Being and Time

File:USMC-111130-M-LU513-038.jpg

While algorithms are characterized by finite amounts of information, creative systems develop over time, incorporating new information. An algorithm always stays the same, but having a memory means that a creative system grows bit by bit. Although the calculations going on in a system described by an algorithm are processes in time, such a system does not have any historical development, so in the long term, on some level of abstraction, it can be described as a timeless system because after a calculation, they come back to the same state they had before.

An algorithm (I am using the term here as a synonym to “Turing-machine”) describes a system with a fixed structure and fixed laws of operation. It can be described by a formal theory. A creative system, on the other hand, can get out of the scope of description of any formal theory describing it.

A learning system can incorporate information from the environment. This information can then influence information encountered later. By incorporating new information, i.e. information not derivable from the information present before, the system is extending itself beyond the scope of the information it previously had. The limited amount of information contained in the system at a given time can be described in terms of a formal theory or algorithm, but this can be extended by new information from outside the system. As a result, the creative system develops, and it does so in time. Creativity and time are necessarily connected. A system that can be described entirely in terms of fixed laws does not have a history and can be described in a time-less way. A creative system, however, is existing in time.

Human beings have a memory, and not just the temporary working memory that an algorithm may use. They have a history, a biography, because their structure is changing. They are creative. They develop. So their life has a temporal dimension. Human beings can be viewed as creative systems in the sense described above, and this requires physical time. So time is a necessary precondition of the human existence. Perceived time is also an inevitable result of creativity in this sense. You cannot stop such a system from developing a sense of time although this “system time” is not identical with physical time.

As the system is developing, the world of entities it is living in changes. We can describe this as the ontology defined by the system. Each chunk of knowledge contained in the system is limited. We can view it as an analytical space. Analytical spaces have anomalies, i.e. the may encounter situations where the knowledge in them does not apply. They can then be extended by new additional knowledge. This may be viewed as the integration of new knowledge into an existing analytical space or as the creation of a new analytical space. While the knowledge contained inside an existing analytical space can be described as a (timeless) algorithm, the process of encountering new information (anomalies) is part of a creative process that leads to the generation of new knowledge by integrating the new information. While the application of an algorithm might be an automatic, unconscious process and is in that sense timeless, the creative process is a process in the history or biography of the system. It is a process in the “system time” or “subjective time” of the system.

Let us take an example. Let’s assume you are a skilled carpenter. You are putting nails in a board. You can do that automatically without much conscious thought. You might reflect this process (but that reflection is a different thought process not required for the nailing), but normally, you can do it without much thinking. You are then operation within the scope of an existing analytical space, a chunk of knowledge and skill that can be described as an algorithm.

Now you encounter an anomaly. There is a nail in the board, hammered into it from the other side, and you did not know that. Your nail hits that obstacle. Or your hammer breaks. Or you hit your thumb, because the motor knowledge in your analytical space of how to nail was still incomplete due to a lack of practice (mabe you are just an apprentice learning the craft). In such cases, you drop out of the automatic routine. New, unexpected information, unpredicted by the information contained inside your system of analytical spaces, has entered your perception. The obstacle is coming to your conscious attention. A memory is forming. You now perceive the hammer, the board, the nail, your hand, your thumb, and you perceive these things in time. Time, history, biography exists between the analytical spaces. If the new situation is being integrated into your system of analytical spaces, e.g. if your motor knowledge improves so you will no longer hit your thumb, it will become part of that knowledge-covered part of reality. It may become unconscious. You navigate the situation on auto-pilot and you might not remember much of it later.

Conscious concepts are only required in that creative mode, when processing the new, the anomaly with respect to previous knowledge. As long as you are in that “autopilot” mode, you can operate without a concept of a hammer, its handle, the nail etc. You could program a robot to hammer the nails into a board in terms of movements and touch sensors, or even visual sensors, without any explicit concept of a nail or a hammer. The need for a conceptual description arises when you encounter anomalies and have to find a way to deal with them. And only then do you need historical time, although the processes in the automatic state are also processes in time, if viewed from the outside, and go through several states.

Time, in the sense of consciously perceived time, sets in when we hit upon an anomaly (or, to stay with the example, upon our thumbs), in moments of amazement. In the history of animals, this might set in before we became human, but with becoming human, i.e. becoming animals (or people) for whom creativity was their central and defining property, time really becomes a central aspect of our being.

(The picture is from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USMC-111130-M-LU513-038.jpg.)

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35 comments

  1. The allusion to Heidegger is intended.

  2. Reblogged this on The Asifoscope and commented:

    On the relationship between creativity and time.

