How do we think about reality in a way that improves upon the old ways?
There is good news here: it is not entirely up to you to improve reality. Your children, and their children will do the job. So, sit back a little. Enjoy the ride!
Human beings have the unique capacity to play life’s ‘ratchet game’. Children learn the best society has to offer, and can improve upon it. And, your children’s children can start where your children left off. And so on.
My kids are already way ahead of me, since they started where I left off long, long ago, and also vastly ahead of cro-magnon humans. By contrast, chimpanzees start where their ancestors left off, and stay there. They don’t move from this place (chimps are still very cute, though).
Thus, humans can produce science and technology, and pass it on to their descendents. This gives human beings the chance to deploy science and AI tech to create increasingly accurate representations of ‘mind’, ‘DNA’, ‘autism’, ‘pain’, ‘happiness’, and so on. The ratchet game takes us beyond the familiar into exciting new territories.
(I wonder: Can academic philosophy play life’s ‘ratchet game’? It seems to me that philosophy is not terribly good at reaching out to other disciplines, and learning from them in the way that children naturally learn from parents.)
One day, artificial thought will be achieved.
An artificially intelligent computer will say, “that makes me happy.”
Will it feel happy? Assume it will not.
Still: it will act as if it did. It will act like an intelligent human being. And then what?
My hunch is that adult human beings will view intelligent computers as simplified versions of themselves (child-like). Human children will view them as peers; ‘friendships’ will form between children and intelligent computers.
Why? I am reminded of Wittgenstein’s remark: ‘The human body is the best picture of the human soul’.
Look at this video of ASIMO.
How would you interact with ASIMO? What would your reactions be?
It is also remarkable that ASIMO does not possess any physiology.
John Donne was partly right: A person is an island. But – every island is surrounded by water.
I am half myself, half you.
I am surrounded by your facial expressions. I adopt them as my own.
I cannot predict your every thought and action for the simple reason that most of my own thoughts and actions are completely spontaneous.
I cannot predict what I will do in most instances. I cannot know myself, so I cannot know you. True enough? We are both in the dark, it seems.
That sounds a bit bleak.
Is there any good news?
Yes: A person is not a vacuum. Human thought and action is shared. Shared, copied, modified, suppressed, distilled – we live in each other’s facial expressions.
Academics sometimes lament that the number of scholars working in their chosen field is less than the population density per square kilometer of Antarctica. They may have forgotten that to be considered interesting by the half-dozen other researchers in the field is already achievement enough.