One of our recent, frequent participants here at Telicthoughts — aiguy — had what I consider to be a fascinating, intriguing comment here:
http://telicthoughts.com/are-dem-bunny-prints/#comment-193453, which I quote below:
Indeed – I can learn!
And so can my computer. Using genetic and other machine learning algorithms, it has learned to design complex machines that I didn't even understand until I saw them work. Not only that, but it decides all by itself what it is that it wants to design!
It really is so counter-intuitive to see how simple laws and a deterministic machine operating according to blind, natural processes gives rise to amazingly intelligent results without any intervention from me. I suppose it could be said to demonstrate "foresight" (it produces designs all at once without visible intermediate trial-and-error), but of course everything it does really is completely determined by its innate structure and its interactions with its environment. I have no reason to think it is aware of anything, so if it has beliefs and desires it doesn't know it. I really don't think it knows what it is doing – or why.
Yup, a completely unconscious, blind, unaware, deterministic physical mechanism operating according to nothing but fixed law and chance, incapable of doing anything but what it does, and there it is grinding out artifacts of complex form and function. Intelligence is so cool!
I thought this was be a good discussion topic. First, a few questions for aiguy:
1. I know next to nothing about computers. Could you explain for a layman how your computer goes about deciding what to design and how to design it?
2. This computer, you say, operates according "to nothing but fixed law and chance." The "genetic and other machine learning algorithms" that it uses — did it stumble upon them by fixed law and chance? Or were they programmed into it? And if they were programmed into it, was it by chance, or were they programmed by someone making an intelligent decision?
3. And these "genetic and other machine learning algorithms" — were they produced by chance, or were they intelligently designed?
I agree with you that your computer is intelligent, by the way. And I think your other comment,
This is why I say ID folks should be in the habit of qualifying what they think the evidence actually supports, rather than leaving it up to each reader's intuitive conception of mind.
is a very good one. If ID is true, it could be that the designer is a computer.