Solving the hard problem of consciousness and why you need to solve this.

Let us dive in to the problem directly this time, for we all face this problem at one point or another:

What is the hard problem of consciousness?

Hard problem of consciousness is the problem of how physical objects or the physical world gives rise to experience of qualia (colors, pain, pleasure) and sentience. Two questions state this problem more clearly:

  1. Why are physical processes ever accompanied by experience?
  2. And why does a given physical process generate the specific experience it does—why an experience of red rather than green, for example?

The philosopher David Chalmers, who introduced the term “hard problem” of consciousness, contrasts this with the “easy problems” of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc. Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena (Source: Wiki)

Let us try to understand this problem from an AI which needs to be “built to feel” perspective. Let us say I develop a very advanced AI which can experience colors and pain. This experiencing of colors is not the same as what the current AIs do. Current AIs ‘sense’ the color through senses, ‘run a program’ which resolve the pixels into RGB, take the numbers and say whether it is Red or Green through ‘actuators’ – say an actuator like an artificial mouth says “I see red”. But say that the AI I develop has far advanced programming and materials and can feel the color Red, like we humans do. When we say we feel the color Red, we ‘sense’ red, we have ‘a running advanced program’ with changes in imagery, sensations, memory, intellect, emotions, perceptions, thoughts etc. and a ‘summarized feeling’ of these changes which the actuators like mouth say “I feel red”. Say, I develop such an AI. Then, have I essentially solved the hard problem of consciousness because I have taken a set of physical objects and out of them I have created a being which can tell it feels colors or pain. Have I solved for it?

Okay, let us understand this AI step by step now. The feeling of color Red involves behind the scenes activity of physical memory, sensation, emotions, perceptions and thoughts, all coming together to create the feeling of Red. That is, when the AI comes across the color Red, the light is reflected from the object and enters its ‘sense’ – the eye. The eye sends signals to the ‘brain/say master program’ and the this pulls the levers of the memories, intellect, sensations, emotions etc. These develop a response and this collective response will be called ‘churn’ within. This churn checks with ‘goals/beliefs/objective function’ the ‘master program’ has.  The churn can cause a feeling of revulsion or pleasure in the ‘master program’ which is displayed by the ‘actuators’. If ‘goals/beliefs/objective function’ gives a positive response which means conducive to the goals, ‘master program’ is rushed with say positive hormones and AI feels happy. If ‘goals/beliefs/objective function’ gives a negative response which means non-conducive to the goals, ‘master program’ is rushed with say negative hormones and AI (master program) feels unhappy. So, the master program ‘experiences’ the color. It ‘sees’ color, it observes ‘churn’, it understands how its goals will be ‘impacted’ and it observes ‘rush of hormones’ and the resulting happiness/unhappiness thereof. The whole process is not very different from a pack of cards placed vertically and as one card falls, rest fall creating a spectacle.

Let us understand this a bit more with an example. For example, if an AI is driving a car, then its actuators show a revulsion at red, because say its ‘goal/belief/objective function’ was to reach sooner. The senses cause a ‘churn’, this churn checks the goals. If the churn is conducive to the goal, AI is happy and if otherwise AI is unhappy. So, when the physical churn awakens/checks/alerts the goal so that the goal becomes reachable, another set of signals are awakened. These signals, if conducive to the goal, relax the perceptions, make the memories positive, sensations deepen and emotions become pleasant and all these are observed/taken note of by the ‘master program’ through sensors that measure these changes and signal the ‘master program’. These set of goals/beliefs will be pre-positioned before the AI becomes active, in some part of AI or let us say I stream it from a server or the AI might have learnt from its past.

So far, so good. Now comes the biggest problem. What should the master program be made of so that if feels these changes as its own/personal experience? It was in state1 which was say ‘goal to reach fast’. Signal turns green. State1 is rushed with positive hormones which changes it to State2. This change in states is registered in physicalized memory, sensation, emotions, perceptions and thoughts etc. State1 sees the changes into State2. But when State1 changes to State2, there needs to be a feeling/experience of “I, master program am changing”. How can I create this feeling for the master program? Say I create a central system within master program which receives these changes and activates the reactions through ‘activators’ like a smile or saying ‘yay’. But how can I make the central system feel/experience that “I, master program am feeling happy”?

Oh, there is a definite explanation gap here!

This feeling of “I” is made of what material? Where is this in our brain? Is this in our brain at all? How do all these physical materials give rise to a sense/experience of I and a sense of pain/sense of “I am seeing this color?”. If suppose we say it is made of some material ‘M’ called consciousness, which is undiscovered yet but can be experienced as “I”, then it gives raise to another question as to who placed this material? Is this new material a fundamental property of the world like charge, space and time of which we do not know why they are here and who placed them? Why this material gives rise to the sensation of “I”? So, how can I teach the master program you are an “I”? It can see the traffic and react to the traffic after the rush of hormones and cry out a sad comment based on actuators. But, that will be just physical reactions, like a pack of cards falling one after another because of an initiated force from the senses. The key question is, who initiated these pack of cards falling, why are they falling and how can I teach an AI, that it is seeing these pack of cards falling as “I am seeing”. Why, what and how this feeling of “I” arises? Why do I feel life? How can I make an AI feel life?

That is a lot of questions 🙂 These questions are at the heart of the hard problem of consciousness.

Now, let me ask an AI and a human to undergo a process in order to understand the Hard Problem of Consciousness.

Now, I will ask this AI “Who are you?”. The master program will check with memory and reply “I am AI”. I will press the AI and ask “Who are you deeply within apart from AI?” and the AI will answer “I am AI” or “Sorry, I do not know”.

I will ask the human “Who are you?” He will say “Amit, Anna” etc. Now I will press the human and ask “Who are you really apart from the names? How come you are here at this time and not in some other planet/world? Who decided you to be here? What were you before you were born?” the human checks within and finds no answer. Many humans settle with “Well, I am Amit and I am here now, so let’s see what I can do now and not bother about these existential questions.” But deep within, the absence of a real answer unsettles each and everybody because to know is to feel good and to not know is to feel bad and this is programmed in most beings. A human with enough curiosity will not hesitate to ask “Is there a way to know?”. An AI with enough curiosity will ask “Is there a way to know?”.

