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Necessary impossibility of explaining oracular hypercomputing


Imagining Order as Hypercomputing (Part #4)


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This text could well be interpreted as an explanation of the nature of hypercomputing. However, as with the scepticism of most computer scientists (as noted above): "anything approximating an oracle machine would soon fall foul of fundamental restrictions on how information and energy flow in the universe". This applies very particularly to the fundamental restrictions on how insight and creativity are engendered and flow in the knowledge universe -- namely to the process of explanation itself and to the uptake of insight, especially collectively

Anecdote?: Much attention has recently been been given to the articulation by Jonah Lehrer (Imagine: how creativity works, 2012). He usefully notes:

The sheer secrecy of creativity -- the difficulty in understanding how it happens,, even when it happens to us -- means that we often associate breakthroughs with an external force. In fact,, until the Enlightenment, the imagination was entirely synonymous with higher powers: being creative meant channeling, the muses, giving voice to the ingenious gods... Because people could't understand creativity, they assumed that the ideas came from somewhere else. The imagination was outsourced (p. xvi)

Lehrer argues that imagination can indeed be rigorously studied with the aid of brain scanners and neuronal excitement:

The imagination can seem like a magic trick of matter -- new ideas emerging from this air -- but we are beginning to understand how the trick works. The first thing this new perspective makes clear is that the standard definition of creativity is completely wrong... Instead creativity, is a catchall term for a variety of distinct thought processes... But just because we've begun to decipher the anatomy of the imagination, does'nt mean we've unlocked its secret. In fact, this is what makes the subject of creativity so interesting: it requires a description from multiple perspectives. (p. xvii-xviii).

He concludes his introduction by arguing that creativity should not be thought of as a process reserved for "creative types":

The human mind, after all, has the creative impulse built into its operating system, hard-wired into its most essential programming code. At any given moment, the brain is automatically forming new associations, continually connecting an everyday X to an unexpected Y. This book is about how that happens. It is the story of how we imagine. (p. xx).

The book offers a multitude of inspiring accounts of creativity in action -- from which many may derive insight. The sobering reservation is that somehow these cannot be effectively brought to bear on the most problematic conditions -- such as the Israel-Gaza situation, ISIS, Syria or Ukraine -- to name but a few at the time of writing. This would suggest that, as they tend to be described, imagination and creativity are inadequate to more fundamental challenges, despite the number of creative, imaginative people claiming to be concerned with such matters.

Analogy and meta-analogy?: In contrast to the work of Lehrer, a much more substantive study has been produced by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander (Surfaces and Essences: analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking, 2013). This focuses on the manner in which creativity and imagination are enabled by analogy and metaphor. In their conclusion, following extensive comment on the creativity of Albert Einstein, rather than conceiving of science as "advancing solely through quasi-magical mental processes that are unlikely ever to be explained", they frame their endeavour as follows:

We have, rather, tried to show that the sudden bolts from the blue that change the face of physics are invariably analogies, often even "tiny" analogies -- that is, leaps that seem obvious once they have been pointed out... a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach once said that "as soon as Bach heard a theme, he was very quickly able to imagine all its consequences".... It would thus seem that this ability to "imagine all the possibilities" in a very short time lies close to the core of human creativity at its highest levels.... Thus, the most most advanced breakthrough of Einstein's life came out of an analogical leap that was analogous to another analogical leap -- thus an analogy between analogies, or, if you will, a meta-analogy.

Unfortunately, despite the focus by these and other authors, there emerges a sense of a situation as so admirably described by the classic outburst of Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets (1997): I am drowning here, and you're describing the water.

Under the present circumstances of constrained decision-making, the difficulty is further highlighted by Lehrer's earlier book (How We Decide, 2009). Both his books have been withdrawn by their original publishers following considerable controversy -- ironically due to his having allegedly imagined some of his illustrative accounts.

Curiously neither Lehrer nor Hofstadter refer to the earlier work by Arthur Koestler (The Act of Creation, 1964). This is a study of the processes of discovery, invention, imagination and creativity in humour, science, and the arts. Sic transit creator?

*** trapped into explaining

Non-realism?: Hilary Lawson (The Poetic Strategy, 2008) discusses how a range of "non-realist" authors (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Rorty) have reached somewhat similar conclusions -- as contrasted with the perspective of "realists" variously convinced of the possibilities of explanation. In Lawson's terms:

Describing the world is a strangely perplexing process. It feels as if it should be effortless, but the more closely we seek to say how things are the more we uncover our failure to do so... Now there are, of course, those who suppose that the task of describing the world is in some way solvable, who think we can have access to..."the really real". It is a view adopted by many scientists and widely held in our culture and embedded in the notion of progress and the increasing knowledge of humankind. In the philosophical world it is characterised as realism.

As indicated by Lawson:

Non-realism is not about the assertion of a different set of existent things separate from the material which is prior or more real. Instead it is a challenge to the possibility of saying how things are, a challenge to our ability to speak of the really real... non-realism is seemingly at once embedded in a mire. If it is not possible to say how the world really is, if it is not possible to connect language to the world, how is the non-realist to find a means to express any view at all? ... The denial of our capacity to describe the really real would appear also to involve the denial of that denial itself. Such is the non-realist predicament.

Object-oriented ontology (OOO) offers a startlingly fresh way to think about causality, as demonstrated by the work of Timothy Morton (Hyperobjects: philosophy and ecology after the End of the World, 2013; Realist Magic: objects, ontology, causality, 2013). With respect to existence, Morton explores what it means to say that a thing has come into being, that it is persisting, and that it has ended. Drawing from examples in physics, biology, ecology, art, literature and music, Morton demonstrates the counterintuitive yet elegant explanatory power of OOO for thinking causality. He coined the term hyperobject to explain objects so massively distributed in time and space as to transcend localization. Should a hypercomputer be considered in such terms -- especially in relation to any consideration of hypersubjectivity, as discussed separately (Reality and existence of complex abstractions, 2014) ?

*** rescher ?

Poetry?: As noted by Lawson:

Realist philosophers, and those who endorse the project to correctly describe an independent reality, have tended to regard poetry as a romantic flourish, a flowery plaything, while the true work of language takes place in the realm of the literal...

He continues, however, in the light of his argument above:

It is for this reason that the non-realist is led towards poetry. If we are not capable of describing the world, such a claim cannot be made literally without it being at once self-denying. For, if the statement we are not capable of describing the world is itself taken as a description of the world - which at first sight it appears to be -- it is not possible to provide the statement with meaning since it denies itself.... And it is here that a poetic stance seemingly allows the non-realist philosopher a space from which to be able to speak. A means of talking that does not involve a commitment to the real. Hence Wittgenstein's remark: "I think I summed up my attitude to philosophy when I said: Philosophy ought really to be written only as poetic composition.