Available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon.

Expediting transition the new foundation of knowledge

Daniel Alroy

April 16, 2017

 

1.

Evolution, the knowledge of what ought to be done, and survival

 

1.1

The core problem. From an evolutionary perspective, the function of conscious knowledge is to improve prospects of survival. It involves coupling what can be done with what ought to be done. However, Empiricism has severed that coupling. As a result, long-term global trends emerged, including

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Demography. The explosive growth of the world’s population from less than one billion at the outset of the first industrial revolution to more than seven billion now. During the balance of the current century the population of Africa is projected to increase by some 4 billion. Most of the explosive growth is likely to overflow to other areas as Africa is not expected to be able to feed these additional billions.

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Pollution. Increased food production has kept pace with the rapidly growing population but waste disposal has not. The resulting accumulation of pollution in the air, land and seas is not reversible or stoppable this century.

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Climate change. Burning fossil fuels has increased the carbon dioxide (CO2) level to over 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in over three million years, when the sea level was some 20 meters higher than now. The CO2 level is projected to increase to 600 ppm during this century – a level that did not exist for fifty million years (Gavin Foster et al 2017)

1.2

The pace of technological progress.

 

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Information technology. In the decade of the 1960s, the cost of processing a unit area of silicon of an integrated circuit remained roughly the same. During that period, the number of transistors per unit area increased by a thousand-fold, resulting in a corresponding thousand-fold drop in the cost per transistor.

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Biotechnology. Between 2003 and 2015 the cost of sequencing a human genome dropped by about million-fold.

1.3

Knowledge about deciding what ought to be done is dysfunctional

 

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Science and technology are silent on what ought to be done. Science advances the knowledge of what is. Technology, the application of science, provides knowledge of what can be done and how. Neither science, nor technology, can address the question of what ought be done. 

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Ethics based on historical religions. The different religions provide conflicting prescriptions of what ought to be done. Being over a thousand years old, they are not suitable to provide specific guidance in technologically novel situations.  

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Ethical systems of the West are based on denying innate commonalities. We now know that humans possess innate commonalities and that these commonalities constitute the basis for human nature and ought to be the basis for universals of conduct.  Empiricism, the basic theory of knowledge in the West, is based on what we now know to be the empirically false assumption that no human capacity is innate. The result is that ethical and legal systems of the West are relativistic. As such they are intrinsically unsuitable to address long-term global issues.

1.4

Severing the coupling of what can be and what ought to be done. The brief description above is of a grim situation. Humanity does not presently have any conceptual framework with which to review and resolve the issue of what ought to be done. Even under the best scenarios, changes would take generations while technological changes take place at warp speed. It is as if technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future while a dysfunctional guidance system has set the trajectory toward possible extinction.

2.

Controlling our destiny

   

2.1

Biotechnology. Recent advances in biotechnology have made it possible to sequence, analyze, and modify the genome of an individual. These techniques, taken together, can be used to wrest from nature our future evolution. This development is the most important in human history since humans branched off from other primates some 7 million years ago.

2.2

Bioethics. At present, bioethics is one of several disciplines within ethics. Currently, it is tainted by the troubled epistemological legacy of the West. Bioethics should become the most basic area of ethics by recognizing recent findings in neuroscience that humans possess innate commonalities, which constitute human nature. It would then become the ground for making explicit how human nature determines human conduct.

2.3

Survival imperative. Ethics is a field of philosophy; philosophy is deemed to be an academic discipline. In the instant case, however, what is done this century is likely to determine whether or not this millennium is Homo sapiens last. Bringing the foundation of knowledge up to date is a survival imperative, not an academic exercise.

3.

Sociology of knowledge

 

3.1

The centrality of innateness. The single most basic issue at the foundation of knowledge is whether sensations are innate and evoked in the brain. This issue is empirical. Recent findings in neuroscience have conclusively established that sensations are innate. The 300 year-old epistemological tradition that began with Locke is based on an assumption, presently known to be false, that sensations are imported into the brain from sensory receptors and that the brain of a newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa).

3.2

The philosophic community. It is therefore necessary to bring the foundation of knowledge up to date. One major consequence of which is to allow us to reintegrate what can be done with what ought to be done. The philosophic community by-and- large needs more time to acknowledge the new state of affairs. Consider color: C. L. Hardin in his book Color for Philosophers (1986) pleaded with his fellow philosophers not to adopt a position contrary to empirical evidence. Hardin did not appreciate what he was asking of them: giving up the certainty that color is a physical property is equivalent to renouncing Physicalism. Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) called attention to the fact that the acceptance of new paradigms is often delayed due to the epistemological commitment to the outdated paradigm. Max Planck noted that the acceptance of a new paradigm often involves a generational transition. In the current situation, a generation is a very long time. It is in the public interest for the benefits of the new foundation of knowledge to be made accessible with less delay.

4.

Toward a dawn of a new day

 

4.1

Forcing change. I am now in the process of trying to cut short needless delay in making explicit the implications that we possess innate sensations, concepts, and emotions. It is based on recent progress in neuroprosthetics for the deaf and blind. 

