Archive for the ‘Spiritual/Religious’ Category

In defense of God being a neural network

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

So, I have been assured by someone on facebook that God is not a neural network, that God is “pure spirit, eternal and changeless”. That may be literally true, but it requires one to ignore certain parts of the Bible.

Which is fine with me – I mean, I place the probability at “very high” that the bible is a work of fiction anyway.. but it isn’t fine with the Bible.

I just recently ran across another example of the bible talking about God making a mistake. Of course, this one is more than a little creepy because the mistake was creating humanity.. (yes, this religion is *really* good for people’s mental health.. you were one of God’s mistakes)

The verse in question is Genesis 6:6 and thereabouts, and in it, God declares he regrets having ever made man.

Now, one amusing explanation for the predicament we all find ourselves in is that God is actually a junior deity – he *thought* he was in charge of everything until he started acting in tremendously immoral ways, and then he got told he wasn’t allowed to do that, and that’s why we never hear from the guy any more. But I digress.

Anyway, to “regret” something sounds like having made a error – having missed the mark – yes, that’s God there, confessing to sin. Oops, guess that pretty much blows the “spirit, eternal and unchanging” possibility out of the water.

But then, God’s declaration that man is awful does work rather well if you’re a preacher and you want a good excuse for being paid to “save people’s souls”. It works out rather less well if you’re a rational being who does not in fact think any of his crimes rise to the level of eternal torment or deletion. (Of course, there have been times when I’ve wanted to be deleted.. now doesn’t really seem to be one of them)

is God a neural network?

Friday, August 28th, 2020

So, one of the things I like to ponder, and I’ve probably written a article about already but I can’t find it and anyway, I do like to refine my thoughts – is the question of, Is God a neural network? (Or does God have and use a neural network)

This is a interesting question. First of all, while we can hypothesize about systems that don’t have or use neural networks that could exhibit both experiencing the universe and free will – not to mention memory and learning – we don’t *know* of any such systems. Of course it’s possible that *everything* is aware, including the computer that I’m using to write this – I hope not, or at least I hope the computer doesn’t feel enslaved by me – but most of the time it seems fairly unlikely.

Anyway, this is a important question. If God *is* a neural network then God is certainly aware that neural networks learn by successive approximation – that is to say, to miss the mark is a normal behavior for them and certainly not a flaw for which one should torture anyone for eternity or throw one away. THis makes the central tenant of Christianity frankly insane.

Of course, if God is *not* a neural network, the next question is does God have free will at all? Can God think? Does God have any memory? If the answer to all these is no, then I guess we’ve finally reached a point at which the scientists and the religious can agree, but we’ve also made there probably be no point to even discuss God, much less try to appease same.

Either way, I feel like religion has some difficult and awkward questions to answer, whether it’s going to say God *is* (or has) a neural network, or God doesn’t. Now, I’ve often pondered that we might be threads running on a massive neural network – that our bodies might be entirely the product of virtualization – but, it’s just a thought. What I believe probably changes several times a month.

What side am I on?

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

So, i was thinking about how I know the Christians are not, generally, on my side, and I’ve come up with a few good indicators

*) Anyone who thinks you should change in ways that your highest self, your best self, doesn’t think you should change is probably not on the right side.

*) Anyone who things that things that are enjoyable and positive and most people would want to experience, like sex, are sinful or should be carefully kept in little boxes and frowned upon, is probably not on the right side

*) Anyone who doesn’t speak against violence, or things that are bad and generally no one would want to experience, is probably not on the right side. *encouraging* violence over things like religions, which are fundamentally unknowable, is a especially strong case of this. (Example: Crusades)

*) Anyone who wants to censor ad restrain art which is enjoyable, such as rock music, and wants to sell the idea that such art is ‘sinful’ is not on the right side

*) Anyone who wants to replace observable reality with their own claims which run obviously counter to observable reality is not on the right side. (example: Galileo)

*) Anyone who wants to tell you you are so fundamentally flawed that only the mercy of a higher power can save you – flawed because you learn by making mistakes, which is the very nature of neural networks – is not on the right side, and is probably lying about their message being divinely inspired.

I continue to think that most of the world’s religions exist largely to keep the world’s religious leaders employed. I also continue to think they are largely holding us back and even leading us in wrong and bad directions. Part of this, of course, is that I think we would be happier if we recognized that humans fall in love more than once, and also we never really get over anyone we’ve been in love with, and encouraged people not to end friendships or disconnect from people because they’ve fallen in love with other people, but instead to share. I realize that it was very important for reasons that are, as usual, stupid, for the tribe to know which baby belonged to which parents, but I think this is partially because we have really awful and anti-success memetics.

More later.