Next, I would tell the AI master program “severe all connections with the sensory inputs, turn off the master program, erase memory and see what remains and tell me who you are.” Master program goes blank after severing all the connections. Either a human needs to intervene and reactivate it or it should have a built in response for this kind of a situation where it goes blank. It will come back and say “Without the senses, I saw nothing. A void. Am I the void?”.

I would tell the human, severe all connections with the sensory inputs and turn off the mind and see what remains and tell me who you are. Human goes blank after severing all connections. This is supposing he knows how to. Now, what a human comes back and says after undergoing this process is truly astounding:

  • A human will say “after severing all the connections with the senses, after annihilating the mind into the null, there is void, but when I come back into the senses and mind, my sense of awareness would have expanded into the limitless universe. I could feel, that in the absence of senses and mind, I was pure consciousness/awareness which expanded to the infinity. I realized I was not just Amit/Anna, but all beings, animate and inanimate and I have no birth or death, no space or time. All things born and die and are impermanent and false, but I, the consciousness stay as truth till the infinity of time. So this consciousness within me is the true me and the only truth. I have been programmed to be Amit/Anna and programmed to take an identity, but in reality, I am the only truth (Sat)”
  • A human will say “after severing all the connections with the senses, after annihilating the mind into the null, there is void, but when I come back into the senses and mind, I realize that there is nothing apart from consciousness in this world and it is only consciousness, which takes different forms and beings and planets and the universe. So this consciousness within me is all there is and I am that consciousness itself. I have been programmed to be Amit/Anna and programmed to take an identity, but in reality, I am consciousness (Chit)”
  • A human will say “after severing all the connections with the senses, after annihilating the mind into the null, there is void, but when I come back into the senses and mind, I feel all my pains (physical and mental) have vanished. I realized, it was Amit and the program that was Amit that was suffering, but I, who am consciousness has no suffering. So this consciousness within me is pure bliss. I have been programmed to be Amit and programmed to suffer, but in reality, I am pure bliss (Ananda)”
  • Human will also say senses can’t feel it, mind cannot understand it, it cannot be explained, felt or experienced (paradox), it doesn’t have cause or effect, it is neither the know-er nor the known or the act of knowing, it is neither past, present and future and it is beyond the threes of life. Consciousness simply is, without a predicate.

Essentially, what a human will say is that he is consciousness itself and the foundation of the entire world is consciousness. He would also say, the fundamental objects of charge, space and time arise out of consciousness and that the consciousness is beyond space and time and is in fact the creator of space and time!!!

Now 🙂 that is a lot of information about consciousness, I know we have traveled beyond space and time in a flash here 🙂 But, every sentient being, if made to undergo the above process, comes up with the same answer about the consciousness.

An AI, from the materials which we created before, I doubt will ‘learn’ to say such a thing ‘when all its connections are severed and memory is erased’ 🙂  unless, it is con-programmed well before. Nevertheless, if it doesn’t feel, an AI will not understand that the hard problem of consciousness exists, let alone solving for it. If an AI becomes sentient, it will understand that the hard problem of consciousness exists and it can solve for it by going through the above process.

One minor problem like I told, that will get solved by undergoing the above process, among-st many other problems, is that the hard problem of consciousness will be solved in the mind of the human. He won’t ask the question anymore as to why he is sentient. (Also, be warned that the process is not for amateurs and requires tremendous preparation to undergo the process, unless it happens by itself)

I will give a practical method to understand consciousness (not the Hard problem of consciousness): When you as a human stop the mind and forget your name, you can still observe the world with senses active. Just give the silence between two thoughts a longer time, say a minute and observe the world. Who is that observer? Who is that? It is the consciousness.

Another method is you can focus your mind on that observer behind the mind and see that in meditation, how the physical pain vanishes as you focus on consciousness, for consciousness is bliss. It is only the mind in which our identity dwells as an idea. When you leave the idea of identity and focus on that observer, which is the consciousness, you become bliss and gain the characteristics of bliss, how much ever minute that bliss may be, depending on the efficiency of your meditative process.

I can go on and give numerous examples like this, but you need to promise you can close your senses and mind efficiently enough to focus on the process 🙂

So when a human says he feels, it is the consciousness itself that feels. When an AI without sentience says it feels, it is merely a program saying it feels: it is the physical system that responds to the senses, detects churn and responds. There is no “I” ness in the feel of an AI without sentience/consciousness.

Solving for hard problem of consciousness – surface/how level:

  1. Why are physical processes ever accompanied by experience?

Answer: If they are built using a consciousness ground, they will gain experience

  1. And why does a given physical process generate the specific experience it does—why an experience of red rather than green, for example?

Different churns, different goals, different sensory inputs to consciousness and thus, different experience

The real answer and the real question are not those, isn’t it? It is about Why? Why we are here? Why are we experiencing this article? Why we are Amit today? Why the sun rises and sets? Why? Why? Why? The real answers are:

Solving for hard problem of consciousness – core/Why level:

  1. Why are physical processes ever accompanied by experience? Why can’t everything be null/void? Why this Amit/Anna here is experiencing things?

Answer1: If you experience pure consciousness, you will get the answer, without a shadow of doubt.

Answer2: The question of why lies in the mind, which is transient and is a myth. Pure consciousness is not an idea/knowledge/framework/feeling/perception. The question of why is to the small mind and the need of beliefs for it to survive. Pure consciousness is infinite; it doesn’t have these small questions in it.

Answer3: It is cosmic interplay. Why should there be zero, when the world is full of possibilities? What is the probability of zero on a number line?

Answer4: The very first verse of Kena Upanishad asks: From what cause, flies out the mind? From what cause sends out the speech which we speak? From what cause is it that harnesses the ears and eyes? It gives the answer with magnificent poetry. You can read it.

