Intuition Machine
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Intuition Machine

Computation, Subjectivity, and OpenEndedness

Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

Computation is firstness, Subjectivity is secondness and Openendedness is thirdness. These drive the fundamental implicate order of the universe.

The universe is computational. This is not a new notion. However, baked into this is the realization of undecidability. The Turing-Church-Deutsch hypothesis implies that not all questions are decidable.

This undecidability also implies an uncertainty relationship between an observer and what is observed. A process can only follow its own evolution if it is itself. An external observing process can only guess at that evolution.

We have known for a long time that physics has a subjective nature. This can be seen in both special relativity and quantum mechanics. Two theories that underpin the physical universe.

These are both manifestations of computational subjectivity. Every entity or process (depending on if you are noun or verb centric) is driven by its own local interaction with reality. This interaction is subjective in the sense that it is different for everything.

The notion of objectivity can be defined as the repeatability of observation. That is, if two subjects can reliably repeat the same observation, then that shared knowledge is objectively agreed on between the two subjects.

But one of the biggest blindspots in science is the over-emphasis on an objective measure of reality. Objectivity has lead to technological and scientific advances since the enlightenment. However, it has created a blind-spot in our understanding of biology and thus life.

That blind-spot is most apparent when we attempt to understand ideas like intelligence, cognition, understanding and meaning. We don’t know how to define intelligence. We don’t understand understanding. We don’t know what it means for something to have meaning.

Our ability to untangle these self-referential concepts are a consequence of our lack of understanding of subjectivity. We cannot understand any of these from a definition that ignores subjectivity.

Bias in our scientific community is that whenever you appeal to the idea of subjectivity that you are accused of a lack of rigor. However, if we make the argument that the reality is computational, then a proper definition of objectivity is that of repeatability.

Thus is our theories that involve subjectivity are indeed repeatable then we should be on a rigorous foundation. The oddest thing is, should this not be obvious? We already know that life consists mostly of subjective living things.

Many theories of cognition accept a subjective stance. Enactivism (Maturana & Varela), cybernetics (Wiener), semiotics (Peirce), and ecological psychology (Gibson). But all of these have not been mainstream theories.

The practice of science is a social endeavor and thus we cannot avoid subjectivity playing a role. Unfortunately, it is the subjective inclination to a notion of ‘objectivity’ that leads to a mechanistic view. Too many are stuck in a Newtonian model of reality.

This stubborn insistence on an antiquated view is despite the constant nudging by the discoveries in physics about the reality of subjectivity.

Deutsch argues that the purpose of science is to discover good explanations of reality. This involves a messy process of hypothesis making, formalization, testing, and interpretation.

So as long of as we have repeatably testable explanations of the world then these should be good explanations. If we have a good explanation of what subjectivity is then we should not have an issue.

My interesting realization is that once you define subjectivity and its mechanisms, then you realize that big mysteries like intelligence, life, and consciousness become explainable.



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