[Beowulf] Wired article about Go machine

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Wed Mar 18 21:52:49 PDT 2009

On Wed, 18 Mar 2009, Ellis Wilson wrote:

> into the much more complex areas of cognition.  This is especially true
> with the discovery of quantum mechanics, which makes the observer's
> subjective perception absolutely necessary.  Full objectivity (or in
> this application full codification of human thought) just isn't possible.

I disagree with this statement, as it is not an accurate description of
quantum theory (a common one, but inaccurate nonetheless) and it does a
mild disservice to the theory of cognition as well.

Regarding quantum theory:  The "observer" in quantum theory is nothing
more than a subsystem of a quantum mechanical whole.  The correct
mathematical treatment of this OPEN system is the Nakajima-Zwanzig
generalized master equation, which describes it as a non-Markovian
integrodifferential equation with a memory kernel that integrates over
prior states and an immediate differential input from the instantaneous
environment.  It is a description that can be made recursive and further
generalized by block diagonalization of multiple subsystems.

In a fully relativistic, time reversible quantum description of an
entire closed system there is no need for an observer and no lack of
determinism in the resulting time evolution.  Indeterminate time
evolution and the appearance of "wavefunction collapse" is a consequence
of entropy and obviously breaks time reversal invariance.  The NZGME
explicitly traces over the state of the "bath" in its partition of
Universe into "system" + "bath" (everything else) and the projection of
this classical, stochastic state into the residual quantum state results
in all of the oddities.  To put it still another way, Schrodinger's cat
is always definitely alive until it is definitely dead because it is
impossible to adiabatically disconnect the inside of the infernal device
from the outside, to untangle the entangled quantum state of everything
from some particular part of it.  Every particle inside the box is
always interacting with every particle outside the box, and so quantum
"collapse" is either ongoing or presumptive of a degree of separation
that is not possible in our spacetime.

> I wish it weren't so, for by study I am a computer scientist and by
> hobby philosopher, however, at present I remain skeptical.

I'm rather hopeful, myself.  I think that some real progress has been
made and think that we are five, at most ten, years away from "real AI"
-- true machine intelligence and self-aware systems.  Not just
programmed simulations of intelligence or decision trees -- the real
thing.  I think that the computational problem is well within the reach
of modern beowulfs; the hard part is the formulation of the awareness
kernel and having just the right insights.  Even there there appears to
be progress.  Only in the last decade has it finally been recognized
that awareness is a DYNAMIC process, not a static one, in certain
crucial ways (see e.g. Tim van Gelder's work).  This is what I hope to
work on next, aside from random numbers.


> Ellis Wilson
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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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