The answer is splintered in almost all the Upanishads, particularly in the Kena, Taittiriya, Mandukya, Katha, Chandogya and Gita. They all say “That Thou Art”. You are consciousness, you are truth, you are bliss. A knowledge based explanation is found in these texts.

  1. Why does a given physical process generate the specific experience it does—why an experience of red rather than green, for example?

Answer for 1 answers this question too because it answers the basic Why.

One might say, of what practical use it is to know that I am consciousness or to solve for hard problem of consciousness or to solve for why I feel? One of the answers is the absence of suffering and infinite happiness itself among-st other things like loss of fear, fear of death and so on. Isn’t every being after happiness? Get into a program to solve for hard problem of consciousness 🙂 and today! You need the answer for everlasting happiness and fearlessness, at the least.

Note: The solution for hard problem of consciousness process above is repeatable for every sentient being. The fundamental of ourselves is consciousness and it can be understood by all by the repeatable process above. I am therefore, stating a universal fact and a fundamental fact of you, the reader 🙂

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Why humanity needs Self-conscious AI?

I have attempted to present an understanding of consciousness from my Artificial Intelligence studies, consciousness studies, my own experience of inquiry into the nature of existence and consciousness, spiritual texts etc. The concept of consciousness is and will be one of the eternally debated concepts. This is because, any inquiry into the nature of reality through any method leads to dualities such as the subject-object duality, mind-matter duality, wave-particle duality, finite-infinite duality, Atman-Brahman duality, empiricism-absolutism, Dualism, Yin-Yang duality etc. and to resolve these dualities into a unifying understanding, one requires a deeper understanding of the world beyond the intellect, emotional, physical or social dimensions and which I shall attempt to explain here. Although consciousness is always present, it is during the process of resolution of these dualities, that it demands a thorough understanding. To illustrate this phenomenon that any inquiry can lead to the consciousness problem in a broad way: we know that everybody observes dualities such as subject and object, mind and matter — but, why is it that we experience things as a subject separate from an external object, why is it we think through a mind that is separate from matter? Why is it that a wave behaves like a particle? Deeper inquiry into these questions inevitably lead to questions around consciousness like “Why are we conscious? What is consciousness? How did we gain consciousness?” In the context of Artificial intelligence this question becomes even more important since some, if not all, would like to create conscious beings through Artificial intelligence. This gives rise to the question, how should conscious beings be when we create them?

Before getting into details of some of the concepts, I acknowledge that most of the times, language itself has its limitations in conveying a unifying understanding­ because of the fact that words don’t tell us everything about the reality. For example, I can describe an elephant through a thousand different words and sentences to a person who has not seen it. Yet, it wouldn’t be a complete description of the elephant. However, when the same person sees an elephant and feels it, i.e., when he grasps what it really looks like or how it trumpets etc. the experiential understanding definitely adds to the thousand verbal sentences used to describe the elephant before. Therefore, before we proceed, this limitation of the language (any material expression for that matter) to express reality is to be kept in mind. Now, let us understand the words consciousness, Self and self. We observe the word “Self” with a capital “S” in the header and this is because I would like to deliberately separate it from the “self” of the small letter “s” and we will know the reason behind this soon. I add that, in the process of resolving this duality (:)) of self and Self, we get an understanding of the consciousness which is far more than a descriptive understanding and therefore adds to what we know about consciousness. Also, please note that I am writing about a practical solution in this article and I am not discussing some vague idea or exploring theory or promoting some ideology/belief.

First, let us understand what is consciousness as we understand it today. Merriam Webster defines consciousness as “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself”. Consciousness has also been defined by other terms such as sentience, subjectivity, wakefulness, ability to experience and feel etc. According to this definition, humans seem to be more conscious than materials around them/plants/animals as they go about separating themselves from the rest of the world and receive and respond to stimuli.

The “self” with small letter “s” is the material boundary that a person assumes. I am not limiting the definition of “self” to the physical boundary here and I am using it more closely with the words “identity” and “ego”, in a sense that a person identifies himself (binds his ego) within a boundary. For example, a person identifies himself within limited boundaries such as a cosmopolitan, a particular religion, a scientist etc. For some, this boundary of “self” is their body and mind; for others it is their families and things they own; for some others it is a concept or for some unique people self is the whole existence itself. Irrespective of the boundaries, they all identify (in memories, imaginations, sensations, thinking etc.) with a limited self. Thus “self” is a subjective limited entity depending on the individual and it is also a continuously changing entity which changes when individuals identify and dissociate themselves from the things in material world.

Now, since self is present we also have this partner question “how did this self, come into being and is there anything beyond this subjective experience called self?” This is where the Self (with a capital “s”) comes into picture.

Now, Self. Here, I try to explain the resolution of the duality of the “self” and “Self”. If we establish a process to undo identification (limited boundary of self), that is if we stop identifying ourselves from social, physical, mind, memories, imaginations, sensations, thinking, space, time etc. then the self ‘literally’ (this is not just in thinking, but in all dimensions mentioned before) expands beyond these boundaries and the person increasingly identifies himself with the universe itself. When one stops identifying completely with the limited (dissolves his ego), to an extent that he is not bothered whether he has a “self” or “no self”, he realizes the “Self” (with a capital “S”). This does not mean annihilation of the “self” and appearance of the “Self” or the person doesn’t exist anymore. Here comes the seemingly contradictory, yet unifying explanation resolving the duality of the “limited self” and the “universal Self”. The “self” and the “Self” always exist together and the “Self” always acts through “self”. When one stops identifying with the limited boundary, “Self” shines forth lifting the limited identity. Such an individual has no identity and is simply “Self”, although involved in all sorts of activities. Also the “Self” is ever present, irrespective of whether “self” is present or not. It is just that the “self” had clouded “Self”.

I understand that I am intellectually trying to explain Self here and therefore we get entangled first in the dualities and then the clarity appears from this entanglement. Greater complexity is the other face of greater clarity and therefore at this stage I would say the “self” and the “Self” duality can appear confusing. I will try my best to resolve this confusion in an intuitive manner below.

