many of us who are quite worried about artificial intelligence and see no alternative, but to build it I mean. Obviously it's it's going to be built in so far as we were able to build it in intelligence is most valuable resource. We have, we want more of it, but this the so called
troll problem or alignment problem, the idea that we could build machines more competent than ourselves that might not be perfectly aligned with our interests and might not care that they're not aligned right, they might not be amenable to are saying: oh, no! No! No! We prefer you not do that. You know that's not what we wanted you to do. Could you come back and do some more of this in so far as they become vastly more competent we are, they might stand in relation to us. The way stand in relation to my isms or insects or chickens. My money my favorite example chicken, and so just just how disposed care would we be about the fate of chickens if something we we suddenly cared about? What you know was was in medical to their well being because we know the answer to that question. So the thing that is of concern turn to many of us is that, provided we succeed, we build intelligent
name is truly intelligent, autonomous machines and in the ultimate case we build machines that can improve themselves and built or build the next generation of intelligent machines. So something like an intelligence explosion of the sort that I J, good and many others have worried about, and it almost doesn't matter how fast that happens, but it could be a slow as you want it to be. At a certain point, we are in relationship to other beans that are more powerful and more intelligent than ourselves. If we go down this path- and that seems almost in principle to be a relation ship where we will not be able to predict what they do or what they want or what they come to want, and there will be no possibility of control.
This is where intuitions divide some people feel like. Okay, that's potentially a recipe for suicide or some you know horrific Lee dystopian experience, at least from the point of view of humanity, but there are others who are who are very smart, who they think many things one- they think that one- we would never be so stupid to build something that could harm us in that way. Right. That sounds The moment I get to the end of the sentence, but other people allege that ethical intelligence is sort of in t to come along for the ride, so that over for building things that are more more intelligent than ourselves, we will be perforce building things more ethical than ourselves and therefore it is things that are bound to be the
best safeguard for our well being they're not going to stand as we do in relation to check ins, which is to say callously trampling them or eating them. They will what what we will successfully build is a generation of super intelligences which are. Super ethical and that that can't help but be aligned with our well being again, that sounds so pollyannish that I can barely say it with a straight face. Where do your intuitions go here with respect to concern yeah when they come to this point. I use all my scientific Bergen to tell you you cannot. You cannot have intuition about that. You cannot have a feeling and if you Of intuition and feeling that worthless, because we haven't experienced this kind of predicament but again it we can only make analogies to chicken yeah. So, but the analogy is so you:
We might be using a bad analogy granted, but it's it's a compelling one to think that here's one something that I think is is is fair in this. Base of all possible minds, more intelligent than our own right. So just that there's there's there's some set of all possible minds that air that we could build or could cause to build themselves. There are are some and perhaps many and mind into it, and would be most that wouldn't be. Perfectly aligned with our well being so there has to be a way to do this wrong right, so that already This is the door to some level of love. Hopefulness here and I have been convinced converted. I would say, to the camp to store the Russell camp.