  3. I can see how conceptual thinking would arise out of an anomaly, but I don’t quite get how historical (I assume you mean objective?) time would become known in that way. Maybe if the anomaly were something relevant to time or dealing with others and their time or even dealing with the sun setting?

    1. Hi Tina, Thanks for the question. I will answer this on one of the next days. I have to do some work for my university study (I am preparing a project plan for a practical (about transcribing lots of letters)) and want to get that done before the easter weekend.

      1. Sure thing! And by the way, I’m honored that you’ve taken up the Heideggarian theme in a new direction. Good luck with your work.

        Easter. Wow. I forgot about that.

        1. Well, what I am doing here has probably not very much real connection to Heidegger, it was more like a joke to use his title. The content behind that title, I think, is quite different, although I am using the hammer example.
          In my view, this is cognitive psychology or perhaps cognitive philosophy, not fundamental ontology. When I am using the term “ontology” I mean objects as observed or defined by the observing system (animal, human, robot, scientific comunity, culture, gas cloud, whatever), not what there really is in itself. My impression is that H. is confusing that, that he is starting with the world as it appears to him and then he is taking that to be reality as it is. Maybe I am misinterpreting him (I have not read his works, so what I think I understand about him is hearsay, and that is probably not fair), but if that understanding of his work should be right, I find that naive. He is putting things on their head. The experienced world depends on the structure of our brain and on our memories (i.e. traces of previous experiences). If that structure changes, the experienced world changes, but reality remains the same. If Heidegger had taken LSD, that would have changed his experienced world because it would have changed the way his brain works, but it would not have changed anything for the rest of us. No fluorescent dragons would come out of the wall just because Prof. H. has popped a pil. As I said, I do not really know his works, but what I think I have understood appears quite bizarre as 20th century philosophy. It would have been OK 2000 or 2500 years earlier, but in the 20th century, it is somehow odd. The really interesting thinkers of those years, in my opinion, are Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, as well as Gödel, Turing etc. and Heidegger as a contemporary of those people is an oddity. I also don’t have a problem with existentialism and things like that. The human existence, human culture etc. as topics of philosophy are all fine. But mixing that up with metaphysics simply feels wrong to me. But again, maybe I don’t know what I am talking about, so I better stop 🙂
          I am going to come back to the topic of the connection I am seeing between time and creativity one of the next days. I probably did not explain very well what I mean (this article was only a first attempt in that direction), so I am trying to sort it out and explain it better over the holidays, as far as I will have the time. We are going to drive to Hamburg to visit my mother tomorrow. Monday is still a holiday here, maybe I will have some time then. I also want to finish that Civilization stuff I started on the other blog. We’ll see. Have a nice time and regards to the house philosopher as well. 🙂

          1. Ha, well Heidegger’s definitely not your cup of tea then! (Not unless you slip in some LSD, I’m sure). Heidegger’s trying to change the way we think about ontology, but I don’t think he’d say the subjective is real and objective not real. He’d probably have a problem with the world of Einstein and Bohr only if it’s a world of intellectual abstraction that is deemed real in opposition to everything else. I don’t know what he thinks about fluorescent dragons, but I imagine he enjoyed them up on his mountain in his later years. 🙂

            Enjoy your holiday and I will tell the in-house philosopher that you give him your regards!

          2. “My impression is that H. is confusing that, that he is starting with the world as it appears to him and then he is taking that to be reality as it is.”

            I think your understanding of Heidegger is fairly limited here. To try and clarify what I think you’re getting at I would say that Heidegger is arguing our knowledge of the world is limited to the way in which we interact at with it. Dasein as a being-in-the-world in not a being separated from the world around it; it takes part in an interactive system of what I look at as feedback loops between mind/body/world. How can we have understanding of the world if we don’t understand ourselves as part of it? Einstein and the others you mentioned are still limited in their knowledge of the world insofar as they are limited to their own phenomenological understanding of it. They are merely describing the complex relations between the phenomena that they experience. Heidegger is not incompatible with these thinkers in my opinion, though others may disagree.

            “If that structure changes, the experienced world changes, but reality remains the same. If Heidegger had taken LSD, that would have changed his experienced world because it would have changed the way his brain works, but it would not have changed anything for the rest of us.”

            So are you saying here that Heidegger is a naive empiricist? By no means does a minor difference in the perception of the world constitute a difference to our understanding of Being in general.

            Heidegger essentially argues that that to understand and answer the question of being we must look at the one asking the question. Even in inquiring as to what we mean by Being we find our own ‘mode of Being’ and therefore our own asking of the question of Being is where we get our ‘essential character’ of what it is to be. Dasein (i.e. us) differs from other modes of being (i.e. a tree) in that it is concerned with ITS OWN being. The brings up a complex series of relations into how we understand the world and our place in it.