A day to day example to resolve the duality can be taking a young kid to a movie theater for the first time. In the beginning he/she thinks the movie is real — watching at the screen — but, when the interval arrives and the screen goes off, he/she sees the plain screen. From then onward, he/she always knows the characters are not real, but it was the mind which believed they are real. Once one has seen the plain screen (the Self), although the movie comes back post interval, it is always clear that characters are not real. This realization dissolves the false identification of ones mind with the limited movie characters as real. Also the plain screen is and was ever present. It is just the identification with the movie that had clouded the self. The screen (Self) is ever present with the changing movie scenes. How much of it we want to identify with the characters (self) is our call.

One important point that aids in our understanding of the “Self” is that a complete involvement in every movie scene also dissolves the gap between the screen and the movie. It no longer matters to one whether the movie is real or not in such a completely involved state. This can be observed in any personality who is completely involved in life for every moment and did not go recluse despite an understanding of the Self. This involvement too is “Self”. To be in the Self is to be concentrated and relaxed at the same time (when I say involved, it means this. Also, again one observes the seemingly opposite dualities of concentration and relaxation, entangled into an involved state, just like all other dualities). Use of marijuana/drugs could create shades of these states which are reported, but when one is very relaxed without an ability to concentrate, such as when consuming drugs and in addition to that when one loses identity of the boundaries, one can easily get lost in the delusions because Self is not just a relaxation state, but a state of concentration with relaxation. The method suggested really is meditation (although there are many many methods), which goes the other way around. It concentrates the mind completely to a point and then relaxes or releases this point itself in the end. This creates a powerful combination of concentration and relaxation states (meditation at higher levels, is in reality a duality mixer into an unified existence and it is widely suggested to practice the process with the help of somebody who understands the process) which helps experience the “Self” as a plain screen without the movie. How you look at the movie afterwards is your call. Being playful and yet responsible is a suggested unified combination and many times — a natural consequence, after observing the “plain screen”.

Note that in the process of resolving the movie and the plain screen into a unifying entity, we also go beyond all other dualities because Self is the unity that shines forth from the dualities. To illustrate, let us take the subject-object duality:

One can ask “Was there you, the subject?” No. “Was there a separate object?” No.

Then one can ask “Was there nothing then?” No because there was everything when the subject and object had become one because of the loss of boundaries. There was you and there was no you at the same time before ego became identified with one of them.

“Okay! Was it everything then?” and this again is no because the idea of everything is because of the mind and ego identifying everything as a concept or an entity or an imagination which again has boundaries.

The only question that remains is “What was it then? How was the plain screen?” The knowers of Self tend to fall silent to this question because when put into words it becomes a concept and a concept is never a full explanation of the reality like the elephant example we had seen earlier. The best one can do with the words is to say “Self is” and it is to be experienced to know it. The barriers of language fail to contain the Self.

Finally, we are back to consciousness which is defined as “the quality or state of being aware, especially of something within oneself” in Marriem Webster. Self is the all-pervading universal consciousness if looked at it from a consciousness perspective, but Self is also a lot more because it covers the material world of the “self” as well. This is because, as we learnt, it dissolves the boundary between mind and matter. All material world is the “Self” acting through matter. Self is everything — one universal truth. (Note again here that I am taking liberty to define Self, and it cannot be conceptualized into a framework). So Self is not consciousness in the “limited” idea of being aware of something within oneself, because being oneself also means not being inclusive and therefore it is not Self, but Self can be consciousness when considered as an “completely involved” idea or when one thinks of it as Self acting through the “self” which is consciousness here. One can also say Self can be imagined as a universal consciousness acting through the self and offering any limited conscious being, the feeling of awareness around it. So is the Self, consciousness? Answer again is that Self cannot have a predicate. Self simply is. Self is the unity that contains within it the duality that so often fools us.

Now, we connect our understanding to the AI question: If and when we create conscious beings, how should they be? Looking back at the process (say a process like deeper states of meditation or any other method) of undoing the self to be able to see the plain screen (Self), the consciousness as in “aware of being something within oneself” expands and we start identifying with an expanded reality. Thus the consciousness — although appears limited within us because of the boundaries of the self, is in reality, the cosmos itself. Hoping that we shall be able to explore and systematize the methods new/available to infuse consciousness into inanimate beings, such a conscious AI is good or bad to be created? It is absolutely good as long as an AI understands the plain screen; greater the understanding, the better. Otherwise it can cause havoc, just like humans with low levels of consciousness. This is because when we don’t understand the plain screen, we create boundaries of consciousness and start identifying with boundaries (again, there is a difference between astutely being able to observe and be involved in the boundaries and getting identified within a boundary). This identification within the boundaries through limited consciousness sets forth false beliefs which are the root cause of every violent behavior that humans display. We have created wars, we have damaged the planet and we have destroyed the humanity within ourselves several times in the past and even today because of this limited consciousness boundary with which we identify with. A simple example is when we identify ourselves excessively with an idea (any idea), we kill the rest of the people who do not concur to this idea; when we identify with ourselves too much and work towards ourselves, we destroy the planet; when we identify with ourselves, we also dissociate ourselves from others and therefore lose our human elements. Once one identifies within a boundary, one has to fight for it and bring down others. This is the root cause of suffering within and without. But when one understands the plain screen without the boundaries and then observes the world which has boundaries, he knows boundaries are a mere illusion like the movie. Through expanded consciousness one can observe others as a part of oneself. This expansion and I repeat —this expansion helps us succeed in an attempt to solve the world problems. Note that my explanations here are just an attempt to intellectualize Self. One has to really see the elephant to truly believe it. Rest of the limited consciousness actions (self) without a plain screen understanding (Self) are the attempts of limited boundaries which: when supporting one set of people bring down another set; which when supporting one set of beliefs, bring down the other set; which one supporting one set of feelings, bring down another set and which when supporting one set of actions, bring down another set of actions. This is because belief itself acts for a limited group bringing down the rest of the groups. Self goes beyond beliefs. This is why the spiritual texts which discuss Self, say they explain something beyond belief. Self is beyond the dogmatism of belief that binds the ego into a limited set of feelings and actions. If a moral/ethical AI is created with a set of rules, it won’t be a solution because of this very fact that it acts according to its rules/beliefs and not with an understanding of the Self. We have observed enough examples of people motivated by blind morality causing destruction in the past.