Rib, which is governed by worries and the need to control and the need to at least attempt to predict the possibilities that could confront us. Yeah, hey convinced me that you should think about it was it? Was it Stuart who convinced you yeah, that's Sze, that's fantastic cause. He he's somebody who, when I want a sanity check, he's the person I talked to a guy. He He has convinced me. I mean I, I came to this topic encounter in his arguments, among the his. His arguments were among the first encountered when I, when I came to this topic, so so I did I was never really a doubter, but he he he's incredibly sensible on this particular time yeah. He co is me. Yeah, but you know I'm I go zero runs this horrendous space of possible world one of them, the Heavens in discusses, is so what does so? We become chickens to the super being and they treat us nicely
they give us. Ah, the ability toe pick in the right place and all be slaughtered in the right and that sound good yeah you may I was with. I was with you up until slaughtered. Maybe this is let me going there. Is it very bad as chicken wool she can extremely regretful for letting us doing it on to them what they would have prevented? I think some of the more I miss it. So the analogy that I've used before which gets to the concerned better for me is, if you imagine that we have been in vented by dogs right so to safeguard their interests and so for at least ten thousand years. This has worked out very well for dogs. I mean we. We spend an immense amount of our resources to care for them,
feed them. They have the lives that are much better for the most part than any wild animal, and certainly any wolf, and we genuinely love them. I mean like so we have the cognitive and emotional fixations on. And that they would hope for right in there with their well being. In many cases to our irrational sacrifice is paramount for us, and yet we have clearly grown so so far beyond what dogs could ever imagine that most of what we do is completely inscrutable to them. I have no idea what we really care about, you really and what we're really saying in our conversations, and we really stand like gods to them, and yet, if some It happened in the world if there was some terrible Zeno virus that were jumping, it was jumping from dogs to people, and it was one hundred percent fatal we could decide tomorrow that we just had to kill all the dogs, it would be totally possible for just there
a sea change in our attitude toward dogs, because of something that dogs could never understand. We formed new goals in the meantime, and it seems like we. If we go down this path, we are poised to build machines that could be as as an entree its parent to us as all that and though they may be, safeguarding our interests generation after generation they could suddenly new priorities. Let's take another living. What makes us different from them? Perhaps the US cause will be full of identity musters, this This is our success, even though they decide one day to kill us. We are really part of them. How identity lasts. Well, we collection of strange proteins made it to make it look alike in some similarities.
So perhaps my master rabbled is me. And I'm happy with his success and his decision to exterminate me Alright well this: this is the scene in the movie where we cut to you being trampled by killer robots the one thing I would grant you is that if these robots were conscious right, this is uh. Certain about whether I think everyone's uncertain about how we exactly where and how consciousness arises. So it's at least conceivable that we could build super intelligent machines that are not conscious. It may be that conscious, doesn't come along with intelligence automatically. There's no there's! No! Why one? Where the other is it's just it's conceptually possible for me at least, and whether weather, in fact it's true, The world consciousness is an integral part of intelligence. No, no, no because most of what we consider our own intel, agent, behavior isn't associated with consciousness.
Like I mean even just language use like a so you and are having a conversation. You know sometimes I'm making more or less sense, but insofar as I'm making any sense at all and following the rules of grammar, I'm doing all of that unconsciously right! So it's not it's not clear why a conversation needs to be associated with consciousness, because you said the world I Well, no, and I understood you, only you could build a robot that could play this. Which game with this is a a a and yeah It's interesting that you feel that way I mean I I'm agnostic as to whether or not it's it least possible. That consciousness is an epic phenomenon, from my point of view, said that that is actually not doing anything now is different than the chinese room argument that you cannot build a language transmitter. If you understand, if you fake understand, sing Chinese. Then,
That doesn't mean that you know Chinese yeah, well that many of us are not especially persuaded with by the chinese room argument. I'm not positive because number one. I know you cannot do it right, yeah that's the other Combinatorially reason right where you cannot do it and then on to a May philosophies, if you think you you have it well, that's interesting, but obviously in a local case. That can't be true, because you like, if you fake chess, you can fake chest better than Gary Kasparov at this point, but you do and have it in the sense that okay, well, that is the other than if you're you're, just you're you're speaking about this differently than many people in the field and rack into the the expression that that that your dad made, you didn't hear it on the microphone. It was one of the stars meant that few actors in Hollywood could surpass. There is a a very strong opinion on the part of many people doing this work that the best
Yes, engines on earth list. Take steak. You know, Alphago go with the moment, have no concept of chess right they have no understanding of it. That they're playing a game, though there do, be better than any person who ever cared about chess ever has there's no chess. In that experience of trust, is no notion of test the different ways of winning chess. But that's my point group falls with or without brute forest I mean so there's even if we had a more intelligent chess program, still the brute force ones we have are better than the than the correct and the human ones who we also have so does it mean that you don't understand, you use the term, you don't understand it. Don't This is the way we do. That's what you mean, what does it mean say that.
