Science & Scientist 2022: Difference between Artificial & Natural Intelligence - II

December 12, 2022 - December 13, 2022
Princeton Bhakti Vedanta Institute & Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute

Krishnanagar
India

This event is available both online and in-person

Sponsor(s):

  • Indian Council of Philosophical Research

Speakers:

University of Delhi
(unaffiliated)
Bhakti Vedanta Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science
Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute Of Spiritual Culture And Science

Organisers:

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute Of Spiritual Culture And Science

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In modern times, scientists are posing such questions as, "Can computers become conscious?", "Can robots think and feel like human beings?", and so on. Such questions are of foundational importance, and it is necessary to address them based on ontological considerations and related epistemology.

The Indic traditions are rich in their philosophical foundations and their ancient culmination in Vedanta has produced and preserved the deepest thoughts of our forefathers, among whom lived great sages. They considered questions of intelligence and consciousness, causality, epistemology, and their relevance in practical applications. Changes in scientific thinking in the twenty-first century have shifted the frontiers of development more in favour of Vedanta. Intelligence and consciousness have become in themselves very important dimensions of study.

Natural intelligence is an inherent function of cognition. All living organisms naturally display intelligence at a cellular, behavioral, and community level. However, no perfect ontological definition of intelligence exists within the realm of molecular chemistry and physics. On the other hand, computers and machines are being programmed intelligently to execute important tasks. Its applications are found in Robotics, Aerospace engineering, Computers, Medical Aids etc. Some robots have been programmed to even make songs and poems to and imitate intelligent human activities. It is very important to take up a comparative study to examine the difference between two forms of intelligence. This will help us to understand the deeper questions about life and its deeper meaning. The Vedantic traditions clearly guide the thoughtful human being to search in the direction of Spirit (Brahman) for finding true solutions to problems of life. But oftentimes in the conventional approach of science, man’s focus is more or less in the domain of matter to solve the problem of consciousness and life in which he fails to find any rational and concrete understanding. In this conference the organizers would take up the task of posing these questions among the participants and contributors of papers from various background. The location of this conference is Nabadwipa Dham, which is an ancient place of great Vedantic Scholars. Nabadwipa was also very famous as an important center of Nyaya Philosophy. This will provide a perfect platform for the thoughtful scholars to deliberate on these important topics.

Nature of Artificial Intelligence

Some of the proponents of AI assume that the nature of human brain is like that of a machine and therefore they assume that if human can think then so can a machine. Some believe that if a computer can be programmed correctly to emulate certain human processes, then it is to all intense and purposes thinking as we do. One of the beginning tests to address this was the Turing’s test. Examples of programs which were put through the Turing test are ELIZA and SHRDLU. Attempts were made to emulate aspects of human conversation through these programs. In 1984 John Searle came up with another test which have shown the defects in Turing’s test and thereby devalued Turing’s test as it could not state whether the machine understood anything by simply following some programmed algorithm. Computers have Syntax but no Semantics. Searle frequently refers to 'causal properties' and 'intentionality' and has stated that artificial system would lack both, and that somehow the human brain has both. This raises the question of mind and brain duality. Are they one or separate entities? Searle's argument has the implication that human brain has a mind, but there is no mind within an artificial mechanical machine. But how can understand that human brain has a mind and how does it arise? This raises questions about biological substance that are not understood with a machine paradigm.

Nature of Natural Intelligence

However, natural intelligence as found in living organisms is characterized by internal teleology. Living organisms utilize their intelligence for their own purposes. Furthermore, living organisms are endowed with notions like self-identity, as well as self – other – identity distinction. According to the Bhagavad-Gita, knowledge means to know the difference between life and matter. Schelling explained that when consciousness attenuates to zero, it becomes known as matter. Machine is an arrangement of matter, by an intelligent person. Hence machine possesses the quality of external teleology. But living organisms are naturally sentient and are characterized by internal teleology. Natural intelligence is an inherent function of cognitive faculty. Organisms naturally solve problems of finding food, self-defense, playful activities and sleep etc. Such purposes are not found in machines. Immanuel Kant therefore coined the term Naturzweck for organisms and zweck for machines.

Molecular concepts are inadequate for addressing natural intelligence. Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock once said, "Every time I walk on grass, I feel sorry because I know the grass is screaming at me." In other words, plants are sophisticated beings possessing all the sensitivities that are associated with life. The object of her study (plants) became subjects in their own right. She said, "A goal for the future would be to determine the extent of knowledge the cell (organism) has of itself and how it utilizes this knowledge in a thoughtful manner when challenged." McClintock envisioned that the science of organisms will have to be reorganized its whole way of looking at living organisms and doing research. A completely new realization of the relationship of things to each other is necessary. But she was quite clear that at present we lack the tools needed to explain the observations of the laboratory within mechanistic logic. We lack concepts of wholes when they are irreducible to their parts (molecular components like DNA). Organisms are naturally Intelligent, meaning they are internally purposive and, they exhibit cause/consequence circularity. The Cambridge declaration of consciousness has also held by consensus that all animals are conscious and display intelligent behavior.