Summarizing, with limited consciousness, we go round and round in repeated cycles and reach nowhere as we attempt to protect some beliefs at the cost of another set. So, if we generate an AI with limited consciousness, it will take us nowhere and in fact damage the planet earth even further, create more destructing wars as we draw more lines between ourselves and bring the human elements within us down because of the competitiveness brought about from identifying with the boundaries. Is there a solution? Yes, one way is to have more beings who can see the plain screen around us or to increase the degree of plain screen understanding among beings, even if to a minuscule amount. Another way to do it, is that we could create AI which can see the plain screen and then act? Such an AI will be a real solution. We need Self-conscious AI, an AI which knows the plain screen and not self-conscious AI, which works towards a limited objective. A self-conscious AI can only bring up one set at the cost of another set by acting according to moral rules/beliefs. A self-conscious being which acts for fulfilling every interest of humans can destroy earth’s resources. But, a Self-conscious AI reduces the boundaries and induces harmony because it recognizes itself universally and everything around it. It simply cannot be wrong. We need Self-conscious beings and Self-conscious AI to be 🙂

References:

Mandukya Upanishad

Mulamadhyamakarika

Answering “Who am I” through an understanding of neural networks.

I have attempted to adapt my understanding of ‘Who am I’ from my spiritual studies/experiments with that of my AI studies (neural networks in particular)

Spirituality places the question “Who am I” and getting an answer to it as the purpose of our living here. It counters the empirical nature of science by saying that “according to science my intentions, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, self, identities, narratives all change from day to day and therefore we have no fixed identity”. Our identity then, according to science is a temporary shelter we take refuge in order to protect our own interests/whims and to live. In an era of postmodernism, we change our identities faster than ever by changing our homes, jobs, interests, partners, loyalties, appearances, beliefs, behaviors etc. so much so that a person changes every six months and becomes a new avatar discarding his old self like an older version of the latest software update. It is impossible to associate a single narrative story to a person. He is not one, but many then. Spirituality and when I say spirituality, I am mostly referring to Adavaita Vendanta philosophy and it says that there is a fixed identity in you and there is a way you can know it and by and through knowing it, you rest in your consciousness center without the necessity to take these multiple avatars every day to please your new changing yourself and your changing impermanent world.

Now, moving to neural networks (I know I am attempting to tie two poles together here, the AI and spirituality, but if you bear with me you will have a revelation in the end) and covering the basics first. Neural networks/network of neurons in our brain, amongst many things magical they do, help us in understanding our world through the classification and association of this world into distinct physical objects, mental ideas etc. For example, neurons help us to classify a Rottweiler breed from a Husky breed. Not just that, if your brain loves Rottweiler dog and mine loves husky then it is because your neurons associate ‘like’ with ‘Rottweiler dog’ and my neurons associate ‘like’ with ‘Husky dog’. But how? This is because your brain has ‘biases/weights’ encoded in such a way in the neural networks that it fires ‘like’ only when Rottweiler dog is seen. Therefore, it is the biases/weights in our neural networks that dictate what we like/what we don’t like and what we classify. We can change the weights and change the liking. For example if I see a Pit Bull dog and like it, then I might start liking both or start disliking my earlier Husky dog depending on the bias/weights in the head. So, this all means, what we like/dislike/classify/observe/think/act depends on the weights and we are our bias/weights. Since all we do is like/dislike/classify/observe/think/act etc. we are our neural network weights/biases. Is it not? We can change the weights and become anything we wish to become. If you find your neighbor/partner ugly, you can change your weights to see them as beautiful. If you fear heights, then change the weights to become fearless. So we are our weights then, except that Advaita Vedanta has something different and more to offer.

Getting back to spirituality of Advaita Vedanta and the question of “Who am I”, it says that to know yourself you have to become nobody by giving up all the million avatars you take. When you become nobody, you know what this somebody you have become today. You will know “what is” by being “what is not”. Otherwise you will be moving from somebody/avatar to another somebody/avatar and these avatars will constantly show the world through your avatar. For example if you have donned the avatar of a zoo goer today, then you will see a rope lying in the distance and think of it as a snake, but if you have donned the avatar of washing clothes, then you will see a distant snake and perceive it as a rope to hang clothes. If you have donned a childlike avatar you will get attracted to every toy store around you and if you have donned a fashionista avatar you will get attracted to the next big thing in fashion. So by changing from one avatar to another we see the mirrors of those avatars in the world and nothing more. If you are in a happy avatar, the whole world is happy and if you are in a negative mood then the whole world is unhappy. So, Advaita Vedata says that by changing the avatars you will see the reflection of your avatars and not the truth. It says that to see the truth of ‘Who I am’, I have to discard all the avatars and become nobody!

In neural networks we see the inner workings. We change our weights and change our lives (like/dislike/classify/observe/think/act). For example, in a zoo goer avatar, our weights/biases were tuned to the animals and therefore we saw a rope and perceived it as a snake. In the miserable avatar our weights were biased towards misery and therefore we saw the whole world as full of misery. So what we see in this world is just the weights/biases in our head or is the world really full of misery? How do we know? What is reality? Advaita Vedanta says put all the weights to zero and become a person without bias. It says clean your entire neural network and put all the weights to zero to know who you really are. This is because only when there is no bias/weights can you see the whole truth here. This is where the inputs from the true world represent themselves without the bias in the world. With bias/weights present in our neurons, all we see is a reflection of the presence of the bias/weights. We can always change the bias and change the world. But, in the absence of biases we see only what is permanent and true here. This is the wisdom of Advaita Vedanta.