            There’s a recent trend in the analytic philosophy of mind, that you might be more sympathetic with, which takes a lot of influence from Heidegger – the idea of the extended or embodied mind. See Chalmers + Clark’s paper The Extended Mind for reference. It’s a great read.

            1. You are certainly right that my understanding of Heidegger is very limited and in many ways, I am probably misunderstanding him.

              I have not invested the time it would take to really penetrate his thoughts, but I am not sure it would be worth the effort. I have reached an age where I have to think about what to invest my time on; it is limited.

              I find him strange and, being a member of a partially African family, I find his racism, clearly revealed in the recently published black notebooks, very repugnant, but that is probably a different question, although I am asking myself if there is a connection between his approach to thinking and his racism.

              I don’t have an English edition of Being and Time, so let me cite him in German and try to explain what I meant with the LSD. Heidegger writes somewhere: “Daher muß die Fundamentalontologie, aus der alle anderen erst entspringen können, in der existenzialen Analytik des Daseins gesucht werden” (roughly: “therefore the fundamental ontology out of which all others are emerging in the first place, must be sought in the existential analysis of Dasein”(H. distinguishes between “existentiel” and “existential” and I have absolutely no idea what is the difference). My objection here is that there is not one Dasein, there are billions. It is unstable. It depends on culture, history, age, health etc. You can change the experience, in the extreme case, by drugs. But all these changes do not affect what exists in itself. It affects what exists for somebody, what somebody takes as existing from his or her point of view, but I do not regard that as fundamental, so I am baffled by Heideger’s move to take that as his foundation (if he does so, maybe I am misunderstanding him here).
              In another place, Heidegger talks about phenomena, explaining the term from greek, as “that wich shows itself, as it shows itself from itself…” (my own rough translation). But I think that phenomena depend on the structure of the observer, which can change (by learning, culture, disease, drugs). Things do not show themselves, we perceive them in some way. Dasein is not stable, so how can you take it for granted as the basis of ontology. This seems naive to me. It appears as some form of anthropocentrism to me. The interesting question for me would be how this Dasein works. How is it implemented in terms of more fundamental things. By taking it as the foundation, that question becomes impossible.

              I am not really getting Heidegger yet (and I confess I have not tried seriously) but at first glance, his whole approach seems fundamentally flawed to me.

              Besides that I find his language and style terrible. If he did have insights, why was he not able to express them clearly. I cannot get rid of the suspicion that not only his language but also his thoughts where lacking clarity. Unfortunately, he seems to have started a tradition of blurry writing, especially among French philosophers.

              What you wrote above seems very clear to me (thank you, and thanks for the hint at that paper, that sounds interesting), so if that is really what he meant, why did he not simply say it like that?

              He appears to me as a charismatic guru who is claiming to say deep things by using cryptic language. There is a claim of meaning, but if there is meaning, I don’t know. Maybe I am doing him wrong, but I have not yet found the key to his thoughts.

              1. There’s a lot of points you raise here. Just to clarify the initial point about Ontology. So to use your rough translation:

                ‘“therefore the fundamental ontology out of which all others are emerging in the first place, must be sought in the existential analysis of Dasein”

                Heidegger’s point here is that how can we, as beings-in-the-world, try to understand the world, without trying to understand ourselves? Any outside information that we receive through our interactions with the (non-dasein) parts of the world is still going to be filtered through our understanding of it. And since our understanding of the world comes through how WE interact with the world we must look at what makes Dasein the only being (as far as we are aware) that is concerned with its own being, which is, as I’ve said, a being-in-the-world.

                “My objection here is that there is not one Dasein, there are billions.”

                How can you, or I, or any individual Dasein understand the relations between others if we do not first start with the existential analysis of the self? As I’ve said before this existential feedback loop can only exist if there is a being to which the question of Being, in the pure ontological sense, is a concern. That being is Dasein. No amount of LSD or even DMT or anything else changes that this fact. All the phenomena an individual experiences must still be understood through the ontological necessity of our understanding of Being as a whole, and the only way to understand Being as a whole (which includes theoretical physics, psychedelic drug experiences, anything) is to look at what it is to be. What it is to be-there. To be Da-Sein. A being-in-the-world. A being-towards-death etc. (I won’t get into that now but it’s also extremely important).

                To answer your point, we cannot understand the fundamental building blocks of da-sein if there is no da-sein to understand them. To take ourselves out of the picture when understanding ontology is to misunderstand ontology radically.