The algorithm that is producing the best chess play understands chess. I know what the people when people convinced about just in the say the center they mean? They would not be able to write a chest commentary in the New York right: okay, what they mean, because when they have to explain the move? All the will tell you, is I looked ahead. Then I looked ahead again and I looked ahead again and I came to a conclusion and that is not but the New York Times will publish a commentary in the following way. I looked at the center and I thought I lost control over the center, so I decided to text, to make sacrifices sacrifices. My queen, the language in which chest muscles communicate. So is different only in but the heuristics through which we communicate about
So that's what they mean communicate in my language in my conception of the strategies I have different strategy than you. But it does mean you don't understand yes right, but just take the human case. So there There are many ways of dissecting out the variable of consciousness from a performance even like a invasion or is especially true with motor behavior, but even vision. There's this phenomenon called Blindsight right where you can have an injury to the occipital cortex, your vision, cortex and primary visual cortex and you could have a region of your visual field where you subjectively you this so subjective, conscious person. Thank you are blind, but we can test whether you can see anything there and the truth is you can put. Checked the let's say the orientation of a line with you know. Ninety
five percent accuracy and yet your experience is of being blind right. So your experience says you're just guessing successfully, but you're you're answering some of the the criteria of vision, which is you your successfully getting this information from the world so that you know you don't consciously know how the the line is oriented, but you in fact can guess correctly, so that that support the the phenomenology that the conscious part from the the intelligence, the the information processing part released. You know in in in this for this a sample, but there may many other examples of that where most just most of what you successfully do as a person, the ability to I mean this becomes more and more obvious in in complex motor tasks like
like athletics, where you're you're learning to do something for the first time like to hit a golf ball and all of that effort is conscious and it's it's a terrible experience of just repeated failure, but once you start getting good, then you begin to lose. You you're, losing your sense of how you do any of it and, and then it becomes unconscious, one is truly successful and when consciousness begins to intrude later on in the process, you learn something new that you you, that you know he's the some golf instructor tells you to do. You actually can get worse because it's disrupting your this, this unconscious motor routine. So the question is: perhaps we could build a off playing robot or a chess playing robot or a on buying. Graphical. You know, speech robot. You know the robot that will tell you what it was like to be a little robot. That would be never associated with consciousness, where all of those performances would be successful. You're faking it successfully, but you are faking it at the
When do we go through the transition in two two system when I'm using canaman yeah? Yes of the reason compare that to the automatic and you ristic part, we are facing a new environment that we in C before when we have, we didn't have any experience and then we have to reason and then we go through a assist to its transition period, which is called a quiet expertise put the other difference from the non expert in the centre non. Next, we have to think about things in the expert added explicitly stored. What to do face equal action of symptoms. I know you have a flu or malaria right. That's an expert and novice doctor thinks about it. Wait a moment what they learn in school,
makes sense and it takes time and that the reasoning part but the truth working together constantly in chess. You can see it so beautifully going forward. What will happen if I move take this move in my opponent, What is the system to its a reasoning, part and the system? You must must've just player the game and say it's a you in a bad position. I must take this move thinking ahead. I love chess, we're not at the player, but is a euro is the program, and I was a book about your wrist with Schiff. Game is the embodiment of all these filler Classical ideas about system, one and system two about two even counterfactual. I should have taking a different move. It in embedded in something
so so easy to program so easy to understand. What is in the the intuition part off Jess? That's evaluation function. It you put on a just position material advantage, opening this controlling the center. I've castled already thinks of this okay, it looks at just position, have intuition it's so good. Shannon has a blue my dear Claude, Shannon, Shannon Simpler Channel of Information Theo. He he was afk respond to say, let's marry the two uris sticks and reasoning. How look ahead? Look ahead. And when you come to the horizon of your search loaded with your intuition your dirty, evaluation of the board and see which move gives you the best chance of winning.
