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Comment Re:What is thinking then? (Score 1) 269

My comments about Sentience has all the hall marks of a good religious argument ;)

My comment further down (in (1)) was about our own biases being the basis for what we consider to be sentience. My point still stands, our definition of self-awareness is fraught with our own biases both individually, and as a species as to what it means to be self aware.

On that basis, that we are inherently biased towards our own viewpoint of what it means to be self-aware, it becomes circular reasoning. Humans are self-aware because we use our views of what self-awareness is to define it.

Take this situation.

A woman is in hospital suffering from a terminal illness, the powerful pain medication she is given to ease her final hours robs her of her ability to recognise herself in a mirror, any sense of self-preservation, and a sense of personal identity.

Is this person sentient? Our knee jerk reaction is to say, "Of course!" She is still a human being! But she has been robbed of many of the tenets of self-awareness, while still possessing the rudimenteries of logical information processing.

I'd argue that this person is still sentient, still retains the ability to act in a sentient manner, and so removes the requirement of self-awareness for sentience.

Comment The effects of lobbying (Score 2) 86

The law was causing havoc for retailers and given that there was no clear guidance on how to handle this, we have a host of implementations, from the BBC which embodies the spirit of the law as it was originally written, to the Financial Times and BT which are using weasel ways (bottom of page, fades out straight away), to Google (which has essentially ignored the guidance).

The ICO, faced with overwhelming discontent from large retailers and retail associations, caved and has essentially ensured the status quo. By allowing implied consent, you can essentially pretend the law does not exist, and the minimum amount of work for a retailer is to include a page buried in the site map, telling you how to turn off cookies entirely in IE.

The law as it was written is actually the problem here. The intention of the law was to restrict the harvesting of user data, be it for behavioural advertising, or for more nefarious reasons.

However, the law was written far too broadly (surprise, surprise), and covered every method a site has of interacting with a browser, which lead to massive confusion about how to handle session cookies, shopping carts, etc.

If the ICO wants to do this properly, amend the law so that it covers the original intentions of stopping third party cookies tracking people round the internet, clarify that first party cookies are fine for handling website functionality[1], and then use their powers to punish the people who break the rules.

[1] Yes, I know there is a way of still using first party cookies as a third party operator and continue to happily track people, but that would fall under "breaking the rules" and get slapped...

Full Disclosure : I worked on our implementation of this law as an integrator for many large multinational retailers.

Comment What is thinking then? (Score 3, Insightful) 269

This is getting closer to the true issue here, no-one can actually point to a "thought". We can run MRIs, we can do all the fluorescing in rat brains that we want, but at no point can we, as humans, point to a thought.

All we can see and know about, at the moment is the machinery. The brain is just the machinery for our minds, neurons, synapses, etc. A computer system that is entered for the Turing test (or Deep Blue, or the Jeopardy machine(forget its name)), is again just that, the machinery. Each set of machinery is doing processing of some description that is observable and quantifiable, but as we do not understand the mechanism that turns the processing in the brain into "thoughts", we cannot tell if a computer thinks... Perhaps we are killing many computers each day as they are unable to meaningfully communicate their ability to think to us.

I'm steering well away from self-awareness here, as this is a misnomer. Sentience is not necessarily about self awareness, as a computer can be taught to recognise itself, process information about itself, even be selfish (as some has posited is required for sentience), rather sentience is more rather used as a bucket to separate one set of processing from another. Is a tiger more sentient than a fly? They both have a certain level of information processing, and without the ability to show that one "thinks" while the other does not, be cannot portion out sentience to one or the other.(1)

So if we cannot show that humans, much less animals, much less computers think, what are we left with? Complexity of processing, not the amount of processing but how complicated a process can become. Neuronal structures are excellent at this, thousands of connections per neuron allow for a massive amount of complexity of processing. Each process balances up elements that might not even appear to be relevant to the process, such as feedback from the autonomic nervous system, whether you are hungry or not or pain from your tooth trying to get your attention (and therefore suppressing other inputs). Add in non-processing factors from external influences, taken any pain killers? How about some opiates?

Until the complexity of processing that happens in our brains are matched by the machines we build, we are unlikely to see anything that we could identify as "thinking" on a par with ourselves, the Turing test is not a test for an intelligent machine, it is essentially a processing test round a Markov chain.

(1) Behavioural tests here are insufficient as all these prove is that the behaviour of the fly or tiger is unexpected by our own definition of what a sentient creature would do, which makes the whole thing subjective.

Comment Re:You can sell what others pay for (Score 1) 142

I see little to no value in gold, however the person I would sell it to does, which is why I would pick it up and sell it. You want an excellent parody of this? Look no further than Douglas Adams. The survivors of the crash on Earth attach value to leaves, and are trying to find ways of limiting its availability, Ford and Arthur are bewildered by this as the leaves have no perceived value to them. It's excellent parody. I'll ask you, if gold suddenly lost its scarcity, would you still perceive it as being valuable? If I could sell you 100 tons of it at $1 per ton, where does the value lie?

Comment Re:You can sell what others pay for (Score 1) 142

And those properties makes it valuable to my grandmother how? Yes to electrical engineers, no to my grandmother.

Also, don't get confused with the difference between "value" and "money", the two are not directly related (One man may value something greater than the other, and therefore is prepared to part with more money to obtain it). If major investors in gold decided that the value of gold was decreased in some way, fatuously say a meteorite of pure gold flattens France, it would suddenly become a poor store of wealth as its perceived value would have decreased due to less scarcity.

The only perceived value which is consistent is power, more of the variety of manpower or horsepower...

Comment Re:You can sell what others pay for (Score 1) 142

I was trying not to basically open up the can of worms that that is music and piracy. Copying an mp3 is only piracy due to the desire to create a scarcity of the item in question. Which in turn is supposed to drive up its value through that scarcity.

Someone who copies this "scarce" mp3 could take pains to suggest that the value of the mp3 is artificial due to the artificial nature of the scarcity, and that if the scarcity is removed, it therefore intrinsically has little to no value any more.

The default value of anything is the cost of the materials plus the manpower to create that copy, which for a digital item is virtually zero.

Comment Re:You can sell what others pay for (Score 2) 142

It's not even market economy, it's just perceived value, and that's been going on since mankind could only talk in grunts, and cave women traded sex for food.

Why is gold valuable? Its not good for anything, I don't think it's even particularly pleasant to look at, Silver is much prettier. It however retains significant value due to its relative scarcity, and the value people place on scarcity.

((I'm ignoring the digital issue, where anything digitised has effectively infinite quantities, because we seem to buy into allowing artificial scarcity to be created... which I don't get at all))

Virtually everything is worth something to someone, so why is this actually so surprising? Would we be shocked if the story read "Man makes millions selling dung / water / himself"???

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