Natural intelligence is the property of the whole organisms and cannot be explained in terms of artificial intelligence concepts of popular linear mechanical logic. Distinguishing plant and animal intelligence by the term "natural intelligence" can be considered appropriate for denoting cellular and organismal intelligence. Arguments from Kant and Hegel show natural intelligence will require teleological explanations. Kant expressed his thoughts as, "There will never be a Newton for the blade of grass."  In other words, the law-governed lower activities of matter (physics and chemistry) are of insufficient explanatory relevance when explaining natural intelligence. Teleological explanations are the proper foundation for explanation of all biological phenomena. Higher level teleological explanations such as natural intelligence are substantial concept of organisms. Hegel substantiated the arguments of Kant by giving three requirements for natural teleology: (1) Reciprocal relations between part and whole, i.e. all members are reciprocally momentary means as well as momentary ends. This is the principle of self-preservation, (2) assimilation from environment by which the system of life maintains, develops and objectifies itself, and (3) reproduction, i.e. all organisms must also pursue self-preservation by reproduction by producing itself as another individual of the same species. In reproduction the determination of the entire structure of the organism is manifest. Aristotle has also explained that in the living organism the form and matter are united in potential as well as actual forms. He called its concept as Hylomorphism.

In Vedanta, species have been categorized according to their degree of consciousness as well as their body/form. This is the object/subject unity of a proper understanding of nature. Sankya of Vedanta calls for a subtle/gross conception of matter. The species categorization in Vedanta is based on the consciousness that a particular soul is attached with. The different species are categorized as five koshas or stages of consciousness, (1) annamaya, (2) pranamaya, (3) manomaya, (4) vijnanamaya and, (5) anandamaya koshas. These five stages are hierarchical and are nested. The annamaya stage is the feeding stage and is common to all life forms in the world. This was also understood by Aristotle, when he explained that the nutritive stage is common to all life. The task of reason is to comprehend how the wholes are wholes. The being of the whole must be grasped as not being independent. Reality is in and for itself and not only for consciousness and reason culminates in comprehending the Whole Truth in and for itself the scientific worldviews regarding consciousness are still in their developing stages and there are many genuine questions in the thoughts of scientists which need a systematic approach for a solution.

The Western Philosophers like Descartes and Kant had put many arguments about consciousness which are a matter of constant deliberation. However, Hegel has taken the dialectical thought to its peak within the Western horizon, which was once brought out and defended by great philosophers like Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle throughout history. However if we carefully examine, it is India where these thoughts have been explained in most careful and logical manner through the ages by great personalities like Srila Vyasadeva, Sripad Madhvacharya,  Sripad Ramanujacharya, Sripad Vishnuswami and Sripad Nimbarka Acharya and their followers. Finally, within the past 500 years the contributions of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and thereafter Sripad Baladeva Bidyabhusana Prabhu has raised the philosophical concepts through their dialectical approach to the very zenith. Even the great philosophical systems of West, including those of Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, and further the modern and postmodern philosophies stand to benefit and enriched with the contribution of Vedanta. However, our primary focus to achieve this is focused towards the scientific progress in the 21st century which must be taken to a more humble position to solve the more difficult problems of Reality which Vedanta and philosophy has always understood. The problems of philosophy cannot be solved by ignoring them. A culture of mutual harmony, understanding, reason and thought exchange will benefit science, philosophy and Vedanta. 

Approach

Our approach is to extract and distill the essence from the advance scientific and technological wisdom within the phenomenon of a multi religious and multi-philosophical background with the help of the Vedantic wisdom so that a wonderful basis for dialogue can be created.

Two ICPR-sponsored sessions on ‘Difference between Natural Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence’ will be important sessions of National focus in the 9th International Conference: Science and Scientist - 2022". The main theme of the conference is "Scientist can explain Science, but is Science able to explain the Scientist?’ The ontological role of the conscious scientist in the scientific enterprise is a topic that is rarely, if ever addressed in many of the theoretical fields of science. Yet this is the most glaring failure that science suffers and is leading to its contemporary crises.

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute raises awareness about these aspects and presents some of the ways cutting-edge scientists are dealing with this problem in various fields of scientific research. Cognitive science and philosophy have made many advances over the past few decades, of which only a few scientists may have studied or may be aware. The scientific endeavor requires thinking which is in itself a subjective act. Yet there is no concept in conventional science that explains the subject. Twentieth century quantum mechanics brought back the subjective paradigm within the scientific compass and today in biology, the concept of a sentient-organic-system is redefining all our concepts in that field. This is bringing in a sea change in the western world and leading institutions like Harvard, Cambridge, MIT, and so on, are taking the study of cognition and its role in biology in earnest.

Hence our approach is to bring together the leading scientists with qualified Vedantists and facilitate the process of disseminating the knowledge of Vedanta by providing a basis for harmony with science.

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December 12, 2022, 9:00am IST

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