That was the first marriage of the two components: heuristics on one hand, and the reasoning on the other, beautiful combination, and I think any conversation about the interplay between these two, so software studies can be nicely the most traded inches and that's why I I like it as a metaphor right through internally, even in consciousness So a guy who wears all the beautiful evaluation of function just imagine a program, hypothetical program in which you store in number for every chest position to Yoo Jin you never enough a molecules in the universe it, but imagine that you do have computed it. An position has a number. How good it is. Everything is done. That is a faking it that what you would call a fake
just playing. The notes is so just to make sure I understand so there's. There is an fact a finite number of chess games, but is an isn't Anomic Lee large number, that we could never tally them all. But if you could tell me the mall, the entire problem of chess would be solved. Moved from any board position. You would be able to trace what weather the next move wins and that's right right. There is a characterization of every chess position, Is it the win, draw or lose for the next player? Right is not. We know it from basic principle, yeah that it exists. You can prove it exists, right, but we don't know how to label it, but we can hypothesize a you which program universes that create a table for you. So for every chess position you have win loss or draw we're done.
It's a figure, be example of faking. Would that be by definition, true, at the beginning of the game. That white would always win we don't know by the way, we don't know, we don't know, I mean intuitively, it seems like you have. A first mover advantage would be decisive in that universe. It may be a draw, so maybe maybe perfect, testing across Is it a oh? That's that would be a bet with the fascinating to place and adjudicate. So is it possible people that in a world where chess is solved, which is we know what perfect play is for each side of the board. Is it possible that White loses sure because you have to move. What would you put the probability I think it's very small, but it's based on what would? Would you well okay? If your fate or the humanity
handed on you choosing, white or black in in the game of a perfect chess add to the way you choose white? Ok, alright, we're through! for three? We have that, as in the same way, it was checkers assault this year yeah. That happen. Something counterintuitive happening. What's the latest, I wouldn't be surprised if Evan solved, ok well today, and now I'm mindful of your time. We have gone close to ninety. And as I have enjoying it- yeah, oh good. I saw my so my by so so just to just to close the loop on consciousness For me, I think it is it still just an open question. What kind business is and how it relates to information, information and and at what level the lights come on, and is it possible for intelligence systems even more intelligent than we are two. They might not be human like with all that intelligence, but they might be more competent on every task we set them and-
and the lights of consciousness might not come on in the sense that there might not be something that it's like to be one of these machines you're using consciousness, a different interpretation that I may be edited consciousness as having him model yourself, yeah, there's a cleared association for me there you can have can't this without having a model of yourself in my sense and and you can have a model of yourself without having consciousness in my in my sense So what was it like? The so yours would like to read your book for yours was speaking pass each other yeah suddenly so for again there. This is where tastes philosophically vied to some degree, because I'm using the terminology that I still think was best put by Thomas Nagel, the philosopher in in what is it like to be a bat? And you know the people on the opposite.
Side of the philosophy of mind people like Dan Dan at our Paul Churchland or many others hate this formulation, because I think it's circular and- and it is in fact circular, but I'm in Naples definition is it. You know, whatever consciousness is in the case of a bat. What we mean when we say a bad is conscious is that it is a like something to be a bat for the bat on the bad side of like if you, if you could change places with a bad at they wouldn't be synonymous with the lights going out or with with with the a radic ation of all experience, there's some experiential qualitative domain of badness. And that's what we mean when we say that a bad is conscious, whether or not we could ever understand what it's like, whether you know who knows what it's like to be ruled by sonar, and so is the question of Am I committing a murder? If I destroy this microphone, stand well,
have a fairly strong intuition that the answer is no the stand, it doesn't experience, happiness or suffering, so it has no interests that I could violating. But if we found yeah the oh, no actually this microphone stand is conscious. This is actually a super Telegian, ai and its processing information, precisely the way that we now understand, you know gives rise to consciousness. I just can't tell from the outside, because it's not doing anything. But none of this this microphone stand is experiencing profound level of well being. And if I fire I've committed a you know, a horrible crime, so consciousness for me is is, is that you know the basis of all all discussion of values and and in the moral implications of things we do no question of happiness and suffering, and I think we have if we build conscious machines if we build machines that can really suffer not just seem to suffer
