Re: MD Level 5...?

From: Platt Holden (
Date: Sun Sep 20 1998 - 21:23:19 BST

Hi Horse, Kilian and LS:

First. a warm welcome to Kilian whose initial post was well thought
out and presented in spite of dormitory distractions. -:)

I wrote:

>>Since the Internet and computer viruses are both creations of
>>level 4. they cannot surpass level 4. So far as I know, the rule of
>>GIGO still holds in computerland.

Kilian responded:

>The problem I see with this is that Pirsig wrote that a higher static
>pattern of evolution *originates* from a lower one (LILA, p.179) the
>catalyst of such a reaction being DQ: out of non-life came life, out
>of chaotic life came social organization … I’m sure you can all see
>this pattern. Why is it therefore impossible that a L5 could be
>partially dependent, at least in origin, on a L4 creation that arouse
>as a response to DQ?...

Horse also responded:

>But isn’t this a bit like saying that since intellect is a creation of
>level 3 then it cannot surpass level 3. As I’ve said in a number of
>posts it is the interaction between patterns of value which gives rise
>to an emergent level. The more complex the interaction between
>patterns of value then the more likely it is that a new level could

I don't agree with the implication that “intellect is a creation of level
3.” Intellect is a creation of Dynamic Quality. Nor do I agree that “it
is the interaction between patterns of value which gives rise to an
emergent level.” It is Dynamic Quality that gives rise to an emergent

I base this opinion on what Pirsig says two paragraphs prior to the
paragraph Kilian cited above (and in other places):

“The laws that create and destroy these patterns are not the laws of
electrons and protons and other elementary articles. The forces that
create and destroy these patterns are the forces of VALUE.”
(Emphasis added.)

In other words it’s the force of DQ, the dynamic aspect of the MOQ,
which *creates* new levels, not accidental interactions between
levels as Horse claims.

Kilian suggests that perhaps the creation of computer viruses and
the Internet comprising a level 5 could be attributed to a level 4
response to DQ. But Pirsig makes it clear that levels don't respond to
DQ. Only individuals do:

“And beyond that is an even more compelling reason: societies and
thoughts and principles themselves are no more than static patterns.
These patterns by themselves can’t perceive and adjust to Dynamic
Quality. Only a living being can do that.” (LILA p.185.)

Since Horse seems to possess almost a religious faith in the
potential of artificial intelligence, and perhaps Kilian to a lesser
extent (along with a raft of talented science fiction writers), it’s
understandable of them to attempt to expand the MOQ to encompass
what they envision as a whole new level in a world of super well-
endowed robots. But, there’s no indication that Pirsig shares this
view, nor do computer experts agree that true AI will be attained at
ANY level. To quote from David Gelernter whose name and
credentials are well known among computer scientists:

“If a running program is an information processor, does that mean it
is just like the brain? After all, the brain is an information processor,
too, right? Wrong: the brain is no mere information processor, it is a
*meaning creator*--and meaning creation is a trick no computer
can accomplish. ... You can build a sophisticated digital rose-
recognition system,. wave a rose in front of it and thereby bring
about lots of electrical activity; and perhaps after a while some
words will appear on a screen -- “rose recognition accomplished” or
“damn, what a rose!”.-- but no one and nothing has had the
sensation of having seen anything. And no computer scientist has
any reason to believe that any computer ever *will* have such a
sensation, or any other sensation. Granted there is no reason in
principle why you couldn’t build a machine that shares with the brain
this remarkable capacity; but there is also no reason to suppose you
could do it without reproducing the brain itself.”

Incidentally, this quote comes from Gelernter’s book “Machine
Beauty” where you’ll find the entire first chapter devoted to a
stunning confirmation of the MOQ. Note his emphasis in the above
passage on the brain as a *meaning creator.* As wonderful as
computer technology may be, what can it tell us about the MEANING
of a computer virus or the MEANING of the information on the
Internet? Science and technology are concerned with means; the
MOQ (and most of us) are concerned with meanings. There’s a
huge, huge difference.

In any event, thanks to Horse and Kilian for their responses. We
learn from one another even if we don’t always agree. Good old DQ
at work.


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