Are Tides technological or magical?

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by MReed » February 4th, 2016, 9:21 am

I define a deity as "An entity which can perform acts that humans can never perform without the active consent of the entity in question".

"Humans" includes successor races, so if humans need to turn into beings of pure engine to match the feats of the entity in question, and humans can do this (or, at least, there is no reason to believe that we can't), then the being in question is not a "true deity". The second clause is present to allow for deities that can elevate others to level of powers that are otherwise totally unobtainable. A deity you can kill and assume their place is not a deity under this definition -- a deity you can kill and nothing particular happens is.

This definition is the reason that I've characterized the Numeneria P&P setting as atheistic: any abilities ascribed in the lore to various entities are something that humans could harness in theory.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by anonymous6059 » February 4th, 2016, 9:57 am

kilobug wrote:
anonymous6059 wrote:But I don't see why you couldn't create a setting that involved a omnipotent omniscient entity.
Well, first I had "ontologically simple" in my sentence, which is usually an import part of what people mean by "deity" (ie, basically a deity just "is", it's not made of a complex configuration matter or energy or whatever, but it just "is").

Then, well, there are many problems with omnipotence/omniscience. Some are inherent to the concept itself (the old-age question "can an omnipotent deity create a material strong enough so he cannot break it ?"), and others to making an interesting settings - if some entity is really omni-powerful and omniscient, nothing you can do will really matter, and interactions with it are doomed to be somewhat dull and useless. If an entity is incredibly powerful but yet as thirst for additional knowledge, or is involved in a power contest with another entity of its own power scale, then you can get involved, help or hinder it, bargain with it, ... but it's omnipowerful and omniscient ? You can't build much of an interesting story on that.
Okay, I have to admit you just went a bit over my head. Obviously you understand philosophy better then myself who just likes to act like I do. I'll admit that the point you were making was valid. I was simply stating from the PCs perspective you could create a "GOD" that seemed to be all powerful and all seeing, which isn't the same thing as it actually being truly omnipotent or omniscient. As far as a the story goes I'd really think it would depend on the story. Just because you'd introduce such a creature wouldn't mean you'd be fighting it or even directly involved with it. It could just be a um... deus ex machina for instance. Something that could be used to cause a "utterly improbable, illogical or baseless plot twist that drastically alters the situation" See I can use big words too.... though half the time I have no clue what I'm really saying.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by Anaeme » February 4th, 2016, 10:55 am

A human consciousness, or consciousness in its own right is not machinery. that seems to me like a reasonable conclusion people can come to

By extension...consciousness scaled to higher orders of magnitude should reasonably be expected in a complex living, breathing world.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by omphaloskepsis » February 4th, 2016, 12:09 pm

Anaeme wrote:A human consciousness, or consciousness in its own right is not machinery. that seems to me like a reasonable conclusion people can come to

By extension...consciousness scaled to higher orders of magnitude should reasonably be expected in a complex living, breathing world.
OK, I'll bite.

Whether consciousness is machinery is entirely dependent on your definitions of both consciousness and machinery.

A couple defs pulled quickly:
machinery
  • the components of a machine.
    the organization or structure of something.

    synonyms: workings, organization, system, structure, administration, institution; informal: setup
So I'd say that consciousness is by nearly any definition machinery, unless you're using a highly selective definition of machinery like "farm machinery".

I assume what you meant is that consciousness is a spiritual rather than a material phenomenon? That's also debatable, but I'll drop it. People have been working on that problem for thousands of years and IMO we're unlikely to have anything interesting to say unless/until there's working or close to working AI.

Regarding your second statement, I don't see how there's any relationship to the first. I think you left out several steps and assumptions in your thinking there.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by Anaeme » February 4th, 2016, 2:15 pm

omphaloskepsis wrote: Regarding your second statement, I don't see how there's any relationship to the first. I think you left out several steps and assumptions in your thinking there.
The relationship should flow quite naturally, but fair enough. Like begets like is the assumption. taken in abstraction, consciousness alone can beget consciousness.

Wow...who would have thought TToN would inspire such discussion?

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by Colin McComb » February 4th, 2016, 4:21 pm

Peter Watts, in his excellent Firefall series, discusses the nature of consciousness quite a bit - that a growing body of evidence suggests that it's a non-useful adaptation that pretends to be in charge of the body, when in fact it's telling itself stories about its free will.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by omphaloskepsis » February 4th, 2016, 5:11 pm

Colin McComb wrote:Peter Watts, in his excellent Firefall series, discusses the nature of consciousness quite a bit - that a growing body of evidence suggests that it's a non-useful adaptation that pretends to be in charge of the body, when in fact it's telling itself stories about its free will.
I didn't have the love for Blindsight that so many people do, but I didn't think it was a waste of time either.

