Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Intelligence and Nomologicalism

What is the significance of intelligence in a universe with deterministic laws?

Your performance on any IQ test is not due to your possessing some property called "intelligence", but rather is an inevitable outcome of the universe's initial conditions and governing causal laws.

The questions you are asked, the answers you give, the problems you are presented with, the solutions you develop - these were all implicit in the universe's first instant.

You, and the rest of the universe, are essentially "on rails". The unfolding of events and your experience of them is dictated by the deterministic causal laws.

Even if time flows (e.g. presentism), the causal structure of the universe is static...events can only transpire one way.

So, what can be said of intelligence in such a universe? Well...only what the deterministic laws require you to say about it. What can be believed about intelligence in such a universe? Obviously only what the deterministic laws require you to believe.

Solving a problem correctly is no more impressive or significant than rain falling "correctly". You answer the question in the only way the deterministic laws allow. The rain falls in the only way that the deterministic laws allow.

The word "intelligence" doesn't refer to anything except the experiential requirements that the universe places on you as a consequence of its causal structure.


What about the significance of intelligence in a universe with probabilistic laws?

The only change from the deterministic case is that the course of events isn't precisely predictable, even in principle.

However, the flow of events is still governed by the probabilistic causal laws. Which just means that to the extent that the flow of events isn't determined, it's random.

Again, the analogy with poker comes to mind: the rules of poker are stable and unchanging, while the randomness of the shuffle adds an element of unpredictability as to which cards you are actually dealt. So, to the extent that poker isn't determined, it's random.

The questions you're going to be asked and the problems you're going to be presented with in a probabilistic universe aren't predictable...but neither are your answers or your solutions, which result from the exact same underlying rule set. Again, to the extent that any of these things aren't determined, they're random.

Adding a random component to an otherwise deterministic framework does increase the number of possible states that are reachable from a given initial condition, but it doesn't add anything qualitatively new to the content of those states or to the process as a whole. Nothing new is added to the deterministic case that would give the word "intelligence" anything extra to refer to.

1 comment:

pmath325 said...

While I don't think that intelligence or for that matter any quality of being *exists* in the way that a piece of paper or a tree exists, I do believe we have influence and that influence is based on what we pay attention to, the quality of our attention, and how long we pay attention to it. I think attention, in a probabilistic Universe, is the guiding principle that allows there to be a narrative i.e unless I pay attention to this test, then the "determined" outcome cannot be realized. The type of attention I pay is determined by attention as it was in previous states--did I "prime" myself for this test by looking at older tests and familiarizing myself with the structure? Is my attention convoluted by attending to things that are irrelevant to the test itself?