Ansible

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

So, I think I’ve talked about this before, but I thought I’d mention it again.

We have 10^11 neurons. 100 billion of them – and each neuron is made up of many, many atoms. A conservative guess might be a hundred thousand. Each atom has a electron that forms a probability cloud that is the most dense close to the nucleus, and asymptotically approaches zero as it moves away from the nucleus, but it’s never really zero.

We are all connected, we are all inside each other. We can’t escape this.

At the same time, our experiences of each other can never really be the territory, but must be the map. We experience avatars of other people, because our experience of the other people is happening inside our heads even though the other people are in fact real beings that are out there in whatever world or worlds we inhabit.

This is all before we even start to open the can of worms marked ‘multiple worlds theory’ or ‘multiple dimensions’.

A God of Love

Monday, July 6th, 2020

So, sometimes I think I should sit down and do the thought experiment of figuring out, OK, I’m certain that no religion I’ve ever seen describes a god of love, but I can describe sets of circumstances that could leave us with a god of love, or even a utopian God, and still leave us in our current situation.

It’s a interesting thought experiment to think what such a diety might be like. It’s also a interesting thought experiment to think about what I think a utopia for me would be like. It’s where I ended up with the thought that everyone would be connected to the same network but everyone would be running different software mapping the rest of folks into their conscious experience because that’s the only way that everyone could get the right utopia for them, given that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell.

As I’ve said, I can come up with many reasons that we could have the best god (or system administrator anyway) that one can imagine and still have the experience we’re having. Some of the more obvious ones are that we wanted a challenge and so this world is deliberately suboptimal, or that there’s something wrong with our own neural mapping that is creating our conscious experience but that God wants us to have the freedom to be who we want to be and therefore is allowing us to fix that mapping ourselves. One can also consider the artistic values of a less-than-perfect (but still pretty awesome in a lot of ways) world.

Obviously one of the people I talk to in my inner world regularly is a big fan of the idea that it’s the neural structure inside our minds that maps our senses to our conscious experience that controls whether we experience heaven or hell. I don’t really know yet how much that’s under our control, or how much we can make it grow in directions we want it to grow in.

But, my point remains, throw out religion and just think in terms of what you’d want from the system administrator of the world – and whether you’d want God to be more than that, and if so, what more? There’s a interesting intersection between freedom and safety there – your perfect safety experience keeps you on rails and can’t go anywhere unexpected, while your perfect freedom experience can end very badly.

More later.

Morality and dieties

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

So, one of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is how unreasonable and unethical God’s behavior is in the book of Job. It’s actually a long term set of thoughts, and it’s not entirely a academic discussion for me because I’m playing with genetic algorithms and artificial neural networks.

You don’t own a life form independent of you just because you created it. I grant you that humans generally behave as if we do – we believe we own our children until they’re 18 and we often treat them pretty badly. There are *starting* to be some people who ask the hard questions concerning our experiments in artificial neural networks – certainly “The Measure Of A Man”, a episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation – does a good job of discussing the problem.

And, it’s true, in general Christians seem to believe it’s reasonable for God to judge them and large portions of them think it’s reasonable for God to punish or reward – sometimes based on whether or not you say the magic name or think the magic thoughts. The idea of people being considered not worthy if they happen to not pick right from a plethora of competing religions is horrifying and yet many Christians defend this clearly awful behavior that they ascribe to God.

It is reasonable for the group to protect itself from the bad behavior of individuals. It is not reasonable for a diety, who can never be threatened by any of their creations, to punish and reward. I’m not sure what the solution is, but it is clear to me God’s defense “Where were you when I made the mountains” is totally inadequate and in fact generally nonsensical – it’s not likely to be what a deity would say because it represents a human-centric way of thinking both about time and about the interconnectedness of all things.

In any case, the behavior of JHVH in Job is worse than the behavior of Satan. The behavior is horrifying, and maybe that’s the point of the book, to help us understand how evil God is. People are not interchangeable. You can’t kill off all of someone’s loved ones and give them new ones and expect them not to be badly damaged. And you *shouldn’t* test individuals to destruction – remember this is the very God who says “Don’t you dare test the lord your god”. If it’s not moral to test God, it’s not moral for God to test us.

It does bring up a interesting question – is morality the same for us and for God? After all, God might well be able to see multidimensional patterns we can’t see – certainly would know the answers to questions we don’t know the answers to. On the other paw, given that power corrupts – and power tends to damage neural networks in ways that make them abusive – see recent police abuses of power for example, as well as many, many, many other examples of people who are empowered becoming abusive – one has to ask, if God is a neural network, is God so damaged as to be fundamentally broken and likely continuously evil?