                I have to sigh slightly about the common criticism of those trained in the analytic tradition about the so called ‘blurriness’ as you call it, of continental philosophy. Analytic philosophy aims to look philosophy as a science through which individual philosophical problems are identified and solves. This is of course nonsense. There is no solution. Wittgenstein thought the Tractatus would be the ‘end of philosophy’ and then realised a few years later this was absurd. The supposed clarity of modern analytic metaphysics can often be reduced down semantic toing and phroing over the subtleties of the logic used in a specific argument. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

                However, in the continental tradition we are much more willing to engage with philosophy in the way that tries to understand OUR place in the world over how the world is IN ITSELF i.e. understanding supposed foundational logical truths. This is the classic split I suppose started between Husserl/Heidegger/Nietzsche and Frege/Russell.

                Sorry I’m getting a bit distracted here but my point is, it that Instead of the analysis of particular logical concepts specifically, continental philosophers form a broad tradition of critiques and responses to critiques on society, people, and the universe in general. The blurriness of these thinkers is only blurry to those who chose to view it as such. Yes the language is complex, and doesn’t emphasise the importance of clarity, yet there are brilliant pieces of philosophy that can be hidden in the most obscure writing. Just think of Hegel, perhaps the most obscure philosopher of all time. Marx took Hegelianism, applied it to a materialistic framework and subsequently became the philosopher who has probably affected the lives of more people than any in recent memory.

                Meaning is not clear cut. Words are not absolute. We interpret what we read differently. Some embrace this. Some try and ignore it but imo it is true.

                Finally yes I agree Heidegger’s racist views were abhorrent.

                Sorry if this became slightly ranty. I appreciate you taking the time to respond in such detail!

            2. I have moved up my answer one level since columns here are getting narrower and narrower, so this answer belongs to your last comment further down.

              “To answer your point, we cannot understand the fundamental building blocks of da-sein if there is no da-sein to understand them. To take ourselves out of the picture when understanding ontology is to misunderstand ontology radically.”

              “To answer your point, we cannot understand the fundamental building blocks of da-sein if there is no da-sein to understand them. To take ourselves out of the picture when understanding ontology is to misunderstand ontology radically.”

              I agree to some extent, but not completely. I understand the term “ontology” to mean the study of existence. I think that there are things that exist without us. There was a universe before human beings or even life came into being, and there will be one when we are gone. That is, of course, a metaphysical statement that cannot be proven, but I find it a reasonable assumption to make. Therefore, I do not regard humans, human cognition, human consciousness or human dasein as something fundamental. I see reality as something layered, and the interesting question (for me) is how the “higher” layers of description are implemented in terms of the “lower” layers. There are entities in reality that exist through our perception and cognition, as individuals or as a community and I am interested in the question how that works. I am also interested in the question how the human mind works. I do not take it for granted, as the starting point, as a given. It is a complex entity, not a basic one. Of course, we cannot take ourselves out of the picture, especially when we are looking at cultural or human phenomena. However, the system observing reality is no longer the single human being, as it was at the time of the Pre-Socratics or of Aristotle, but a system that consists of institutions, journals, laboratories etc. (https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/what-is-observable/).

              I am using the term “ontology” in two different ways, to describe the study of existence of things in themselves and to describe the way objects are created by the observing system. These to uses are connected since what I am interested in is the way “high-level” objects are “implemented” (a term I take from computer science here) in terms of “lower” leveels. Let me explain what I mean with an example from computation. If you look at my blog, what you see are articles and pictures and links etc. You can navigate between them and, for example, add a comment. That is the phenomenological level from the point of view of the reader. If you look at your own blog, you can look under the hood to some extent. You can, for example, choose another theme. Below that is one (or perhaps several) layers of programming languages that you do not see from your point of view (the programmers at WordPress do, however). Looking on that level, one can describe how the functionality you have on your dashboard or the view of a reader are implemented. The higher level can be described without knowing anything about how that lower level works (you as a blog writer and I as a blog reader do not have to know how it works in order to write our articles). The lower level could also be changed without us noticing it. “Below” that, there is a level of the operating system of the wordpress servers. The programmer does not need to understand the details of it, the operating system presents some interface to him and what is below that is hidden. The operating system might also be changed without affecting the higher levels. “Below” that level (or levels) is a level of hardware. Again, what “runs” on this hardware can be understood and described without knowing how the hardware is working. What is “really” happening on the computer is just that some electrical charges are moving around. If you describe the servers of wordpress on that level, you do not see any of the higher levels. They do not exist. There are just electronic parts and electric charges, magnetized particles on hard discs etc. Understanding this level also does not teach you anything about the blogging application or the content of your blog, because the information in that software or in that blog cannot be derived from the electronic’s physical structure. This is information that was entered into the system by the programmer or by the blogger. Since the system is programmable, it cannot be describe completely (you can always add more information not derivable from what is there already). A complete formal description of such a computer system is, as a consequence, impossible (that would have to be a theory about all possible programs and about all possible blog articles, including all of those containing your and my thoughts). In a similar way, understanding the working of neurons would not teach you much about psychology or even culture. In each particular instance, one could (if one had access to all the information) describe how that particular process in a computer or in a brain happened and how it is implemented in terms of physical processes, but a complete exact theory about such processes is impossible in principle.

