RE: Markov Chains can Remember and Plan too

Crosby_M (
Thu, 26 Sep 1996 19:11:00 -0400

On Thursday, September 26, 1996 4:06PM David Musick wrote:

Mark Crosby wrote:
"We are not Markov chains because we have memory AND we can plan
ahead.... The teleology of being nostalgic and goal-directed violates
the first-order Markovian property of finite-state systems."

David responded:
"A deterministic computer can also have memory [snip] 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. 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."


That said, I don't completely dismiss the possibility that there might
be some rational semantic equivalent to some of the concepts normally
associated with the terms 'life-force' and 'soul' (I'm thinking in
particular of David Krieger's discussion with David Ross in the 1994 3rd
quarter Extropy, "Souls, Cyberspace, Sins & Singularities"). Still, I
completely agree with David Musick that "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."

Perhaps my statement, "Maxwell's immortal demon, at last perhaps?" was
misinterpreted as implying a belief in magic or perpetual motion. It
was supposed to be humorous. I was trying to make the case that there
might be EXTROPIC forces that complement or sometimes counteract
ENTROPIC forces.

In fact, check out the 9/21/96 Science News where there is an article
describing how experiments with polystyrene spheres in water show that
entropy of particles at one scale can actually induce organization of
particles at another, larger scale.

My problem with Markov chains as a model for real-world processes (aside
from my naive undertanding of the mathematics involved, which was
clearly stated in my original post) is that (I think, correct me if I'm
wrong) they can only model discrete objects and don't allow for the
possibility of interaction with other objects at the time of state
transition. While John K. Clark has nicely explained how random inputs
can be incorporated into the state-transition probabilities using
various stochastic distributions, I'm still not clear on whether these
can account for the types of intentional changes that humans, among
other living organisms can produce.

Mark Crosby