I'm not sure where the non-useful adaptation concept comes from, but I haven't kept up much in the recent years. I'm tempted to write it off as a cyclic resurgence of behaviorism reformatted for a modern audience, but I don't know the source so I'm speaking from ignorance. My bet is that this will shortly be dumped into the trash can for another 20 - 30 years, though. There seems to be a periodically refreshing group of "ultra-orthodox" academic materialists who dislike the idea of consciousness for aesthetic reasons. They get argued into irrelevance (e.g. Chomsky vs Skinner) and keep their heads low for a few decades before they reemerge with shiny new coats.

I mean, I'm pretty much a materialist, but those ultra-orthodox guys are crazy. ;)
Anaeme wrote: The relationship should flow quite naturally, but fair enough. Like begets like is the assumption. taken in abstraction, consciousness alone can beget consciousness.

Wow...who would have thought TToN would inspire such discussion?
Ah, ok. Sorry if I came off as harsh in that last post, the fact that it's interesting discussion is what sucked me in.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by dorkboy » February 4th, 2016, 8:09 pm

Colin McComb wrote:Peter Watts, in his excellent Firefall series, discusses the nature of consciousness quite a bit - that a growing body of evidence suggests that it's a non-useful adaptation that pretends to be in charge of the body, when in fact it's telling itself stories about its free will.
Isn't 'growing body of evidence' often just another way of stating that the evidence currently supporting an idea isn't all that compelling?

The idea that a physical phenomenon such as consciousness would only exist as a secondary property and if it were removed nothing would change is of course novel and all, but it also strikes me as a bit odd. :?
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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by Firkraag » February 4th, 2016, 8:35 pm

omphaloskepsis wrote:Wow...who would have thought TToN would inspire such discussion?
TToN? Spiritual successor of Planescape: Torment? No waaaa-y!
Colin McComb wrote:Peter Watts, in his excellent Firefall series, discusses the nature of consciousness quite a bit - that a growing body of evidence suggests that it's a non-useful adaptation that pretends to be in charge of the body, when in fact it's telling itself stories about its free will.
Well, he has pretty disclaimer, that says it was just fun writing idea.

Though, it got me thinking, maybe it's our imagination, that create consiousness and not vice versa. Highest form of fiction. ;)
"I am a warhead of weaponized Truth." The Last Castoff (non-canon).

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by kilobug » February 5th, 2016, 12:23 am

Anaeme wrote:A human consciousness, or consciousness in its own right is not machinery. that seems to me like a reasonable conclusion people can come to
All the evidence we have (from fMRI scans able to predict your answer before you actually made your decision to specific temporary or permanent damage in the brain doing specific effects on the consciousness to the fact we pretty much understand how things are working at the lowest level and there is just no room for something else than quantum electrodynamics to ...) point to human consciousness being a byproduct of the neural machinery of the brain - flow of electrons and neurotransmitter in a protein computer.

Sure not everyone agrees with that (heck, some people even pretend the Earth is 6000 years old...) but that's where all the evidence points towards. And the best attempt to answer the question "what is consciousness ?" that I've ever seen is from Douglas Hofstdater in the must-read "Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid" (and it's followup "I am a strange loop").

But anyway, even if you don't agree with that, it's more or less the mindset on which Numenéra was made, as far as I can tell. And while I do accept "deities" and "souls" when playing Planescape (pen&paper or Torment), even if I don't think it makes much sense applied to the real world, you should be able to accept Numenéra "lack of magic" not as a limitation, but as the opportunity to venture in a world where magic is just advanced technology, consciousness a (very complicated) way to organize and process information.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by kilobug » February 5th, 2016, 12:27 am

dorkboy wrote:
Colin McComb wrote:Peter Watts, in his excellent Firefall series, discusses the nature of consciousness quite a bit - that a growing body of evidence suggests that it's a non-useful adaptation that pretends to be in charge of the body, when in fact it's telling itself stories about its free will.
Isn't 'growing body of evidence' often just another way of stating that the evidence currently supporting an idea isn't all that compelling?