              “I have to sigh slightly…” 🙂

              First, I want to make clear that I do not see myself coming out of the analytic tradition, see https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/a-note-on-analytic-philosophy/. My thinking is probably related to some parts of the pragmatist tradition as well as to the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations. Besides that, I am working as a computer programmer and that is a mental discipline that teaches you exactness (but more on that topic below).

              My starting point is the idea that the human mind is creative. By creativity, I mean the ability of a system to move out of the scope of any formal (or exact) description of it (This definition of creativity is derived from a similar definition given by the mathematician Kurt Ammon who defined creativity as the ability to calculate functions that are not Turing-computable). This is, in the end, a consequence of our ability to store information taken up from the environment and to apply such information in our cognition. As a result, we can modify or “reprogram” ourselves. The consequence of this is that human cognition and, as a corollary, human culture, cannot be described completely in principle. It also always has a historic aspect. Thus, formal models, as produced in analytic philosophy, are always incomplete. If you face the full complexity of reality, you are facing incompleteness of all knowledge. This incompleteness can come in different forms (see https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/the-trade-off-between-explicitness-and-generality/). You cannot get generality and exactness at the same time. If you choose to produce exact descriptions, they will always be special. If you choose to try to reach general descriptions, you will inevitably end up with vagueness or blurriness. So I have no general problem with vagueness or blurriness of language. I think that the concept of science, as it exists in the English language, is rather limited or self-limiting, and I prefer the German concept of “Wissenschaft” which is much wider and would include all kinds of studies (see also https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/cognitive-science-or-cognitive-philosophy/). Of course, the fundamental incompleteness also means that there cannot be a complete description of Wissenschaft (and not even of sciene, see https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/descriptions-and-regularity/).

              “yet there are brilliant pieces of philosophy that can be hidden in the most obscure writing. Just think of Hegel, perhaps the most obscure philosopher of all time.”

              I totally agree.

              1. I will get round to replying to this at some point, bear with me!

    2. Let me try to explain the connection I see between creativity and time.
      1. Algorithms that calculate a function will have a working memory and they use time to do the calculations. But from one calculation to the next, the system does not change. Think of a pocket calculor, for example. You enter a number and press the square root key. The calculator takes some time to calculate a result. If you enter another number, it calculates a result, but it has forgotten about the first calculation. Such a system does not have an episodic memory. It does not remember what it did before. As a result, the results of later calculations are not influenced by what has been entered before. It is always the same. It can be completely described by a finite amount of exact information and that information does not change over time. So that is an algorithm. Simple animals are probably like that. Think of a fly that is bumping against the window. It can do so for ours again and again until its energy reserves are finished. It bumps into the window always for the first time, so to speak. It does not remember and it does not reflect.

      2. No consider a slightly more sophisticated system. Maybe a fish in a coral reef. I don’t know to what extent such fish are able to learn but let’s assume they can memorize some aspects of their environment. Such a fish might learn which coral is where, what food is in what place, where a moray eel is lurking, where is the border of its territory, where is the territory of another fish of the same species, etc. Learning these things means that their behavior at one time may depend on their perception at a previous time. The system is not always the same. It is modified. Information from the environment is integrated into the behavioral program. E.g., if the fish is attacked by another fish from the same species at some point, it might memorize that point as part of its territory border. However, its memory capacity is probably quite limited and it can only learn certain kinds of things. It also does not need an episodic memory. It does not need to remember when exactly it encountered that other fish. It can build up some kind of map without recording the times and events when it learnt certain things. Think of going to the kitchen in your apartment or driving to the supermarket in your area. You know where the kitchen is and where the supermarket is, but you might not remember when you learnt that, and it is not necessary to remember (notice that that fish-level kind of cognitive process is also part of us).