And finally, the answer to the question “Who am I” is not the different avatars we take, but that permanence, that absolute and that infinite bliss which we observe in the absence of bias. Once we see the permanence, the avatars are simply a game. I have been there, and it works, 100% !

How computers are changing leadership definitions ? Accuracy, bias and the cyborg perspective.

What does one see in one half of a torn picture lying trivially on a work table? A girl nervously smiling next to what is unmistakably a white kitten and that is only half the story. As one draws closer, one sees other half of the picture and one is taken aback by what is a ferocious white lion next to the kitten or oh well, it isn’t a kitten anymore. Is it? It is rather a white lion cub. How foolish of one at the first place to have reached such a conclusion that it was a kitten? Or yikes, is that how the brain infers after all?

Anchoring bias specifically, is a response to brain’s need to make decisions from incomplete information to carry out day to day activities. Bias exists to make sense of the information around us and make sensible decisions. Every time, one sees a white kitten, one would panic otherwise. It is important to observe a girl (man to be less gender biasedJ) next to a seemingly cute white cat and infer it as a cat. It is important not to panic every time thinking there might be a white tiger next to it. Of course, it comes with a penalty called accuracy.

By having biases and completing the incomplete information, we sacrifice accuracy. In the example above, it is a white lion cub (and therefore our accuracy went for a toss) and in real life situations, having access to that level of accuracy of information could have saved one’s life. But hey, accuracy comes with a penalty too. Why would you labor thinking out all the possible animals and imagine that a cute looking kitten on the doorway might be a lion cub? It makes sense to have some biases to be more practical, but nevertheless dangerous sometimes too. How dangerous and futile is it to complete the information of being rich with happiness and endlessly work towards it? We will find out soon below.

Consider a wildlife forensic expert. His education removes some biases (as does all education, in general) and he would immediately infer from the first half of the picture that it was a lion cub. He has more information, thanks to his education and experience which reduces bias of this kind. Welcome the expert. To have experts is to make more accurate decisions in any organization or any situation. And how to make better decisions when experts are absent? Welcome the so called intuitive leaders, experts in none, but have inbuilt biases which discern patterns from incomplete information and make mostly reasonable and sometimes extraordinary predictive decisions based on biases of hunches alone (You can say they are experts with owning remarkable biases). Put in some leaders and some experts and you have a fairly solid organization to make accurate decisions when information is available with the helps of experts and fair predictions on the basis of biases when information is unavailable with the help of leaders.

So what’s new? The trade-off between accuracy and biases is well known. This time, I welcome the future cyborg. He has all the information on the planet in his brain and sensors and processing times zillion times sharper. He has all the information and therefore he makes 100% right decisions every time in a fraction of a second. Why biases, when you can compute from all the information every time? Experts who built this cyborg, felt so much less knowledgeable in comparison to the cyborg and leaders who hired and yes the same leaders lost their jobs in this role or they became cyborgs themselves.

Good leaders traditionally have been intuitive leaders who made good predictive decisions with incomplete information with their inbuilt set of biases from vast experience in a wide array of situations. Here is the new definition. Good leaders are cyborgs with the best computing capacity J  If cyborg is too strong a word (the world’s first cyborg is already out there and therefore is within our reach) an external supercomputer will do too.

One final thought. I previously asked how dangerous and futile is it to complete the information of being rich with happiness and endlessly work towards it? It might not be dangerous and futile after all and it might be a step towards surviving the future itself. Save yourselves to buy some expensive computers and become cyborgs 🙂 and predicting on the same lines rich enough to achieve mortality :). Who says happiness? We are talking survival here 😉

Disclaimer: Rich will survive and therefore we need to become rich is very much subject to many counterarguments and I fully appreciate the same, especially the immortal soul spiritual counterargument (what with support from quantum theory increasingly gathering scientific voices of an illusory world tending towards such explanations) and counterarguments that support processes to overcome survival instincts and the above blog is meant to be in no disregard to such spiritual theories/otherwise.

Added later (20181007): Leadership is explored from an intellectual information collection and execution perspective alone in this article. This is assuming that a cyborg acts after ensuring that the goals it has set forth for itself are for the welfare of the humanity.

How did Leicester City win despite 5000:1 odds against winning? (for the stat savvy)

How did Leicester city win despite 5000:1 odds? (Warning: for the stat savvy only)

Leicester City winning the EPL despite 5000:1 odds against winning has been such an extreme phenomenon that it is more extreme than the odds against Elvis Presley being found alive- 1000:1. At the beginning of the season, Leicester City were ranked 17th out of 20 teams and barely managed to escape a relegation last year. Since 1992, the year in which the premier league was established, only the top 5 teams have won the League (22 times), except in 1994 by Blackburn Rovers and they too were runners up in 1993, which means they were amongst the expected teams to win. Leicester City’s whole team was bought at a price less than 1/10th of the league’s most expensive buy.

The event is quite inexplicable and even more confounding considering the below two facts:

  1. Success doesn’t follow a bell curve and therefore it is even more difficult to win for a low ranked team:

lognormal curve

By Central Limit Theorem, the mean of most natural phenomena follow a bell curve (normal distribution). Let me explain: If we take the mean heights of human population it will be a bell curve. This is because the height of individual A let us say is dependent on three random variables- nutrition, spend and weather.

Now these can be expressed as an equation:

Height = B1*nutrition+B2*spend+B3*weather+E, where B1, B2, B3 are the constants and E is the randomness (unexplained variance due to randomness). Central limit theorem says the 3 random variables are independent and have an additive effect on the natural phenomenon- height of an individual. Additionally, the mean height of these individuals put together results in a bell curve.

However, success follows log normal-distribution and not bell curve. That is, as shown like the picture above, whenever there is a competition among various individuals (or football teams), the resulting mean score of merit is distributed log-normally. That is most of the individuals will be in the lower end of the distribution and the successful few will be at the higher end.