The idea that a physical phenomenon such as consciousness would only exist as a secondary property and if it were removed nothing would change is of course novel and all, but it also strikes me as a bit odd. :?
Well, "non-useful adaptation" is perhaps a bit abusive - it is mostly true that consciousness is a byproduct of the brain, and that we do tell ourselves stories about how much in charge we are. But "consciousness" has its use in term of evolution and natural selection, it'll push you to make longer term plans, and it'll ease the creation of complex societies. Part of scifi role is taking an idea, pushing it to its limits, to see what comes out, and make people think and question. That doesn't mean that you should either take the idea fully, to its caricatural limit, or fully discard it, but usually after pondering "what if takes this idea to its limits" makes it easier to fully grasp and see the point in accepting a "weaker" version of the same idea.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by dorkboy » February 5th, 2016, 4:37 am

@kilobug
Non-useful and useful (whether somewhat or massively) are mutually exclusive.
Calling something a byproduct (or putting quotes "around it") doesn't really say anything about its properties, except rhetorically.
I don't think the purpose of satire or exaggeration is necessarily to make the basic idea more palatable - rather the opposite; to magnify it to the point where the flaws become obvious. But I suppose that depends on the author, and which point they're making.
For instance, one might make a story about people whose [sub]consciousnesses are constantly telling them they are powerless and without choice.
The people in the story wouldn't be affected by it, of course, as it would merely be a story - and there would be no difference whether they told themselves these things consciously or subconsciously as they in both cases would be without any kind of free will to do anything about it..
:|
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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by anonymous6059 » February 5th, 2016, 5:21 am

Colin McComb wrote:Peter Watts, in his excellent Firefall series, discusses the nature of consciousness quite a bit - that a growing body of evidence suggests that it's a non-useful adaptation that pretends to be in charge of the body, when in fact it's telling itself stories about its free will.
1. I'm thoroughly impressed that you'd mention determinism and the likely possibility that free-will is an illusion. If this kind of material makes it into the game in any way I'd pretty much purchase anything you work on in the future.

2. I'd seriously doubt that the illusion of free-will is useless. I'd be willing to gamble that it's a pretty important part of being able to have a ego. Being able to recall events, weave a story about who you are as a independent person. I completely agree we are telling ourselves stories, but not being able to tell who's writing the story in your mind is called schizophrenia.

3. Did you plant this comment just to stoke the fire?

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by kilobug » February 5th, 2016, 6:06 am

dorkboy wrote:Non-useful and useful (whether somewhat or massively) are mutually exclusive.
Well, not really. Words don't have clear binary bounds. Between "useful" and "non-useful" you've lots of shades of gray, from "barely useful" to "rarely useful" to ...
dorkboy wrote:Calling something a byproduct (or putting quotes "around it") doesn't really say anything about its properties, except rhetorically.
It does put some bound on its properties, makes some properties more or less likely to exist, and it does say a lot about its relationship with the rest of a mechanism or ecosystem. Saying that "oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis" vs "oxygen is purpose of photosynthesis" means that while photosynthesis will generate oxygen in both cases, hypothesis like "oxygen is a poison for the organisms doing photosynthesis" or "you can remove all the oxygen it generates without harming the organism" are more likely to be true - and actually, they were true for the first organisms that did photosynthesis. Modern plants require oxygen to "breath", they adapted to breath their own poison, but initially they didn't.
dorkboy wrote:I don't think the purpose of satire or exaggeration is necessarily to make the basic idea more palatable - rather the opposite; to magnify it to the point where the flaws become obvious. But I suppose that depends on the author, and which point they're making.
That's not the purpose of satire, definitely. But not all "taking an idea to the farthest conclusions it can" is satire. In scifi it's often not, and that's what I was referring too. I had in mind things like Jules Verne's making a big canon to go to the Moon (silly, but not too far from the concept of rocket), from Asimov psychohistory (sure we'll likely never get it to the level of Seldon Plan, but the Foundation cycle does help about thinking seriously on the idea of using statistics to make some fuzzy, limited, long-term predictions on human societies), to Greg Egan (sure, "Permutation City" hypothesis of Tegmark Level 4 multiverse is probably abusive, but it does help understanding that "mind upload" may very well be a thing in the far future).