      3. What do I mean when I speak of creativity? I call a system creative if it can move out of the scope of any formal description you may give for it. The fly and the pocket calculator can be described completely with some finite amount of information. I would not be astonished to see computer simulations of fly brains soon that capture every aspect of the fly’s “cognition”. If you add memory and you can integrate information about the environment, the genetic program does no longer describe the behavior completely. However, if the memory capacity of a fish is limited and it stores only certain kinds of information, it might still be possible to enumerate all possible events in a fishes life that change its behavior. In principle, it might be possible to describe the fish in terms of a finite theory, although this theory might contain a rather large amount of information. In human beings, I would consider that impossible. We can integrate information we get from the outside and this new information, not derivable from the information we had before, can then influence how we deal with information we encounter later. In that way, the “program” that describes our cognitive processes is changed or reprogrammed. If you could describe everything you know at one moment completely, you could take all that knowledge as an algorithm or formal theory. But you can always add another bit of information that cannot be derived from what you know already, something that is new to you, and change yourself by doing so. It is, therefore, possible to always move out of the scope of a given description. So there are no fixed laws of thinking and everything in your thinking processes might be changed. In that sense, we can consider ourselves creative systems. All that is required for this is a very large memory capacity that we would not exhaust during our life time, and the ability to apply new knowledge to situations you encounter later (unlike a camera, for example, that just stores the information but where this information does not influence how information entering later is processes). But note that although these are processes in time, they do not necessarily require having a representation of time, in the sense of an episodic memory. The fish might learn where a certain food source is and use this information the next time it needs food, even if it might not have any episodic memory. I think that learning processes always require time (they are processes in time) but they do not necessarily require an explicit representation of time with a sense of previous events in a sequence. The fish might be in a present time with no idea of past and future and still be able to learn some things. I think Kant was really wrong about thinking that a representation of time is a necessary precondition of learning (the same, I think, is true of space or of his categories. I think primitive learning systems are possible that do not have them and would be able to come up with such concepts and representations).

      4. A creative system has a history (or biography) in the sense that it can proceed from simple forms of processing information to more sophisticated ones. It cannot be described completely by a finite amount of information because new information can be added, modifying the system. So unlike algorithms that are in a sense timeless, creative systems are historic. Note that the concept of creative systems could not only be applied to animals and human beings but also to communities of human beings, like cultures and scientific communities, (and cultures cannot be described completely, they can change, so cultural studies are not part of science if science only deals with things that are governed by fixed laws.)

      5. If a learning system is able to extend itself and to invent new mechanisms of thinking and new ways of representing information (new data structures, so to speak), if it can reprogram itself (and I think human beings are capable of that), a creative or open system that does not have an episodic memory yet should be able to come up with one, by forming memories of events and somehow representing their sequence. That is what I mean when I say that you cannot stop such a system from developing a sense of time. I do not know if our episodic memories are part of the genetically determined developmental kernel from which our cognitive development starts (I guess it is, but this is just a hypothesis, I do not know what is scientifically known about this). It is possible that babies or very small children do not have a real episodic memory yet and that each of us invents it at some time in our development, but I don’t know. In any case, a creative system with a large enough memory capacity and a complex enough environment should come up with some representation of time sooner or later. The same can be observed in cultures that develop grammatical representations of time in the language, storytelling, a sense of history, calendars and clocks etc. at some point in their development, replacing simple notions of time with more sophisticated ones.

      To sum this up: Creative systems, unlike algorithms, have a history of biography because they change over time. They can develop explicit representations of time during their developments if they do not start with them already. Algorithmic systems, on the other hand, are timeless in the sense that they do not change. Science (in the normal sense of the word) deals with systems that can be described completely by laws. Creative systems are historical and thus fall outside the scope of science (although the German concept of “Wissenschaft” includes the historical disciplines as well). I think that human beings are creative in the sense described here. As a result, they are historical both as individuals (biography) and as groups (history). An explicit representation of time is part of them, be it as a part of the genetic kernel or starting point of development or as a result of creative cognition. So time is part of the human experience.

      Please let me know if you do not understand parts of this. I am trying to develop these thoughts into a form that is easy to understand, and feedback is important to that. 🙂

      1. Thanks for the clarification! I’ve recently started reading about AI and the kinds of problems faced in replicating human creativity. It’s a fascinating topic. The question of how time might play into creativity is an interesting one.

        “I think Kant was really wrong about thinking that a representation of time is a necessary precondition of learning (the same, I think, is true of space or of his categories. I think primitive learning systems are possible that do not have them and would be able to come up with such concepts and representations).”

        I’m not sure that Kant says that a “representation” of time is a necessary precondition of learning. As I recall, time was a necessary precondition for inner experience in humans (Kant was always talking about humans, but I don’t know how explicit he was in this. It seems safe to say he hadn’t thought about AI and I don’t think he meant to speak of animals). We can’t imagine thinking without time because each thought is succeeded by another. If we try to imagine having inner thoughts without time, we realize it’s impossible. This movement of thoughts would not be possible without time. That said, Kant wasn’t talking about having clocks or anything like that, but instead the connection between movement of thoughts and time that we as humans can make explicit to ourselves. In retrospect we see that the concept of time has been operating all along, though we aren’t always aware of it. I think most of the *time* we don’t make time explicit to ourselves, and as you say, we don’t remember learning certain things and we often don’t think about time at all. Yet, the funny thing, I think self-awareness is necessary for having this kind of revelation about time and to think of time in retrospect as being a necessary condition for inner experience.

