Design over time

In the last blog entry, I suggested that man-made machines lie further to left on the distance from equilibrium continuum than life’s machines.  But what if we considered man-made machines as a function of time?

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16 responses to “Design over time

  1. So man-made machines evolve over time, just like organisms?

  2. Human design shows limited foresight and planning. That is, in our simulation of the universe played forward in time in our brains, we can see only so many possible contingencies. In addition, since the simulation necessarily excludes a vast number of variables, it will be wrong a lot of the time anyway.

    In this regard, front-loading is very different from human design. The designer would have to be nearly omniscience to successfully plan billions of years in advance. However, once we add god-like powers to the designer, it becomes inexplicable why there isn’t more independent evidence for that designer. (Yes, religious experience could count as evidence, but studies of religious experience have not so far found a need to invoke the existence of a god to explain such experiences.)

  3. GringoRoyale

    “The designer would have to be nearly omniscience to successfully plan billions of years in advance. However, once we add god-like powers to the designer, it becomes inexplicable why there isn’t more independent evidence for that designer”

    Hi Woodchuck,
    I don’t see how the two relate. Once we add God-like powers to the designer it’s inexplicable why there isn’t more independent evidence?

    I don’t get why that would be an issue.
    Also, why limit your ‘independent lines of evidence’ to subjective religious experience? That seems like you’re stacking the deck:
    “well, the only other independent line of evidence is a person’s subjective experience”.

    If you lump all objective/non-subjective lines of evidence into the former and randomly declare “well, these are all of one type of non-independent lines of evidence therefore this is only really one bit of evidence…. and the only other line of evidence would be subjective/individual experience” then it becomes kind of clear that you’re not really ‘playing fair’.

    “(Yes, religious experience could count as evidence, but studies of religious experience have not so far found a need to invoke the existence of a god to explain such experiences.)”

    That sounds kind of silly, no offense.
    Are you saying that scientific research into this area could possibly be lead to invoke God to explain such experiences?
    Science works within a framework that can’t be supported by the findings of science itself – so, the inability of science to point to the transcendental is only a failure of it’s methods, not of reality. Because again, science rests on metaphysical assumptions that it can’t even prove but need to be assumed.

  4. Michael: I suggested that man-made machines lie further to left on the distance from equilibrium continuum than life’s machines.

    Consider the other side. Waterwheel, windmill, Hoover Dam, quantum computer, neural networks.

    Could life represent a convergence from both sides of the curve? Autonomous self-replication meets harnessed chaos?

  5. GringoRoyale:

    Once we add God-like powers to the designer it’s inexplicable why there isn’t more independent evidence?

    I don’t get why that would be an issue.

    I’m abstracting from human technology and its use: the more we’re able to manipulate the environment, the more we do manipulate the environment. In that sense, the more powerful the manipulator the more we would expect to observe its activities in more than just DNA.

    Also, why limit your ‘independent lines of evidence’ to subjective religious experience?

    I didn’t mean to limit independent lines of evidence to religious experience. I just assumed we don’t have such evidence apart from DNA and religious experience.

    Are you saying that scientific research into [religious experience] could possibly be lead to invoke God to explain such experiences?

    No, not God but, say, “god-like” intelligence. There are many ways an external intelligence could be inferred from religious experience. For example, a DNA equivalent to a radio receiver could be discovered in the human brain that receives information on a previously unrecognized frequency (mashing front-loading together with SETI).

  6. woodchuck64,

    “The designer would have to be nearly omniscience to successfully plan billions of years in advance. However, once we add god-like powers to the designer, it becomes inexplicable why there isn’t more independent evidence for that designer.”

    Talking about ‘near-omniscience’ is similar to talking about ‘near-infinite’ – it just doesn’t hold up when thought about. Think of the largest number you can: It’s not “near-infinite”. That’s just a word for dramatic effect.

    The criticism of front-loading here is similar. Words like god-like, omniscient, etc are thrown around, but all the words really add up to is “The designer would have to be very intelligent and capable. More than us.” Considering how far human capabilities have come in a short time, that’s not much of a criticism.

    Nor is the claim that there would “be more evidence”, for a reason Mike loves to hammer away on on this blog: There could be, and in my view is, evidence all around us. Philosophical, empirical, historical, etc. And it could be misconstrued by people. Back to the duck/rabbit distinctions.

    The difference in this case being we already have direct evidence of intelligent agents using evolutionary processes for particular ends.

  7. Hi woodchuck,

    Human design shows limited foresight and planning. That is, in our simulation of the universe played forward in time in our brains, we can see only so many possible contingencies. In addition, since the simulation necessarily excludes a vast number of variables, it will be wrong a lot of the time anyway.

    Yes, all that noise poses a problem for front-loading. Yet instead of throwing in the towel and embracing a defeatist attitude in the face of all those contingencies and variables, I explore (with all my limitations) how a designer might go about extending the reach of design into the future against this backdrop of contingency.

    What we have here is an opportunity. The non-teleological perspective predicts that there is so much contingency and variable that front-loading is implausible. The teleological perspective predicts the contingency and variables can, to some extent, be overcome with an intelligent design. This is why such features as convergence, deep homology, gene duplication, self-organization, and intrinsic facilitation of evolution, are all evidence that supports the plausibility of front-loading, as these represent candidate mechanisms for forwarding design into the future. And they are all probably connected in ways my mind can’t envision yet (if ever). What’s more, the very existence of the contingency is probably needed to help the front-loading along. Chaos serves a purpose.