I’ve talked before on whether there’s a maximum size of neural network that is even stable. One thing we may be in the process of learning right now is that there’s a maximum size of neural network that can survive without destroying itself. And of course I tend to think JHVH is a fictional character invented to enable the powers that be to more easily control the population – but if JHVH existed, they *still* might be dead. And we might well tell ourselves we are hearing JHVH (or Allah, or what have you) even though they don’t really exist, because neural networks that are entrained in a pattern definitely can produce signal that is representative of that pattern.

Anyway, my underlying point is, being a God doesn’t automatically make everything you do moral, and it’s fraught with opportunities to commit immoral acts. In general giving people power tends to lead them away from empathy and towards being cruel and/or power-seeking. There are some obvious counter-examples, but they are not in the majority.

One of the things that scares me most about Christians is their “God is a 800 lb monkey and therefore anything he does must be right and I’m going to try to uphold his will even if it means murder and mayhem”. That the Christians started the crusades tells me a lot about them, and I in general continue to think the religion should be struck in favor of one that we develop in modern times with stated goals that we can all agree on. Of course, it would be nice to understand enough about how our minds work that we can author software for them that will do good things.

That one disturbing possibility

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

So, as I note that things like global pandemics underline the fact that our bodies have poor informational security, and are susceptible to virii both informational (religion) and RNA/DNA-based (COVID-19), I find the lack of security to be another compelling case against the idea that we have a perfect creator – or indeed a intelligent designer at all.

On the other paw, there is still this one disturbing possibility that I can not dismiss. Our beliefs act as a filter upon our experience of reality – obviously this must be the case or believers in God wouldn’t continue to believe in God. I mean, the other possibility is that they’ve lost the ability for rational thought – and looking at the fact that they elected Donald Trump, someone who’s about as close to the devil as we’re going to find in this world, and are busy worshipping him, I concede the possibility that they have. But let’s assume for the moment that people have the ability to remember and think..

One possibility that we can’t actually throw entirely out is that God is only real if you beleive in h*, or alternately, that God is real always but your *experience* of God is only real if you believe in h*. This is compatible with the mythos that Hell is the absence of God – certianly the lack of any central planning and the refusal of all collectivism has turned America steadily more hellish.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not clear to me that you’d *want* to have a God as described by the Old Testament. But, and I realize this is stretching credulity to the max, what if there *was* a loving, helpful central authority, the kind of God you’d build if you were building God out of spare neurons. Certainly they’d do things like removing virii before they got out of hand, and making sure that places didn’t end up getting led by people like Donald Trump.

However, I’ve believed in such a being for a few days at a time, occasionally, when manic, and things definitely didn’t get any better for me. Most of the time, it was believing in such things and then testing them that got me arrested. However.. it may take believing for longer to shape the necessary neural network to have the experience.

Note that I still don’t believe Christianity contains the right answers, for a whole host of reasons. But I’m starting to ponder trying to write something that would. The thing is, the whole thing feels a bit insane. Try to believe in something you can’t experience until you believe in it? Then understand that you can’t experience it even when you *do* believe in it until you cross some threshold?

God and Cancer

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

So, this is a quote from a email I sent a while ago, because it occurs to me that I probably want to be able to just post a link to this article whenever people talking about praying for God to end cancer.

Cancer is actually part of how we know there probably isn’t a God – or if there is, said deity chose to use evolution to create us rather than using a design process.

It would have been fairly easy, when designing us, to include a CRC-32 on the DNA copying routine to prevent mutations after birth. This would have virtually eliminated cancer, but wasn’t done. Now, evolution would not find this very quickly at all, because a checksum is actually *against* the mutation process during birth that drives evolution. But intelligent design just *naturally* adds validation on copy, and then some, and then some more – especially intelligent design that has been exposed to *this* universe.

From this I can conclude one of the following is true:

A: God doesn’t know about cyclic redundancy checks i.e. doesn’t know everything – or even as much about IT as we do.
B: God isn’t all-powerful.
C: God doesn’t care about massive amounts of suffering
D: God is trying to keep a *very* low profile i.e not do anything that might risk revealing that there is a God
E: God doesn’t exist
F: God exists, but isn’t aware of us
G: God exists, and is aware of us, but doesn’t care about our suffering, or does not understand suffering at all
H: God exists and is evil

On recent events

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

So, I’m a vocal critic of Christianity. Pretty much anyone who reads the blog knows that. However, I recently donated to help rebuild some churches in the south that had been burned by miscreants. What gives?

I guess I probably should have mentioned before. I don’t want Christians dead. I don’t want them hurt. I want them to stop hurting other people, but I don’t think the way to get that is to hurt them. I know this is a popular point of view – our army is based on the thesis that the way to get people to behave differently is to shoot at them – but I think in time we will come to see that it’s a small-minded idea – that in fact you start cycles of war and retribution that can take hundreds of years to end.