        I don’t think time in this Kantian sense would be necessary for learning of some sort when we consider AI. The kind of time Kant’s talking about is actually human experience. Replicating this experience in AI would, I think, require a high level of sophistication and I don’t even know if that’s possible. Maybe it is. As for primitive systems that could learn how to experience time as we do, I don’t see it. But I think you were thinking of time in an explicit representational sense when you said that, which I can see. I imagine that some sort of fallible self-awareness would have to be programmed somehow if we were to try to replicate our experience in AI. It seems like it would be easier to program AI to record everything it learns in some sort of objective time way, as in looking at a clock or something, but that doesn’t make its experience like ours. As you say, we don’t remember when we learn things and we often aren’t aware of things we know. If I play the guitar or piano, I don’t really think about what my hands are doing and what I have once learned explicitly. I once made this process conscious, but I have since forgotten that. With piano, if I make myself aware of what I’m doing consciously, I can no longer play. It’s like a system overload…really who knows what’s going on there. The same is true with represented time, I think. If we thought about when everything happened, we’d probably have a nervous breakdown, and yet we experience time as being there all along in a non-representational sense. With primitive AI I imagine that all of these processes could be explicit and infallible, but our experience is not.

        I hope my feedback was helpful. You know I’m not a computer person, so a lot of this is going to be revealing of that. 🙂

        1. Thanks for explaining Kant a bit better to me. Certainly, time is required for learning and thinking of all kinds. These are processes. But I think a sense of time is not a necessary precondition of the more primitive kinds of such processes.
          Conscious awareness (or reflection) of what is going on can always only be partial, or else, as you say, we get an overload.
          Kant was only thinking about humans, I think. The extension of Kant’s approach to animals was made by the Biologist Jacob von Uexküll about a century later. Uexküll saw each kind of animal as having a “Merkwelt” (perceptive world) and a “Wirkwelt” (world of actions or effects), both determined by its structure (I think he was talking about the “Bauplan”, the building plan, here, but I am not sure about his termnology here). Together, these are the components of the animals “Umwelt” (“surrond-world” ). The term Umwelt, which he coined, later took on a different meaning of “Environment” in the sense of environmentalism, but in Uexkülls view, it was meant to mean the combination of an animal’s Merkwelt and Wirkwelt. Uexküll then analyzed several animals in these terms. Kant’s “Anschauungsformen” of Space and Time are then part of the Umwelt of humans, while simpler animals might have a different and possibly much simpler Umwelt. In biology, his thoughts went out of fashion when everybody started going into the direction of genetics. However, recently, there is growing interest, both in philosophy and also in AI and especially robotics.
          I do not think that AI systems can be infallible. Algorithms are, in a sense, infallible, althoguh they are each restricted to one task. An intelligent system would have to be creative, I think, and that necessarily includes the possibility of error. Infallible intelligence is impossible.
          The problem of a lot of AI research is that they equate computers with algorithms. After Turing had tried to formalize the concept of computability and several other people had also done it, it had turned out that the different formalizms they had come up with where all equivalent. This lead one of them (Alonzo Church) to the hypothesis that everything computable could be described this way (Church’s thesis). It was never proven but became a textbook truth of computer science. As a result, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, people tried to find something like an intelligent algorithm. It was a dead end and the results that came out of this where ridiculous. It can be shown that Church’s thesis is wrong. Programs are possible that are changable and cannot be described as a Turing machine, but most of computer science and especially AI has not yet embraced this, although every computer is an example of such a system: you can reprogram it to do something else.

          1. I’m not sure I get what you’re saying. So intelligence=creative, which means intelligence must be fallible? I agree that creativity must be fallible. I think it might involve a kind of free association, but I’m just guessing based on the very little I’ve read.

            From what I understand AI can be primitive and would not necessarily pass the Turing test or be creative? I was under the assumption that the problem was that they are infallible—like a calculator—and that we can’t create AI that makes the kind of errors we do, and perhaps this has to do with creativity?

            1. I am going to write about these topics again, so thinks will become more clear. In a nutshell, yes, I think intelligence=creativity, where creativity is the property of a system to be able to move out of what any formal theory about it is describing. It means world-openness. (See https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/creativity-and-incompleteness/ ).
              I think intelligent systems cannot be infallible. What so called AI is doing so far is implementing algorithms. These systems can be viewed of as limited to certain tasks (e.g. answer questions about the weather). Such systems cannot extend themselves. They are, in my opinion, not intelligent. If, on the other hand, you can extend yourself, there is no guarantee that what you are becoming will work correctly. There are always jumps and gaps and risks (see also https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/gaps-and-extensions/).
              See also http://asifoscope.org/2013/08/17/living-with-gaps-and-cracks/
              and maybe http://asifoscope.org/2013/08/18/prometheus/ (where I take prometheus as a symbol of creativity).

