(Continued from Part 1)
Hofstadter, in his book I Am a Strange Loop, takes issue with futurists like Ray Kurzweil who believe that our artificial intelligence will naturally evolve according to Moore’s law and inexorably lead to a conscious (Turing) machine with fully natural (human) qualities, indistinguishable from another (real) person.
To me the inevitable fallacy of any concept of a “living” artificial intelligence comes as the result of realizing that although computer software as consciousness is compelling as a metaphor—we are running software (loopy programs in our brains that manifest as a Mind and cannot be described completely in language)—in Nature this “software” (true Consciousness or Being) represents a scale of intelligence far beyond our own. And what is a metaphor or analogy anyway—merely a pointer to Truth.
As an example, in nature, our limited conception of the universe is as infinite. We also know that a sequence of numbers is infinite and yet the largest actual numbers are still inaccessible to our limited minds—and even our supercomputers.
On the other hand, in Nature the Fibonacci sequence manifests imperfectly but potentially infinitely in living forms:
And as a species, evolving as we have to make incredible tools and products, a field called Biomimicry has emerged – biologically inspired engineering – other examples include Sharkskin inspired swimsuit that pay homage to the higher perfection of Life or Nature in its manifestation of Number in Form (Matter).
Hofstadter goes through every complex nook and cranny of Gödel’s work to basically argue that the only way to comprehend consciousness is through “story” – or by analogy – and just as the linguistic descriptions of mathematical absolutes fall short, so too does story or analogy never completely “explain” or “describe” the true “nature” of consciousness.
Ultimately he settles on one aspect of language as the pointer to reality and meaning—analogy; so keep in mind our issue with the “metaphor” that is the relationship of hardware to software.
Hofstadter’s sense of what is “animate” comes down to the existence of the self-sustaining loops that blow our minds – like the placement of two mirrors facing each other or his example of a video feedback loop of a camera facing a monitor.
He writes, “…an entity is animate [alive?] to the degree that such a loopy “I” pattern comes into existence, since this pattern’s existence is by no means an all-or-nothing affair. Thus, to the extent that there is an “I” pattern in a given substrate, there is animacy, and where there is no such pattern, the entity is inanimate.” (page 360)
Hofstadter’s contends that as systems evolved, for example cells organized into organs like the heart and eventually the brain, when feedback loops manifest as “selves”—at this point organic molecules become animate or “alive.”
Hofstadter still assumes, however, that such organization happened by evolution randomly, even if according to nature’s patterns like the Fibonacci sequence.
But I see it another way. I find the very existence of such patterns evidence of the presence of a quality in nature that science finds “unscientific” but which I consider the “presence of mind” (pun!).
To me Mind is a function of order and indeed mathematics (Function=another pun)—and our ignorance of that in our current culture is the root of many problems.
Indeed the march of science has illuminated the fact that all of nature conforms to such patterns—the subject of an enormous book by James Gleick, The Information, which essentially traces the human discovery of meaning within nature according to what science considers “data.”
But if we open slightly to the possibility, beyond our intellect or conditioning, and consider that perhaps Life is more than mere data — that the animate force behind life (which the Egyptians thought of as the function Phi—the mathematical ratio of the Fibonacci sequence) literally—is Mind—an immaterial intelligence of which we are mainly ignorant—a lot begins to actually make “sense” in a different way.
Consider the possibility that the Pythagorean theorem and the Fibonacci sequence did not originate with the Greeks, its knowledge is far more ancient and was considered sacred by ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians.
As I have noted, in addition to the Pi relationship, the Phi relationship and the Pythagorean relationship of the sides of the right triangle are apparently depicted in ancient monoliths—and the most stark and famous example is the Great Pyramid of Giza.
I became fascinated with this concept when I first read Secrets of the Great Pyramid: Two Thousand Years of Adventures and Discoveries Surrounding the Mysteries of the Great Pyramid of Cheops by Peter Tompkins, which incidentally has an appendix by a renowned Italian mathematician, Livio Stecchini that further probes the depths of these relationships.
The key point here is that the ancient wisdom did not distinguish between science and religion—the awareness of this higher nature of Life as the manifestation of an infinite Mind was sacred—as were many of the rituals that were meant to preserve this knowledge.
Of course, in the vast spans of time since this knowledge was fully flourishing, we are left with mere fragments that are further distorted and ignored by conventional archeology and astronomy—branches of our science that are cut off from religion and philosophy entirely.