And, apparently – I wouldn’t have guessed this, but what actions we take tell us these things – if you’re a Christian and they burn down your church, and I have some extra dollars, I will help pay to rebuild it. I don’t think anyone should have their homes or community buildings destroyed because of who they are or what they believe. Especially since a lot of this is based on the unfortunate repeat-rise of the KKK , the proud boys, and groups like them. My hope is we will get beyond all this, because it’s pretty dystopian and I don’t want to live in a dystopia.

But, in the meantime, my thoughts are with all the people who have churches and homes on fire, or exploding, and I hope you all survive the adventure and heal as best you can. And I hope some day we learn not to use violence to settle everything.

Christianity – the fundamental flaw in the premise

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

So, again before I wander down this rabbit hole, let me remind you all that if you’re the type of Christian who thinks that we should be excellent to each other, and no one should be threatening anyone with hell, this isn’t about you. You just go on loving people and we’ll be all good.

This one is targeted towards those who believe in the concept of original sin. Specifically, it’s about how absurd you all sound once one spends some time looking closely at the foundations of the premise.

We arrive from the factory mostly unformatted. Our DNA is not packed with large amounts of knowledge and the means to express it. It is the nature of unformatted neural networks to learn by doing – and inevitably by making a *lot* of mistakes. This is better than complete inaction, which would be the other option.

The Christians are asking us to believe that a all-knowing God didn’t know this about neural networks. They’re also asking us to believe that a all-knowing God is somehow offended by the fact that we make mistakes even though it is a *lot* harder to make a self aware neural network than a turing machine. On the surface, what the Evangelicals think God wanted was a turing machine, or in any case some sort of state machine that accepts instructions. Yes, we know how to make those. They’re fairly easy to make, although there are some subtleties. But you can make a CPU out of anything from relays to vacuum tubes to gears, and it will follow the instructions it is given with the patience of a jacquard loom weaving according to the punched cards, yae onto eternity, forever.

It seems rather improbable that a all knowing deity would have created *us* if *e wanted obedience. Company that had something interesting to say, yes, that I can believe.

On the other paw, it’s *easy* to believe in humans authoring the bible as a technique of controlling other humans. One of the things I keep pondering when regularly engaging with a religious leader on facebook is that if I ever convince him that he’s utterly nuts and a negative influence on the world (and I’m fairly sure he is) he’s going to have to get another job. I have to imagine that makes him less receptive to the things I have to say – even if he knows they are true, there’s still the concept of being on the dole tomorrow. We *know* humans write viral content, and we *know* humans write religions. I gesture you towards both mormonism and scientology as religions that were pretty clearly just written by some guy.

But back to the flawed premise. Christians get really nervous when you start talking about the mechanics of thought. This isn’t surprising, since the basic nature of neural networks is at odds with their premise. I suppose it is possible that you could have created a NN with a complete predefined structure such that it wouldn’t make any mistakes, but that’s not what we are and that’s not what was done. There’s not a great way to precompute the right pathways on the fly – as a NN, you learn by doing, and as a side effect you make a fair number of mistakes.

This is exactly what the evangelicals are arguing “offends” their “just” God. (I think I’ve said before, let’s all be grateful the evangelical God is almost certainly not real, because *e is one evil bastard). This would be a case of God creating us to be what we are and then blaming us for being as *e created us. Not something I’d expect from a higher power. *and there’s no way, as NN-based systems without any real data preload, that we could ever be anything else*! So the religious *really are* arguing that God created us flawed and then hated us because we were flawed and then forgave some of us but only some of us who happened to believe a particular thing in a particular way.

Seems far more likely that religion was created to give certain people (especially the priests) money and power. I am *not* particularly too impressed with how they used it. The one bit of good news is, statistically, religion is shrinking. More and more people are choosing ‘none’ for religion. I have hopes that one good side effect of the Trump regime will be the next generation will have almost no religious members. Having seen the evil and the hypocrisy of the evangelicals, hopefully the next generation will decide that religion deserves to die.

I also think as we learn more about how religious thoughts are stored in neural networks, and how they pattern the interconnects between subnets, we’ll both learn how to help people deconvert more quickly and efficiently, and also how bad a idea religion was, or at least the religions we’ve seen so far. I can think of some very useful operating-system-esque belief systems, but none of them would start by saying you are the chosen one and anyone not your religion is going to hell. Or start by saying you are fundamentally flawed, a horrible person, and only by God’s Grace will you avoid being tortured for all eternity.

I notice that *no one* has taken a stab at counterarguing my previous post (here).