Markov Chains can Remember and Plan too

David Musick (
Thu, 26 Sep 96 20:06:03 UT

Mark Crosby wrote:

"We are not Markov chains because we have memory AND we can plan ahead.
In other words, in addition to accidents and active seeking of
alternatives, we also are able to apply past states (experience) to
current situations. The teleology of being nostalgic and goal-directed
violates the first-order Markovian property of finite-state systems."

A deterministic computer can also have memory (it can retain information which
are processed as being information which should be kept, just like we do (we
don't remember everything, only those memories which are successful enough to
maintain themselves in our brain environment; most memories are pieced
together from very fragmentary information in a way that makes sense to us),
and it can plan ahead by anticipating the probability of future events based
on whatever type of algorithims it has been programmed with or has evolved.
Having these abilities doesn't somehow, magically transform the deterministic
computer into a non-deterministic computer. And us having these abilities
doesn't magically transform us into non-Markov chains. Markov chains can
exibhit memory and planning. These are simply types of algorithms; they are
not magical processes. They are poorly understood processes, but that is no
reason to invoke miracles to explain them. I see no reason to invoke any sort
of "life force" or "soul" to explain ourselves; these are simply ways of
avoiding further analysis. If there is a "life force", what are its
properties? I say, the properties of self-copying, self-maintaining chemical
reactions. What are the qualities of our "souls"? Only the qualities arising
from the activities in the brain. This false dichotomy, between the mind and
matter is one of the things that really bothers me. This stubborn desire for
the magical.

We, our minds and everything about us are part of the natural world, the
physical world. There is no need to propose any sort of super-natural realm
to explain anything. And, in fact, proposing the super-natural is simply a
way of *avoiding* explanation. It may in fact be that the universe is not a
Markov chain, and it may also be that we are not Markov chains, but I think
that our ability to remember and to plan are silly reasons to suppose that we
are not Markov chains, since Markov chains can have the same abilities.
Humans seem to have the irrational urge to think that somehow they escape the
laws of nature which everything else follows. So they propose the fantasies
of God and soul and then complacently think that they are saved by some
magical being instead of saving themselves through their own efforts, through

- David Musick