That has moral implications right in there and we know what we and and weak. If we don't understand what we're doing conceivably, we could build the these machines by accident, or will we could build similar it worlds if consciousness is just a matter of information processing, we could build simulations where agents within the simulation are conscious and suffering, and we could do that by accident. Then we could create a hell by accident if we're doing it in a away that we don't totally understand. I don't follow you, you don't follow me there. No, I you tie consciousness too. Elements such as suffering and the pain. So what makes suffering suffering like. If I told you you're you're, you're, something terrible mission of room which cause other neurons to be the paralyzed to be
you're over energized, just a chemical process. What is that determiner off consciousness will not know consciousness. Is this is the necessary condition for it? So you need, you need to be so so I think so awful, it's not even enough. My fingers suffers it. I know you, but but it's it's the it's your the conscious, hi there's, there's there's part of you that that's part of the person- that's not conscious, like your your presumably their parts of your brain that they nothing that is like to be by that like we could literally remove them, and you wouldn't notice right at like a b, a b, a pretty the obviously much of what is appearing in consciousness is being being created by a by these parts that are unconsciously doing their work, but their areas of the brain, where you know we touch them or we send a little current into assembly
neurons and that immediately changes your experience and there are other areas where I say no, I don't didn't, feel a thing right and then the question is, that race in memory was the big deal was not, but it's not, but it can be memory. There's there's conscious memory and then there's is unconscious memory. Memory, this memory that is effective like like, if I ask you Do you remember what you had for lunch right? This is now your episodic memory, you can pause for a moment and then you can then something will come or not. But you know if you remember lunch there'll be some conscious signature of of what you had for lunch, will form an image. Do you remember where you were, but if I say to you Do you remember how to ride a bicycle right now you may firmly believe that you probably do, but you can't look inside and inspect whether you still have the memory and if and if we had, if we had to go,
dated your memory, your motor, retain around bicycle riding. You wouldn't discover until I just handed you a bicycle and asked you to ride, and then all of a sudden you'd find you didn't know how to do it. It's a memory that is unconscious and can only be expressed by actually enacting it, and you know you'd be quite surprised not to be able to do it. I don't know if this will get at it for you or not, but you know he will say you have to have a surgery right and it's you know we're gonna, give you a general anesthetic and you'll be under for four hours. And it's you know it's a major surgery. It definitely want a general anesthetic for it and I tell you what there's two different anesthetics we can give you. We can give you the the usual one where you're unconscious right. They only experience anything or we can give you the one where you're conscious the whole time and therefore tortured
but we give you an amnesia drug at the end, so you don't remember any of it. So at the end of the in both worlds. At the end of this procedure, you will say thank you doctor. I didn't feel it thing, because that will be true of your memory at that point, but in world two, at any moment during that procedure. If we could have sampled your experience, you know you would have been intolerable pain. Those seem different whether or not this person who comes out of the operating theater, it seems exactly the same. I think I have powerful intuition that those are not the same world lines of personhood. What do you? What do you think which, which, which procedure? Do you want? Do you want? You want a whiter plan right now, you're talking about distinction, how these two experiences different, yes, they live, yeah and one of them you want to label more conscious than the other
well, the difference was consciousness was present during that during that surgery. What well just think, that's what I mean by consciousness that I think there was something there was something that was like for you to have the surgery. Yes it wasn't in the other case, you had a model of yourself. And you head even a word for this model. You say in the model of myself: I'm suffering a few pain. That is a difference. What do you be at this? You could but see again. It's not just it's not just a model of yourself, because you can so you can lose a model of yourself and still be conscious of the world, for instance, in the you can you can omit this a again. This takes a part of the world right, but but you can so, for instance, you can have this takes us back to esoterica of meditation- and he is you know- even psychedelic experiences- can have you ever taken a.
