Try parallel processing…
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A computer program will behave in exactly the same way at any time on any computer, given the same initial state. A software program is an example of a “pattern”. The program may be copied. Two copies of the program will behave exactly the same way on two different computers even though the two computers, on which the program copies run, are made up of completely different atoms from one another.
Because the computer program is a pattern, it could be translated into an entirely different programming language and run on an entirely new type of computer. The computers are patterns as well. The pattern called “computer” and the pattern called “program” have a degree of independence from the stuff of which they are made. At the physical level, the atoms, and electrons, and the energy states are absolutely 100% different on both machines and both “copies” of the “same” program, yet the programs behave in exactly the same way on the “design” level!
Ultimately, the computer and the program that runs on it are subject to the pre-determined laws at the physical level, but the patterns at the design level are subject to a much stronger force – that imposed by the pattern itself. Even though the atoms, the initial state and everything about the two computers and the two programs can be absolutely 100% different in space, time, behavior, initial state, molecular structure, elements, and on and on…, the pattern manages to “overrule” the pre-determined physical state that the computer and the program will be in at the start and the end of the running at end of the program. We are not even concerned over the “physical” state of the pattern, only the “design” state of the pattern.
Patterns are at least somewhat independent of the stuff of which they are made. A boat is a pattern. If it has several parts replaced on it, as the parts wear out, it is still recognized as the same boat. A person is a pattern with atoms and cells that are constantly changing.
Similar to the program pattern, identical twins are born with identical copies of a DNA pattern, but each copy is obviously made up of separate molecules. The twins rapidly form separate identities because their initial conditions and environments are different at both the physical and the pattern level.
Unlike boats; DNA, people, computers, and Turing machines all are patterns that contain a type of memory and take input from the outside environment in the world in which they exist. DNA and people are different from computers and Turing machines, somewhat due to their relative complexity, but largely because their overall behavior are subject to both physical changes and pattern states. Physical objects, independent of the person or the DNA may change their respective pattern behavior in unpredictable ways, but they can adapt to the changes within limits. Unless pre-programmed in advance, to accept inputs, for example, an ordinary software program will ignore external events. A computer will simply stop functioning if its parts wear out.
Although, ultimately “it is all physical”, the white blood cell reacts to the germ that it “detects” in the blood stream, because it is “programmed” by the DNA to seek and destroy germs, not merely clumps of amino acids, but the special pattern we may call a “germ”.
DNA mutates in a random way due to being struck by various particles. These mutations are the physical mechanisms by which Evolution occurs. Mother Nature would not get very far by merely following low-level physical laws. Random change must be augmented by a Design mechanism – the Pattern of Natural Selection which is used to select the most “useful” designs for replication, and to eliminate the “bad” designs. Natural Selection is a very slow process, because it is so closely linked to the natural physical level. That is why relatively simplistic life forms do not have many degrees of freedom. However, as the patterns (life forms), become more and more complex, with patterns layering upon other layers of patterns, they gain more and more freedom from their physical makeup. Each pattern layer is subject to the new laws of the pattern “designs” of the layers “below” allowing a slightly higher degree of freedom from the underlying physical layer.
The computer program “if” statement “reacts” to the value (pattern, design) of “true” or “false”, and does not give one hoot about the makeup of the computer or how the “true” or “false” is ultimately represented at the physical level. An “if” statement embedded inside a computer program follows rules that are designed into the programming language. The computer program may be of the sort, such as the Java programming language, that is interpreted by a virtual machine – yet another program. The virtual machine is said to run “on top of” the computer operating system. Eventually, these multiple layers of programs (patterns) get converted into the machine language that the Central Processing Unit (CPU) “understands”. The CPU, in turn, is made up of patterns of circuits. The circuits are made up of a complex pattern of logical “AND”, “NOR” and “NOT” gates, and are manufactured out of silicon and various other elements, consisting of atoms, and powered by electricity.
Each layer outlined above, from the bottom physical layers, to the top software layers, have room for multiple design or pattern variations in their makeup. As long as each pattern layer is designed in such a way as to produce the same outputs and accept the same inputs that are “expected” by the layers immediately above and below it, the design variations will not affect the state of the program of interest at the top layer. In general, the higher the level in the pattern layers, the higher the degrees of freedom one has in the design of that level. The original program could be written in several different ways, and still express identical results to the original.
A child playing catch with a friend (obviously consisting of many more complex layers than a computer program) may decide to move out of the way of the ball rapidly flying towards his face, because the ball is going to smack him in the face and it will hurt. The physical state of the ball is of no immediate interest. It could be any baseball at any time in any space – it is the “ball” and “face” and “pain” patterns that are the important pieces of information stored somewhere in the child’s brain. It could be any child playing with any friend. It is not inevitable that the child will be hit by the ball or that child will avoid the ball.
The child’s conscious level is built upon countless pattern-based “design” layers which allows for a degree of freedom allowing for the avoidance of the “inevitability” of being struck by the ball. The child’s conscious mind is much more influenced both by the patterns it is processing, and the patterns doing the processing, than by the physical stuff that the child’s brain is made of.
Ultimately, the physical structures of the atoms involved do matter. The physical laws do determine the direction, speed, and force of impact of the ball. The brain is physically made out of atoms, but the baseball player does not care or think about those things. The player is considering the patterns (and avoiding pain).
As Daniel Dennet aptly pointed out (Freedom Evolves – Viking Penguin, 2003), Free Will and Determinism are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. Indeed, an agent “pattern”, with a memory and feedback from the external world can make predictions better in a fully deterministic universe than it could in a non-deterministic universe. Calculation can be made by that agent, to avoid dangers, seek energy sources, improve its local environment, self-replicate, communicate (via yet another set of patterns following rules) with other similarly-patterned agents, and so on.
Above, I mentioned that “patterns at the design level are subject to a much stronger force – that imposed by the pattern itself”. “A much stronger influence” is a more accurate phrase. Weaker forces seem to have stronger influences at macroscopic levels than do the strong forces.
At the sub-atomic level, we see that there seems to be a non-deterministic quantum state “ruling” this “lowest level of all worlds” world – the center of the onion. However, it is masked by a more deterministic, atomic-level “pattern” one, or just a few levels above it.
The Neutrons and Protons consist of sets of 3 quarks each, held by the strong nuclear force. A residual force holds the nucleus together. The weak nuclear force works at a larger distance but is obviously weaker. The Electro-magnetic force controls electrons, with the residual binging atoms to create molecules.
Already, at these lower pattern levels, determinism seems to overcome the quantum effect. The larger the pattern, the more reliable and useful they become. For example, on my way to work, I do not have to hunt for the local Starbucks, where I get my coffee for my long trek to work in the morning. It is a sure bet that I will drive past two or three withing the first 20 minutes of my commute.
Gravity is a force that is so weak, that scientist are just now getting the point where it can be measured at distances down to the millimeter. I have heard that gravity is 5-10 orders of magnitude weaker than the electro-magnetic force, yet it has a dominant influence over ordinary matter! As I sit here at my computer desk, I can very much feel gravity holding me down on my chair. The patterns of solar systems and galaxies are not “interested” in the stronger forces. Still larger patterns are dominated by Dark Energy (from the vacuum of space?) Is this because the entire Universe is the largest and greatest pattern?
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