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[Link] There is nothing like "intelligence", only an evolution is going on

-9 Post author: Thomas 10 January 2012 05:54PM



Random change, then a selection, says Mark Pagel. As I agree, here's the link.



Comments (21)

Comment author: Shephard 11 January 2012 07:51:41PM 2 points [-]

I think Professor Pagel's specific attempts to articulate the mechanics of human ideation isn't the most interesting take-away from this video. His tone makes it clear that he is playing around with a perspective that is new to him, a rough understanding of human intelligence that deserves further exploration.

The concept that I think is important, and which is certainly not universally accepted by a wider audience of reasonably intelligent and educated people, is that our creativity is not "special". That new ideas aren't magically willed into being by some ineffable desire to innovate, but are instead arrived at via conscious and subconscious pattern-seeking, and a mental "auditioning" of potential solutions.

And natural selection is a decent conversational analogy here. There are people who accept that there is no external intelligent agency which governs the "creation" of advanced biological organisms, but still hold on to the idea that the human mind is somehow captained by an irreducible agent, that there is a ghost in the machine. Drawing a comparison between these two processes is a strong and accessible argument against such a notion.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 11 January 2012 07:54:03AM 4 points [-]

There is nothing like a rock, only atoms going on.

Comment author: Thomas 14 January 2012 03:58:24PM 1 point [-]

True. It is good to know that atoms are what a rock is made of. That there is no "nonatomic matter" in rocks.

A neutron star on the other hand is not made of atoms. It's good to know.

The question here is, is something under the hood of intelligence, what is NOT a kind of Darwinian evolution?

Some think it isn't and I agree with them.

Comment author: jhuffman 10 January 2012 10:14:11PM 1 point [-]

This article isn't about intelligence, its about innovation. He's talking specifically about the "lightbulb moment" - the inspriation part of invention. I don't think there is anything at all original about the article except the tortured analogy to evolution.

Comment author: shminux 10 January 2012 08:31:50PM *  -1 points [-]

Hammer and nail? To an evolutionary biologist every change looks like biological evolution. I wonder what the name of this particular cognitive bias is.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 January 2012 01:13:12AM *  2 points [-]

Hammer and nail? To an evolutionary biologist every change looks like biological evolution.

I would have guessed that to an evolutionary biologist every change looks like another chance for a confused layman to misuse and trivialize their whole field of study.

Comment author: timtyler 11 January 2012 01:35:03PM *  1 point [-]

Your post is not 100% clear - but if you're suggesting that Mark Pagel is a confused layman, he isn't - he really is an evolutionary biologist.

Comment author: wedrifid 11 January 2012 01:49:59PM 1 point [-]

but if you're suggesting that Mark Pagel is a confused layman

(No, responding to generalisation.)

Comment author: timtyler 10 January 2012 08:48:04PM *  0 points [-]

Hammer and nail? To an evolutionary biologist every change looks like biological evolution.

That doesn't seem entirely fair - there is a real relationship based on universal darwinism.

This was recognised by B. F. Skinner, Roger Sperry, William Calvin - and now many others.

Comment author: timtyler 10 January 2012 07:45:12PM *  1 point [-]

I recently wrote a book on this topic - and I don't agree with Mark on this point.

To quote from my blog page about Mark's work:

I note that Mark isn't technically correct about the role of randomness in cultural evolution in his (interesting) "Infinite Stupidity" video. Cultural evolution can use linear programming, extrapolation and other non-random search techniques for exploring solution space. Mark's idea is Donald Campbell's "Blind Variation and Selective Retention" (BSVR) thesis taken to an unrealistic extreme - though he doesn't cite Campbell, Cziko, or anyone else who has weighed in on this issue.

Comment author: DanielLC 10 January 2012 06:42:34PM 13 points [-]

Ideas are not just natural selection. People do not design computers by randomly messing with transistors of their last version. People do not change computer programs by randomly altering lines of code. It would not work in any feasible time period.

There are things that you can design that way. There are things where that's the best way we know how to design them. That's why genetic algorithms are sometimes very useful. Not everything is like that. That's why we don't use genetic algorithms for everything.

Also, the lack of innovation he talks about seems to be largely that we're not reinventing the wheel. If there's nothing to stop you from stealing ideas, then there won't be sufficient innovation, but that's what we have intellectual property rights for.

Comment author: jhuffman 10 January 2012 10:11:09PM *  2 points [-]

Well, I don't know how other programmers do things, but what I do is I create models at various levels of abstractions, and play with those models until it occurs to me what ought to happen next. Like, I draw on the whiteboard with someone, and we generate all the known solutions we have and usually a known solution or pattern just needs to be adapted. So we're copying. Often, the adaptions aren't immediately obvious when you go down a couple levels and start actually coding it, and so I play around with a couple of different ideas, or maybe I'm guided by theory and just have to think it through and problem solve for this circumstance - which would be copying.

If I'm dissatisfied at any point and have exhausted my search space, what I'm going to do next is enlarge that search space by talking to more people or doing research. Copying.

Every now and then - but pretty rarely - something novel will occur to me that will out-compete all the ideas I already have or can find in research. And so there a new idea made it into the code. And if someone asks me how I came up with, I'll just describe the problem, and the search space and the research and so on, and then shrug. Because the idea seems pretty obvious in hindsight I just shrug away this question of where the idea came from.

It would be difficult to overstate the power of our abstraction and modeling, because it allows us to quickly test for fitness a rash of approaches iteratively. And in the process of that novel ideas do occur and get worked in and then communicated. But I am not at all certain the genesis of most of those ideas isn't more or less random, in the sense the author means it. Indeed most engineering work is copying, as the author terms it.

Comment author: Thomas 10 January 2012 06:49:45PM -3 points [-]

People do not change computer programs by randomly altering lines of code. It would not work in any feasible time period.

At least one program does it. Randomly changes code and evolve it.