I can tell you like. Did you miss the sixties entirely in the east yeah, so not nothing. Nothing is pastor lips, no lsd or or zealous I've been in that. Okay, all right, I want to. I want force the issue now, but the it's possible to have an experience of yourself as a person. You know where, where your you know, there's there's a conventional experience of aware of the world. Your way of your body in the world, but in some sense your body is part from the point of view of your subject, Ih Vitti, of who you feel yourself to be. Your body is kind of part of the world, I mean most people feel that they're in their heads as subjects almost as passengers in Bodies, they're kind kind of riding around in the body and your hand, is out here you can use it, I mean you can move it or not, but you could also imagine being without it right like. If I
lost my hand? My I'm still up here that the conscious witness of my of my life and of the world and this sense of being subject can go away and also a sense having a body can go where you can you can you can either in Meta station or in a various perturbations of consciousness, no longer be representing your body so like so that the data is just not there you're. No longer you no longer feel the shape of your body, you say you're not no longer getting inputs. That reminding you that you have a hand or foot or you don't you don't feel any pain say this can happen in. Certainly highlight anesthesia, where you're still conscious. But you are your body, is you know We paralyzed and you're, not you're, not getting any data from the body and you can see to represent yourself as the subject.
In the middle of experience, and then what is left is just the representation of the world wrestling. You can. You can see and hear and all that's coming in, but there's no seer or here There's no there's, no one to whom it refers in those moments, there's just as open space of consciousness and among the contents of consciousness, our sights and sounds, and so they're just different ways of being conscious that don't answer to the name of I have a model of myself. In that moment you could just have a model of the world. I don't have the ego right into. I see a bunch of agents with. Close himself? The environment, I'm one of those agent but I cannot even know who, who I among the asian- that's not exactly the case, but that's a that's a different case that makes sense to me. So, presumably you could build a robot like that right, it might be a badly functioning robot, but but you you that that could be
x. You could have a model of a world without a model of the self and have that be yeah. That's the beginning! you have a medal of the environment and now a consciousness comes in whenever you label one and say it's me. Well, no That's what I'm saying you could be conscious of the world without saying it's me: could it, but eventually to get a consciousness. You are your plans, Would you understand about the world? Do yourself and you look at your serve- is one of those factors, his call them new. Through and okay operating in the world. And now you everything that you learn about the environment applies to you as an agent within its environment, beautiful parsimony of computation. Well, yeah, I grant you that's one way to be, but I think we're going to have to take lsd. This time we do a podcast to get this other side of this conversation,
time will bring with us one of those conscious, robots, yeah, it's it might be less available, but today it's really been a pleasure to speak with you about all the crazy to talk to you. Yeah yeah, I is, there is so you're the book is, The book of why, which is been? Is it in paperback? Yet as it come out or don't know, the publisher decides that the does well enough to for another year or through hardcover? Will hardcover is nicer anyway, but this is your deep analysis. Of causality and and why we have not been talking about it enough science and how we can model it with. We are very simple, algorithm, fairly accessible. It's so, and it is this is said somewhere in the in the marketing copy, but it's not just that it is. It is much in the Spirit of Danny Kahneman's opus thinking fast and slow. Is it
is accessible in precisely that way and wraps up a ton of theoretical work. So and are you? Are you online anywhere? Do you do anything? I know twisting now I know you're on Twitter using it all right. I know that I can I've been so often winner of late. I okay, I don't even know him following you, but I will that. Will eighteen thousand awesome follow us in the US? Question about the book, I'm trying to say, is fine. No reader left behind possible yeah will follow Judea on Twitter. What is your twitter handle? Do you know yeah it you duh, why you the a inch? It's you, my mother, told me nice, okay at Yoda on Twitter, you'll you'll get the man himself. Thank you. Judy really play exam for the pleasure. If you find this podcast table, there are many ways you can support it.
You can review it on Itunes or Stitcher, or whatever happened to listen to it. You can share social media with your friends. You can blog about it or discuss it on your own podcast or you can support it directly You can do this by subscribing through my website at website, at DOT, Harris and Org find subscriber only content. Like my ask me anything episodes as well as the bonus question. From many of these interviews. You'll also get advanced tickets to my live events.
Transcript generated on 2019-09-15.