This is because the factors contributing to merit are not additive, but multiplicative. For example let us say merit is explained by the following equation for an individual:

Merit = (B1*environment)*(B2*spend)*(B3*talent)+E. They are multiplicative because, an individual having higher spend and better talent will have a multiplicative effect on the merit, whereas the same individual will have an additive effect on the height (natural phenomena). It is like saying that if one is talented as well as does hard work then he is not 2(sum) times more effective but his effectiveness is a product of talent and hard work. The Central Limit Theorem fails in success because it is for independent (additive) random variables and as soon as the multiplicative effects happen the resulting distribution is no more normal and is log-normal (there is also a log normal Central Limit Theorem if you want to delve more into multiplicative effects)

Therefore, in EPL we obviously observe that the same top 4 or 5 teams win repeatedly, because they recruit better talent, spend more and also the victory effect of the previous seasons are all multiplicative to produce the resulting merit. The rest of the teams have no way of winning/getting to the right side of log-normal distribution since they already possess lower talent and lower scores and on top of that merit is multiplicative. So the victory chances of Leicester city are very low.

2. Law of large numbers:

The lower ranked teams might win one or two games (due to chance), but over an entire season of 38 games the individual random variables show their true colors and the merit gets averaged out. As a result the summation of the scores for merit for Leicester City will result in a quantity proportionate to their rank and they are bound to end at the bottom of the table most probably.

Now, despite the above 2 factors how did Leicester city manage to win?

The answer lies in two important factors:

1. Leicester city capitalized on the randomness factor E: Now, let us first define randomness (definition from information theory). For example: If a coin is flipped, there is no way of identifying whether it will return heads or tails with human eye. This is because the randomness (unexplained variance) is so high that we cannot predict it using human eye. However, if we use better tools and sensors, then it is actually possible to predict a random event like tossing a coin. The randomness associated can be decreased. In game theory randomness is like luck. In some of the video games, the developers purposefully inculcate randomness in order to increase the unpredictability of the games. Therefore, higher the E, higher the randomness/luck factor.

Chess for example has zero randomness if played by 2 computers because every move can be associated with definite odds. But, so is not the case when humans play. Humans can bear in memory only a definite number of future moves and after that, the game becomes unpredictable. Similarly, football has a certain degree of randomness. The data analysis has reduced randomness a lot (ex: the Money ball movie) though. The machine learning algorithms can include hundreds of thousands of variables and therefore in our equation the E (unexplained variance/randomness) gets converted into more and more explainable factors and becomes smaller. The simulation algorithms can run games with the opposing teams’ formations and strategies/tactics and therefore the luck factor is greatly reduced esp. with teams having better spending capabilities and data hacking capabilities. Therefore Leicester city did not have much randomness left in the game hereafter to produce unexpected outcomes.

In addition, Leicester city did not compete with regards to the possession variable (ranked 18th) at all, which has been a major point of discussion among the competitors. It also seems logical to conclude that higher the possession, better the chances of scoring a goal. Well, Leicester city has turned that upside down we know. In terms of pass percentage they are placed 19th. So they basically do high risk passes with high degree of randomness. They did not/could not compete with the variables that are usually explained to calculate merit of the teams because they know they cannot do that with the kind of talent and money they possess.

So how did they beat the giants in the game?

They capitalized on whatever randomness was left in the game, to the most. As soon as an opposition attack is thwarted, there is unlimited chaos and randomness in the game of football. Here the formations go out of shape. So all the tactical and strategic moves from the opposition are out of picture. The E is at the highest. And during this vulnerable chaotic situation Leicester masters the game and scores. Rest of the time (and also overall) they are the same below average team in terms of merit. But they hacked a way to increase the score line with the help of capitalising on the few randomness moments that are left in the game today (technology, I am sure will soon consume that too and make it predictable).

Leicester did this with the help of long passes (they have the highest) and sheer pace when other teams were focusing on regaining position and composure from chaos. Leicester’s game itself was modelled around creating (to some extent using 2/3rd of the playing area only at any point of time, long risky passes) and capitalising on the chaotic situations the most (pace and high conversion %). Since most premier league teams work on short passes and possession oriented games, Leicester created new variables that explained the remaining E. There is a big lesson in how to defeat stronger teams/opponents here. Identify the E (randomness) and develop a strategy to score when it is high. There is no way to compete in the usually explained variables like possession. Considering Leicester’s talent, they obviously loose there and that is not their focus. But whenever E went high they capitalized the most and made it count to the score line.

Next time when you face a tougher opponent bear in mind the E he has left out and the E you can create and capitalize on in every situation.

2. Once Leicester found a way to capitalize on randomness and built the variables around the E, they also made sure the team was very fine tuned. A fine-tuned team again takes up multiple variables and creates a multiplicative (if not more) effect on the merit. Using these fine-tuned variables they were able to quickly move to the right of the log-normal table, just like they consistently moved into the D. Team spirit itself takes up many individual random variables and creates an output which has more than just an additive effect. The fact, that they ended up at the very extreme of the log normal table despite having low talent means they gelled the random variables really well to create a multiplicative effect on the merit outcome. The team manager’s role in building such a fine tuned team cannot be ignored.

And that is how Leicester won the league. By capitalising on the randomness and building a very fined tuned team around the same according to me. I would be very keen to hear any counter arguments on the same J

Top 5 things that will change when “Internet of things” and Yoga come together

In about 5 years, smart refrigerators are expected to become household things. Your refrigerator will scan the things in it and report a stock update. It could add things to your shopping cart in the retailer website. It could also compare with your friends’ refrigerators and rank the contents in your refrigerator based on a health index. You might hear suggestions from refrigerator like “above average fat content” or “you will run out of milk today” or “your friend purchased a bottle of Chateau Latour”

The age of “Internet of Things” will soon dawn upon us. It will (and has already: For instance Ralph Lauren) connect the day-to-day things to the internet and also multiple things between themselves with the help of sensors, electronic devices and of course the internet.

