Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Can't We Be Programmable People?

You know, if all we are is what the physical sciences say we are - chemicals, electrical impulses and the like - why can't we be programmed better? Why can't we have simple algorithms that govern our behavior?

If (num_beers > beer_limit) no_more_beers();

If (anger_level > 8) cool_down();

If (NewcastleUnited.sells(YohanCabaye) == TRUE) beer_limit = 100;

It would prevent so many problems in our lives. We wouldn't have to fall back on that unreliable "will power" which is derived from "free will" which doesn't exist anyway.

Hey, maybe that's why we continue to sin. We're relying on self-denial which has an illusory basis in free will!

There, I've cracked the code. Time to set beer_limit = 45 and crack some cold ones.



tim eisele said...

I think that in your example, the problem isn't a lack of algorithms, but in the lack of ability to *change* the algorithms. Just how do you go about resetting your personal beer variable? How do you compile and run a new piece of code?

Things change, after all. An algorithm with "beer-limit" set to "all I can get" might be fine if you are a pastoral nomad and have to make all of your own beer, but is no longer workable when you can just hop down to the store and buy a few cases.

K T Cat said...

So, if I read you right, an ant colony would have this:

for (i=0; i>-10; i++;) gather(food);

no matter how much they destroy their own environment, killing off the sources of future food.


tim eisele said...

Yeah, pretty much. Ants will collect food until something else stops them. Like death. The big anthills that I see around the place will completely devastate the entire area around their nest, to within the distance that an individual can walk without getting lost, killed, or eaten by something else. They seem to have no concept of satiation.