Epistemology? We Don’t Need No Stinking Epistemology!

What is thought? We don’t really know. There are a lot of theories. There are a lot of assumptions. For instance, we assume that what we perceive with our senses have some grounding in an objective reality outside of ourselves. Further, we assume that there are other people, besides ourselves, that perceive the same objective reality with their senses.

But how does a network of electro-chemical reactions somehow emerge as the complex process that we label thinking. We can’t even agree upon what constitutes the base criteria for judging a process rational thought. In the past we chauvinistically maintained that only humans were capable of rational thought.

Recent experiments with animals from whales, through various primates, studies of dogs and cats, and even crows have demonstrated mental abilities that were once claimed as evidence of conscious intelligence and the exclusive domain of humans.

Alan Turing posed the functional test for intelligence. A person interrogates an entity through an electronic connection and asks them any questions that he likes. He then guesses whether he is talking with a person or a program solely on the basis of their answers. If the program consistently fools the interrogator, it is judged intelligent. By that measure, we have already produced programs that can pass the test.

And yet we still have no clear definition of intelligence and the program that occasionally passes the Turing test is only nominally intelligent. The lack of depth of its so called intelligence is eventually exposed.

So why am I asking these questions? I am trying to figure out why when I try to think, I just get frustrated but when I relax and go with the flow I write coherent, if not brilliant, blog posts. Is it a universal admonition to be here now? Is it evidence of something larger than ourselves? Or is it just a statistical expression of the fundamental laws of physics amortized over millennia of combination and recombination?

I guess I’ll climb out of my navel now. I really am interested in the answers to these questions. I’m not just asking them to seem like I think deep thoughts or anything like that. I think that coming to terms with some of the ramifications of such questions and their possible answers is part and parcel to becoming a good writer.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.