  8. Hi chunk,

    Consider the other side. Waterwheel, windmill, Hoover Dam, quantum computer, neural networks.

    Could life represent a convergence from both sides of the curve? Autonomous self-replication meets harnessed chaos?

    Great point. In fact, this is mostly what molecular machines are about. At the nano-scale, movement of parts is not the problem as this is the realm of chaos. What’s needed at this level is organization of the parts and organization of the movement. Molecular machines are essentially about extracting order out of chaos.

  9. Hi Michael,

    The teleological perspective predicts the contingency and variables can, to some extent, be overcome with an intelligent design.

    The intrinsic problem solving ability of humans hasn’t changed much or at all in thousands of years. Our technological advances are entirely due to learning how things work through trial and error while building on information gathered the same way by past generations. In that regard, 21st century man may be no smarter than, say, Homo Rhodesiensis, but knows vastly more about the way things work.

    Intelligence for design, then, is not sheer smarts, but a function of how much one can get around and experiment and learn about the universe over time. I would expect an intelligent designer most likely went through its own primitive stone age in the process of amassing information on which to exert its problem solving abilities. To successfully design a genome must have required eons of trial and error and experimentation. But in progressing from primitive technology to advanced, this designer surely would have left tell-tail signs all over the universe– at least if the artifacts of similar technological progression in the human race are any guide at all.

    Most ID proponents are not the least bit interested in this line of argument because they know the intelligent designer is God, and there are ample theological answers to why He is not obvious to everyone. I was wondering if you see it any differently.

  10. Hi Woodchuck,

    I just wanted to say I enjoy the way you think. It’s fun reading fresh, new criticisms. Makes me stretch my mind for a change.

  11. It really depends on the sort of designer being discussed, as well as the medium and scope/extent of their capabilities. The sort of design you’re talking about is almost exclusively artifact-based – but you’ll notice even humans tend not to leave artifacts all over the place. We trash, we recycle.

    But if the designer is to our universe as, say.. a programmer is to a program, then chances are there would never be any artifacts floating around whatsoever. And that’s the case even if the designer certainly did learn by trial and error, which isn’t necessarily the case.

    That’s one problem with using human design as the measuring stick: We’ve accomplished far too much in too short a period of time – and computers in particular changed everything. The sort of design questions we can ask given computer simulations opens a whole new, intimidating world.

  12. woodchuck64:

    To successfully design a genome must have required eons of trial and error and experimentation.

    Not a requirement but a definite possibility.

    But in progressing from primitive technology to advanced, this designer surely would have left tell-tail signs all over the universe–

    Really?

    I trash my designs that do not function.

    No traces to be found.

  13. Hi woodchuck,

    To successfully design a genome must have required eons of trial and error and experimentation.

    Are you saying it will take a few more million years for humans to learn how to design a genome?

    But in progressing from primitive technology to advanced, this designer surely would have left tell-tail signs all over the universe– at least if the artifacts of similar technological progression in the human race are any guide at all.

    What would count as such “tell-tail signs” and, assuming they exist, how would I personally go about finding them?

  14. Bilbo, thanks for the kind words. I would be remiss not to reply in kind, since your input and your pointers to information-rich ID content like this site really stretch my mind.

  15. Michael:

    Are you saying it will take a few more million years for humans to learn how to design a genome?

    Well, we can reverse-engineer a working genome, so we don’t have to start from just atoms. But if we did have to start from atoms and wanted to create something that would evolve on its own yet reach a specific target some millions of years in the future, it starts to sound like a million year job.

    (Perhaps it would take less than eons, though, if we are eventually able to build computers powerful enough to design and enhance themselves (ala Kurzweil). Then these computers conceivably could harness the energy of stars to convert most of matter into parallel computational machinery and solve virtually any problem.)

    What would count as such “tell-tail signs” and, assuming they exist, how would I personally go about finding them?

    I think your criteria of analogy, discontinuity, rationality and foresight successfully met would work to establish at least a suspicion of the existence of an intelligent entity, and that completely apart from life itself. I assume finding such signs would entail doing exactly what you are doing with biology except in other fields such as astronomy, geology, anthropology, physics, etc.

  16. Hi woodchuck,

    I think your criteria of analogy, discontinuity, rationality and foresight successfully met would work to establish at least a suspicion of the existence of an intelligent entity, and that completely apart from life itself. I assume finding such signs would entail doing exactly what you are doing with biology except in other fields such as astronomy, geology, anthropology, physics, etc.

    Excellent. To find the very first tell-tale sign of intelligence, we would need to apply the four criteria of the DM. In fact, as I showed earlier, the DM is very similar to SETI. As for myself, I focus on biology for three reasons – a) I am fascinated by life; b) I have a decent working knowledge of biology; and 3) it is accessible. Thus, I have at least some clue as to what to look for and where to look. For example, recently I considered the topic of introns and by using the criteria of Rationality and Foresight, was able to derive a testable hypothesis that, if true, would help us better understand evolution. For me, those three reasons don’t translate into those other fields. Basically, if there are tell-tale signs of intelligent activity that exist apart from what is on this planet, I have no idea where to look, how to look, and what to look for.

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