Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?
We have no way of knowing the answer to this question…ever!
Twentieth century philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, famously answered this question definitively with his beetle-in-the-box thought experiment illustrated in the clip above:
A mind in a box can never know the experience of another mind in another box.
All we can ever do is to share our experiences with each other in all forms of communication (words, pictures, postures, numbers, logic, scientific “proof,” feelings, beliefs, facial expressions, and distance apart) until we reach common-sense understandings that allow us to work, learn, and grow together until the next great changes occurs in generally accepted common sense.
The top-level of this “understanding” is the big frame we create that determines how we see reality; this is our personal PARADIGM. It attempts to systematically organize our experience for all aspects of our reality. Shared paradigms become the shared frame of common sense that allows us to work cooperatively to get things done.
We inevitably make errors of misunderstanding–omission, co-mission, and no-mission (i.e., accident)–from the nano small to the ginormously large. When we do, feedback from common sense provides information that allows us to correct our understanding if we agree, or plow ahead against common sense because we are convinced it is in our best interest to do so.
A Nano Error of Personal Misunderstanding
I made an accidental nano error of misunderstanding I would like to correct. I put three blogs–LIFE, WORK, and MEANING–on one website to organize my posts roughly by theme in 2014. All three were interconnected so that each one could be accessed on one page by clicking the blog name on the top banner. I assumed that followers on any site would receive my blog posts from all three blogs. I was wrong and reminded of this by a follower. I apologize for any inconvenience.
Here is what you do to get all blog posts from all three blogs: click on each blog name in the top banner and, when the blog comes up press its “follow” button and enter your email to receive posts from that blog.
A Mega Error of Congressional Misunderstanding
The American Congress has been increasingly locked in bipartisan conflict for the last 30 years getting less and less done until it now seems deadlocked in an existential crisis. Health care is a prime example. Last night Congress once again, failed to find compromise to move forward with an improvement of current health care legislation for the American people, who are very unhappy with Congress. The survival of each congressional member now depends literally on the resulting health care experiences of the American people, and on their vote feedback in 2018 and beyond. If Congress does not change the public will change their senators and representatives.
Recommendation to Congress: Health care costs are already at 17.8% of GNP, and have been trending to a max of about 20% of GNP by 2024 for the last thirty years. It will get to 20% one way or another and be a near single payer program. So why not accept the financial constraint and find the best way to get this limit with health care for all in a way in which congressional members can all share the credit?
A Ginormous Error of Societal Misunderstanding
Going back to the beetle-box problem, it seems clear that human communication exchange is the prime “architect” of human society because communicating is the only way humans can reach common understanding on anything to get things done. With smart digital communication technology changing how every part of society get things done at a fast and faster pace, we should be asking the degree to which the exchange of information bits between humans can substitute for the exchange of tacit human information between humans, i.e., that which makes us human?
I believe “what makes us human” is the central question we are not asking enough, in equal measure, versus the question of how to make self-aware AI. This is a question of approaching AI from the top down versus from the bottom up. Balanced competition in both directions would benefit both forces. In the past our natural entrepreneurial instinct has always been to “leap ahead and correct” as a competition in parallel directions toward the same development goal vs understanding the consequences of reaching the goal. Without equal and opposite effort in opposing directions (reaching vs understanding), we may tip into the “singularity” before we know it, and before we can control what we create.
This would be a ginormous error of societal misunderstanding.
1 thought on “Beetle in a Box”
Well said and great food for thought Bob. Often, what we see and say is subject to what we want to believe we saw happened. No better example than a close play at first base in baseball. Both sides see the same thing but one says and swears he’s safe the other says and swears he’s out. Now it’s not just the umpire determining the “true outcome” but an instant replay review sometimes resulting in “too close to overturn the call”. Thus, at times how we see reality is how we want to see it.