Why Have a Worldview? Reality Will Not Be Viewed

April 14, 2014

Gary Phillips in this book, “Making Sense of Your World” writes: “A worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world, and second, an application of this view to life.”

Thus, I could argue that I don’t have a worldview because I have no explanation of the world. In fact, I claim that no such explanation is possible.

Small House all boarded up - Kinuta Park, Aug. 14, 2010

Small House all boarded up – Kinuta Park, Aug. 14, 2010 (Enlarge)

Theists would probably still wiggle a bit and say my view is indeed a worldview of some sort. Maybe I explain the world insofar as I don’t explain it, or something like that. Maybe my claim that an explanation is impossible counts as an explanation. And certainly it’s true that I apply my view to life, so that part of the worldview definition applies, at least.

I admit that I’m just playing semantic games when I claim I don’t have a worldview. On the other hand, the theists are also playing semantic games by putting so much emphasis on the worldview concept, which they’ve invented in order to pigeon-hole people into broad categories and ignore significant differences in people’s beliefs.

Five Wyoming Houses

  1. Imagine a house out in Wyoming with picture windows offering a wonderful view of Grand Teton. That’s fine, but it would be even better to go outside and see Grand Teton without any window at all. Why do we need a particular view on things? We should be able to take in the entirety.

  2. Or imagine another house in Wyoming with only one tiny window, but there’s a telescope looking out and swiveling around this way and that. Who can say whether this view of Grand Teton is better or worse than the other house with the big windows?

  3. Suppose there’s a third house right close to the other two, and this house has no windows except for a skylight in the roof. People can look straight up into the endless sky! But they don’t see any mountains at all.

  4. And a fourth house among the others has something they call a window, but it’s really a high-definition video screen. People can enjoy gorgeous views of Hawaii’s beaches by looking through the video screen “window.” Who can say this view is false? In what sense is the Hawaii beach scene worse than the picture window view of Grand Teton?

  5. Yet a fifth house is really no house at all but simply the skull of a human being walking around in Wyoming. The skull has two eye holes giving wonderfully rich views of Grand Teton. The point of this example is, of course, that we can never view something without a viewpoint.

    Nevertheless, we should still try to imagine what the world is really like apart from any viewpoint. This is a good exercise because we can understand that viewpoints always distort reality in one way or other. And most importantly, we can understand that no viewpoint is the same as reality. We shouldn’t think reality is identical to some viewpoint, or to the totality of all possible viewpoints, etc. Reality exists even when nobody views it at all!

How does this apply to artificial intelligence?

Most AI theorists are focusing on information or computation or computer algorithms or digital models. It’s important to realize that all these things are symbolic representations. Thus, they are “worldviews.” They are tools we use to look at reality, but they are not reality in themselves!

In order to create true AI, we can’t just make a representation of it or a symbol of it. We must make it the real thing.

Real AI won’t just talk about the world, but it must take action in the world.

Real AI can’t just be a puppet carrying out our actions by proxy, but it must carry out its own actions.