4.2

Prosthetics for the deaf. Some children are born with dysfunctional auditory nerves (e.g. neurofibromatosis III). In such cases of the born deaf, auditory prosthesis involves direct electrical stimulation of hearing-related brain areas. Such prosthetics prove that:

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the sensation of sound is innate and is evoked by the brain,

 

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as such, it is not a physical property of air vibration,

 

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and therefore, it is private, subjective, or phenomenal.

 

4.3

Sperry’s Thesis. Roger Sperry in “Neurology and the Mind Body Problem" (1952) noted that physical information from sensory receptors to the brain is like “common currency” and, as such, is devoid of qualitative sensation. Sperry concluded that the sensory quality is determined by the stimulated brain target. Present-day neuroscience has confirmed Sperry’s thesis.

4.4

Prosthetics for the blind. William Dobelle (2000) implanted electrodes in the visual cortex of subjects who had lost their vision, providing them a crude ability to see patterns. Higher resolution cortical prostheses have been developed recently, for example by the Monash Vision Group at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and are due to be implanted to restore vision in subjects who have lost it. The experience of the auditory prosthesis for the born deaf as well as Sperry’s thesis imply that cortical vision prostheses would work similarly well for the born blind. As in the case of the born deaf, such devices would need to be implanted during childhood to minimize the effects of plasticity changes due to disuse.

What would that prove?

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The sensation of light is innate and evoked by the brain.

 

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The sensation of light is not a property of electromagnetic radiation.

 

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The sensation of light is private, subjective, or phenomenal.

 

5.

Anticipated consequences

The realization is shocking that the sensation of light is not part of the external environment but is instead private. Once the dust settles, the great majority of intelligent, educated persons will accept this fact. It would bring to an abrupt end the status of Physicalism as the dominant theory of knowledge. It then would provide a unique opportunity for the philosophic community to undertake the long-term project of making explicit the implications of the new state of affairs.

Advent of the Personal Computer

Daniel Alroy

In 1969 I was a doctorate student in Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. From time to time I evaluated new information technology (IT) companies for possible funding by the then Wall Street firm of Philips, Appel & Walden. One such company was Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) of San Antonio, Texas. I was impressed with the technical competence of the group. However, their initial product the 3300 computer terminal was aimed at the time-shared computing. I therefore had an extended discussion with Austin (Gus) Roche. He quickly agreed with me about the fact that a revolution is taking place in the semiconductor field. He therefore agreed that their next product would contain a central processing unit (CPU), but I failed to convince Gus the need for a user-dedicated personal computer. Instead, their next product, the Datapoint 2200 was an intelligent terminal for a remote time-time shared mainframe computer.

On my return to New York I reported my observations to Jim Walden, the Managing Partner of Philips, Appel & Walden. In response, he suggested that if I form a company to design the right product PhilipsAppel & Walden would fund it. I accepted his offer and named the new company Q1 Corporation.

CTC became Datapoint and did incorporate a central processing unit (CPU) in the Datapoint 2200 terminal. It provided Intel with their CPU design seeking single-chip implementation. But then Datapoint decided to implement the CPU design using discrete components. Since the CPU design was an Intellectual Property (IP) of Datapoint, Intel could not use it. Thus, the project was effectively shelved.

On hearing that, I met with Robert Noyce, who was at the time the President of Intel. I conveyed to Noyce my view that the single-chip 4-bit processor that Intel was developing for Busicom, a Japanese calculator company, was a limited-purpose device. I told Noyce that in contrast the 8-bit single-chip planned for Datapoint would revolutionize information technology. I added that Q1 Corporation would be Intel’s first customer for the 8-bit single-chip microprocessor. Noyce told me that Intel would implement that 8-bit chip project if it could obtain consent from Datapoint to use its CPU logic design. I told Noyce that I believed I could obtain for Intel that consent. I flew to San Antonio, met with Phil Ray, who was then the president of Datapoint, and obtained from him the consent for Intel to implement the Datapoint CPU logic design in a processor chip.

In December 1972, Q1 delivered to Litcom, a division of Litton Industries in Long Island, New York, the world’s first user-dedicated personal computer based on the 8-bit single-chip CPU, named Intel 8008. In 1973 Q1 received a pre-order for 4 microcomputer systems to be based on the next generation 8008 Intel processor (later named the 8080) from the Israeli Supply Mission in Manhattan, New York. In November 1973, Intel sent Q1 several pre-production 8080 microprocessor chips. During the first quarter of 1974 Q1 delivered two pre-production units, which were replaced several months later by regular production units. These were the world’s first deliveries of 8080-based personal computers. In 1975, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) ordered Q1 systems for the eleven bases around the world.

In conclusion, Q1 developed, manufactured, and installed the first the world’s first 8008 and 8080-based personal computers.

 

A non-fiction writer sought

The story of the advent of the personal computer ought to be told more completely. I am not a writer; my focus is on other matters. I can provide the relevant information and documentation to the qualified interested party. Please contact me daniel.alroy1@gmail.com if you are interested in writing this story. The wrier will receive half of the royalties.

 

 

 

Quote of the Week

Kurt Gödel

The a priori is greatly neglected. [1] 

The a priori is very powerful. [2]

[1] In Rudy Rucker’s Infinity and the mind. 1982. P. 181.

[2] In Rudy Rucker’s The lifebox, the seashell, and the soul. 2005. p.8.

 

© 2016 Daniel Alroy