              I think the Turing test is nonsense. Human-like intelligence would require having a body and access to human experience. However, I can imagine artificial creative systems that are truely intelligent, but nonhuman. If it would be wise to build them, or possible (or ethical) to controll them, is another set of question.
              If some people are fooled by chat bots and take them for people, that does not mean such systems are intelligent. By the way, on youtube you can watch some conversations of chat bots with other chat bots. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes boring. 🙂

              1. I will check these out!

              2. I think I get what you mean now. I can’t wait to read what you think of creativity as it applies to AI and whether it might be possible, and how.

                I don’t know how I feel about the Turing test myself. I think at a certain level of sophistication I might not worry about whether AI has a body like ours, although that would factor in. I’m afraid I could be one of those people fooled by chat bots. 🙂

                I just worked on an article with someone on AI ethics…my friend is working on publishing it. Hopefully it’ll get published and I’ll post a link to it on my blog. It’s about treatment of animals and how that might inform our treatment of AI in the future. It’s actually a much more complicated issue than the way I dealt with it in the article. Plus I don’t know much about the topic, but I find that overlap fascinating and thought I’d write about it anyways.

  4. Any feelings involved? 😉

    1. In human beings and probably many animals as well, definitely yes, but I don’t know how they arrise.

      1. Phew! That’s a relief. Seriously though, the notion of psychological time is one that needs taking on-board, as does the fact that the brain time-shifts phenomena (as re-presentations) in order to arrive at the endogram, or meta-level representation, that we erroneously think of as being real-time consciousness. This necessarily implies that our perception of physical time is distorted in psychological time.

  5. Love this thinking going on – just beginning to look into Catherine Malabou in relation to “feelings/emotion” and “subjectivity” or “creative” organic systems… Thanks for working these things over so well, always appreciated…

    1. Thank you, the inspiration is mutual. Your latest thoughts on the topic of surprise are interesting and I can relate to them. I see close connections to the topic of incompleteness of human knowledge and world-openness of human beings. I might write something about that topic myself. The first sentence I wrote on this blog was”Reality always has more properties than are derivable from any of our theories about it.” That is connected to the topic of surprise. On the other hand, it is connected to the topic of creativity which we use to extend our knowledge (closing some gaps, until we are surprised again) as well as to create new surprising things and actions ourselves. My ideas about beauty are also connected to the phenomenon of surprise…

      1. are you familiar with the work of Stephen David Ross? some things I’ve read by him around incompleteness and world-openness swim about as well 🙂

        1. Thank you for the hint 🙂 I will check him out.
          Basically it is not a new thread of ideas, it goes back to the Prometheus/Epimetheus story Plato tells in one of his dialogues (I think that is in Protagoras). Herder takes it up those ideas, then you have Sheler, Plesner and Gehlen. I have not yet checked out the history of these ideas completely, but I am trying to do that, bit by bit.

        2. The wikipedia article on him mentions the term “inexhaustibility”. That resonates with me 🙂

          1. is also my favorite work by him “Inexhaustibility & Human Being” – but his later work hovers almost completely on creativity and aesthetics…and wonder 😉

            1. Creativity and aesthetics are also topics I am interested in. Thanks again for the hint.

              1. I also think Whitehead and other American Pragmatists have much to offer in this regard. Eugene Gendlin is one of my favorite thinkers relating to the “more-than” (incompleteness) and creativity of experiencing. I’m working with Agamben, Fynsk, & Critchley this summer (at European Grad School) mostly on Heidegger…and Thomas Sheehan’s newer work interpreting Sein as meaningful-presencing is also compelling in this regard. Yair Neuman has a book called Reviving the Living that looks at the creativity of relational ontology throughout sciences and semiotics.

                1. Thanks a lot for these hints!

                  1. Sorry to keep rolling on this…but I’ve just received Catherine Malabou’s “What should we do with our brain?” – and my oh my is it “in the fold” of our discussion! She’s determining a “philosophical meaning of plasticity” – contrasting plasticity with flexibility, or our ability to make, do, create with our ability (currently ideologically implied) to adapt, adjust, endure… – very intriguing!

                    1. I don’t mind, instead I like it. Keep adding references! I know you are a living bibliography and this is saving me countless hours of library search time 🙂
                      The point with the brain is that it comes without a built in user’s manual (in contrast to the brains of many other animals), so we have to figure that out ourselves. The messsage (if you want to take it as one) is that we are supposed to do with it is to be creative.

                    2. as per Malabou as well 🙂

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