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by kilobug » February 5th, 2016, 6:19 am

anonymous6059 wrote:1. I'm thoroughly impressed that you'd mention determinism and the likely possibility that free-will is an illusion.
In this context, "free will is an illusion" isn't directly tied with determinism. Being myself a compatibilist (I believe that the universe is deterministic, but that free will is a useful high-level concept that correspond to some reality nonetheless, the same way "pressure" or "water" don't mean much at quark level, and yet its more than an illusion), I still think that the "free-will is an illusion", at the level of "our consciousness believe to be in charge, but actually doesn't take most decisions" makes some sense - not to be taken to the extreme of free-will being an illusion, but the knowledge of cognitive biases and the "multi-system" nature of our mind show that our consciousness is not as much in control as it tends to believe.
anonymous6059 wrote:3. Did you plant this comment just to stoke the fire?
It's a Torment game, it wouldn't be real if it didn't provoke a philosophical discussion at a point ;)

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by anonymous6059 » February 5th, 2016, 7:16 am

kilobug wrote:
anonymous6059 wrote:1. I'm thoroughly impressed that you'd mention determinism and the likely possibility that free-will is an illusion.
In this context, "free will is an illusion" isn't directly tied with determinism. Being myself a compatibilist (I believe that the universe is deterministic, but that free will is a useful high-level concept that correspond to some reality nonetheless, the same way "pressure" or "water" don't mean much at quark level, and yet its more than an illusion), I still think that the "free-will is an illusion", at the level of "our consciousness believe to be in charge, but actually doesn't take most decisions" makes some sense - not to be taken to the extreme of free-will being an illusion, but the knowledge of cognitive biases and the "multi-system" nature of our mind show that our consciousness is not as much in control as it tends to believe.
)
Yeah, I mean I had a brush with all that chaos stuff but none of it ever sunk in sorry. I respect everything your saying and know that eventually we will understand quarks and all that stuff. For me the field was just growing and changing to fast for me to take much stock in it. Don't get me wrong just because its "new" or just because I don't understand it doesn't mean I'm dismissing you.

Personally I'm getting to be a little envious of you. Your really making me want to put down the joystick and pick up some of my old philosophy books. Anyway, since I don't really have a strong enough opinion to try and argue with you I'll just quote the most Kick-ass Philosopher of all time:

"The universe, that vase assemblage of every thing that exists, presents only matter and motion: the whole offers to our contemplation nothing but an immense, an uninterrupted succession of causes and effects; some of these causes are known to us, because they strike immediately on our senses; others are unknown to us, because they act upon us by effects, frequently very remote from their original cause." -Baron Holbach

That was written in like 1770 and even in 2016 that still seems to make a lot of sense to me. Another final point on the subject that I always think about is in regard to all the creatures that came before us. No ones seems to disagree that dogs, rabbits, horses, or any other animals on earth has free will. It seems a little bit lofty for us to believe we are any different. All the way back to the beginning of time everything ever done has been caused by something. Then humans step on the scene and suddenly everything is different? I seriously doubt it.

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Re: Are Tides technological or magical?

Post by dorkboy » February 5th, 2016, 8:15 am

kilobug wrote:
dorkboy wrote:Non-useful and useful (whether somewhat or massively) are mutually exclusive.
Well, not really. Words don't have clear binary bounds. Between "useful" and "non-useful" you've lots of shades of gray, from "barely useful" to "rarely useful" to ...
Yeah, that makes perfect nonsense. :)
kilobug wrote:
dorkboy wrote:Calling something a byproduct (or putting quotes "around it") doesn't really say anything about its properties, except rhetorically.
It does put some bound on its properties, makes some properties more or less likely to exist, and it does say a lot about its relationship with the rest of a mechanism or ecosystem. Saying that "oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis" vs "oxygen is purpose of photosynthesis" means that while photosynthesis will generate oxygen in both cases, hypothesis like "oxygen is a poison for the organisms doing photosynthesis" or "you can remove all the oxygen it generates without harming the organism" are more likely to be true - and actually, they were true for the first organisms that did photosynthesis. Modern plants require oxygen to "breath", they adapted to breath their own poison, but initially they didn't.
Well, if it's good enough for plants it's good enough for consciousness! ;)
kilobug wrote:
dorkboy wrote:I don't think the purpose of satire or exaggeration is necessarily to make the basic idea more palatable - rather the opposite; to magnify it to the point where the flaws become obvious. But I suppose that depends on the author, and which point they're making.
That's not the purpose of satire, definitely. But not all "taking an idea to the farthest conclusions it can" is satire. In scifi it's often not, and that's what I was referring too. I had in mind things like Jules Verne's making a big canon to go to the Moon (silly, but not too far from the concept of rocket), from Asimov psychohistory (sure we'll likely never get it to the level of Seldon Plan, but the Foundation cycle does help about thinking seriously on the idea of using statistics to make some fuzzy, limited, long-term predictions on human societies), to Greg Egan (sure, "Permutation City" hypothesis of Tegmark Level 4 multiverse is probably abusive, but it does help understanding that "mind upload" may very well be a thing in the far future).
Hmm, you didn't really mention satire, did you.. My bad.
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