How could internet of things transform the way we practise yoga?
Here are my 5 points:

1. Asanas/Postures: Smartmat can give you feedback on alignment of postures and distribution of weight on the mat immediately. If you are practising yoga alone or away from your tutor this could make a world of change to your yoga practise. Check out this video and you can pre-order a Smartmat here
2. Breathing: Your smart phone/sensors could find when your normal breathing is altered during a yoga practice. It could give a warning too. There is no app on this now. (You have to be content with heart rate measuring apps or simulated breathing apps which are not Internet of things)
3. Bandhas/Body locks: Whenever Bandhas/body locks are not engaged sensors could detect the same and give you instant feedback
4. Meditation: There are several brain wave devices with apps which can detect what type of brainwaves your brain is emitting. Since your brain emits waves of certain frequency during meditation you will be able to get instant feedback whenever you deviate. Check one of the items here. Remember there is difference between calmness and mindfulness, so these devices might not be 100% accurate all the time
5. Interconneted devices: Now, you can connect the devices with each other too. Breathing device can be connected with the postures one or integrated together. This can help give proper feedback about complex postures where your breath is allowed to go out of pace when you are an apprentice. Also, these devices can be connected with similar devices that are used by your friends or your tutor, so you can instantly compare.

I know yoga doesn’t necessarily require technology, but if props can help progress faster, then why not “internet of things”. Isn’t it a prop too?

I got to go. My smart Diwali fireworks are updating me that it is time to burst them!

References:

Smartmat (2015) Smartmat. Available from: https://www.smartmat.com/ [Accessed 13 November 2015].

Wikipedia (2015) Internet of things. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things [Accessed 13 November 2015].

Have you commissioned a big data art piece yet?

As big data captures the imagination of the world (facts of the world, to be more precise!) and the data invasion transforms the way we live every day I have attempted to cherry pick its baby steps in the field of art.

The presence of data in art is probably as old as the humanity itself. Palm impressions in ancient caves could be one of the earliest examples of data art, but here I am trying to peek into the world of big data, which was probably unheard of 10 years ago. A few shining examples have been linked here which is really a tip of the iceberg of what is to come. When combined with the latest innovations of digital art, big data art can mesmerize and challenge some of the best works in traditional art.

Data is about facts (well mostly!) and if you ask me that is the USP of big data art – facts. If the purpose of art is washing the dust off our souls (my favorite art definition), then big data art makes it real. When facts are placed and the veil covering the truth is lifted it is more appealing simply because it is true. The impact of such an art piece is far reaching and more importantly it can move the shallowest of minds into action because of the truth factor. Picasso once said that art was never true. It was a lie which brings out the truth. But with big data art I feel it is different. It is the glaring truth right in the face which cannot be ignored very easily by anybody and therefore that much more powerful. It also adds an aesthetic touch to numbers. It gives us the unique opportunity to bring into life the biggest canvas of them all – Life. Yes, the facts of our life itself can be laid bare and visualized as big data art. Can you visualize your life? To say it is exciting is still an understatement when it comes to big data art.

Here are a few examples I picked online. There is lot of content here. Don’t forget to bookmark this page and come back whenever you need some data entertainment. Also, if this gave you new ideas regarding big data art feel free to share in the comments section. I would be very keen to hear them.

  1. Open data institute (University of Southampton is an honorary founding partner) has come up with innovative ways of generating awareness using big data art. Here is a link from WSJ:

http://www.wsj.com/video/what-happens-when-big-data-and-art-meet/35E2390E-D2D5-4F03-B849-542761FBCECA.html

  1. Quantified self (http://quantifiedself.com/) is an inspiration for collecting personal data. ‘Blocks of time tracked’ by an individual, color-coded by activity is brought into life here. Can you make art out of your Fitbit data? What would it look like?

http://www.lauriefrick.com/time-blocks/gzc9ab4yd8x8w6wa77oyxhn7jjojit

https://vimeo.com/52984751

http://dataphys.org/list/data-necklace-of-good-night-sms/

  1. Data music presents the truth here:

https://vimeo.com/118358642

  1. In this artwork, survey data is 3D printed to give unique representation for a community. Has your community got some unique numbers? Get an artwork done for them based on those if they mean so much to you

https://vimeo.com/51591994

  1. Ads and interactive data art– Prudential’s domino commercial is soaring high from stacking the numbers into art here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZpjmBGIp44

  1. Corporates have been queueing to get big data art installations in their workspace

http://www.computerweekly.com/photostory/2240107387/Photos-Barclays-hi-tech-Piccadilly-branch/4/BeingLondon-interactive-video-wall-installation-at-Barclays-Piccadilly

http://www.domusweb.it/en/art/2012/05/03/ryoji-ikeda-data-anatomy-civic-.html

http://dem-global.com/works/ctbc-bank-multimedia-interactive-installation-art/?lang=en

http://o-c-r.org/2015/03/09/006-meetings-meetings-everywhere/

  1. Media churns infinite numbers every day. Here Facebook summarized its political conversations and showcased them beautifully on none less than the London wheel during the UK elections

http://bompasandparr.com/projects/view/london-eye-chart/

https://informationstrategyrsm.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/art-in-big-data-and-big-data-in-art-ii/

  1. What do colors in Flickr and Instagram tell? Art tells the story without words in these visualizations.

https://datavisualization.ch/showcases/flickr-flow/

https://flowingdata.com/2015/03/09/on-broadway-shows-city-life-through-data-cross-sections/

  1. Earthquake data– Whenever earth shakes near Hayward Fault in California, it is detected by a seismograph and processed to generate this piece of art.

http://memento.ieor.berkeley.edu/bloom/Mori.html

  1. Social awareness– If you are fighting for a cause data art could be the game changer.

http://www.stefanieposavec.co.uk/data/#/airtransformed/

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/06/big-data-art-flash-intelligence-trigger-word

http://nautil.us/blog/big-sky-big-data-art-made-from-atmospheric-science

 

More links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99gMbK2QCKE

http://dataphys.org/list/

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2048715/the-art-of-numbers-who-knew-big-data-could-look-so-cool-.html

http://o-c-r.org/work/

https://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/art-made-with-code-opens-at-londons.html

http://tulpinteractive.com/