ISF Logo   IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Science, Mathematics, Medicine, and Technology
 

Notices


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Tags consciousness , robots

Reply
Old 13th August 2009, 09:24 AM   #321
roger
Penultimate Amazing
 
roger's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 11,465
I need to retreat on a point. I've been proceeding as if Church-Turing is proven. It is not proven, however, it is assumed to be true.

Turing wrote about computability models that aren't Turing reducible. Hypercomputation generally involves introducing elements like oracles (something that somehow magically knows the right answer), infinities (calculate an infinite amount of work in a finite time), infinite superpositions in QM, etc. In short, nothing that appears to be physically realizable. Mark Burgin claims to have a physically realizable super-recursive algorithm, but his results are not accepted in the mathmatics community.

So of course what I've been arguing is not proven without exception. However, so far as I am aware no one has suggested a physically realizable non-Turing computation model. Every suggestion breaks some currently known feature of physics. Which is not to say what we know about physics won't change.

But what to do? Argue what is possible based on what we know, or just throw things out and argue anything? Based on what we know, the brain is computable. New evidence could change that understanding. Hand waving and personal incredulity arguments aren't interesting (to me).

I wish DrKitten was here. She's quite knowledgeable about computability, and would have slapped me around for my earlier mistakes.
__________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir
roger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 11:41 AM   #322
rocketdodger
Philosopher
 
rocketdodger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 6,946
Originally Posted by roger View Post
However, so far as I am aware no one has suggested a physically realizable non-Turing computation model. Every suggestion breaks some currently known feature of physics. Which is not to say what we know about physics won't change.
I could be wrong, but my understanding is that Penrose does just this, although he goes about it the opposite way by asserting that our consciousness is a non-Turing model and just leaving the reader to figure out just what that model might be.

I think it has something to do with microtubules giving human neurons access to quantum computing resources that would allow us to implement genuine non-deterministic state machines, or whatever other advantages a quantum computer might have.

Originally Posted by roger View Post
I wish DrKitten was here. She's quite knowledgeable about computability, and would have slapped me around for my earlier mistakes.
Wait... drkitten is a woman?
rocketdodger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 11:49 AM   #323
drkitten
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21,629
Originally Posted by roger View Post
I need to retreat on a point. I've been proceeding as if Church-Turing is proven. It is not proven, however, it is assumed to be true.

Turing wrote about computability models that aren't Turing reducible. Hypercomputation generally involves introducing elements like oracles (something that somehow magically knows the right answer), infinities (calculate an infinite amount of work in a finite time), infinite superpositions in QM, etc. In short, nothing that appears to be physically realizable. Mark Burgin claims to have a physically realizable super-recursive algorithm, but his results are not accepted in the mathmatics community.

So of course what I've been arguing is not proven without exception. However, so far as I am aware no one has suggested a physically realizable non-Turing computation model. Every suggestion breaks some currently known feature of physics. Which is not to say what we know about physics won't change.

But what to do? Argue what is possible based on what we know, or just throw things out and argue anything? Based on what we know, the brain is computable. New evidence could change that understanding. Hand waving and personal incredulity arguments aren't interesting (to me).

I wish DrKitten was here.
Ask and ye shall receive -- PM and it shall be opened unto you. We're talking about models of computation that are not Turing equivalent? Yes, they exist, there are a lot of them, and no one pays any attention to them because no one can figure out either how to build one or even what we'd use them for.

With that said, all analog computation is inherently non-TM equivalent due to the butterfly effect. In that sense, every system we build is actually more powerful than a TM and we spend a tremendous amount of time and effort lobotomizing it to make it "only" as powerful as a TM, under the guise of noise resistance. If you have any continuous quantities at all (and as far as I know, most physicists are still fairly confident that space and time are continuous), then you have the potential to pack infinitely much information into a single data point. Since the brain involves timing information, the brain is potentially non-computable.

No one takes this possibility seriously. At least, not while the bars are still open.

Similarly, you can build a non-TM system by including an oracle (essentially, a direct pipeline to God). We may have an oracle neuron in our heads. (I went looking for one a while ago and couldn't find it, but I got bored somewhere around the five hundred billionth neuron and lost interest. ) This may, in fact, be how the "soul" magically intervenes in a dualistic framework.

But no one takes this possibility seriously. Even when the bars are closed, and you're standing around the parking lot afterwards, as long as the worm is still in the tequila bottle. In fact, I don't think I've even seen the possibility of an "oracle neuron" proposed in the literature, so if you decide to write this one up for the journals, please cite me.

A more realistic possibility is that chemistry is NOT simply applied QM, and that there are in fact factors that apply at a higher level that the physicists are as yet unaware of. But again this really just boils down to an argument from ignorance.

The most realistic possibility is that the brain is sensitive to other things that we are not aware of and that are not part of the computational framework, and that these things are a key component of consciousness. Here we're on much firmer ground, because we know that neurons are much more environmentally sensitive than TM components. I've been involved in experiments, for example, that involved putting my head in a strong EM field and seeing if I can think clearly -- and the answer, perhaps surprisingly, is "almost so." A hardcore neurocomputationalist would expect that the chemical processes would be unchanged and so there would be no measurable difference. A hardcore "the brain is complicated so you **** with it and it breaks" would expect significant failure. Instead, my performance dropped a few but very reliable percent. This tells me that the EM field generated by the brain itself is an important part of how it operates, and so if we just modelled the electrochemical connections of the neurons, we would not be able to make a brain.

This would make the brain at least "apparently" nonalgorithmic because we weren't tracking all the inputs and outputs of the system when we measured it. Whether or not the EM field could act as a form of oracle neuron or not is an open question, in part because no one has asked it....
drkitten is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 12:04 PM   #324
roger
Penultimate Amazing
 
roger's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 11,465
Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
With that said, all analog computation is inherently non-TM equivalent due to the butterfly effect. In that sense, every system we build is actually more powerful than a TM and we spend a tremendous amount of time and effort lobotomizing it to make it "only" as powerful as a TM, under the guise of noise resistance. If you have any continuous quantities at all (and as far as I know, most physicists are still fairly confident that space and time are continuous), then you have the potential to pack infinitely much information into a single data point. Since the brain involves timing information, the brain is potentially non-computable.
I'm snipping this part out because it is the part that I don't understand.

My thinking was along the lines of Feynmann, stating that we really, really know that at the lowest levels the universe is composed of quanta - discrete packets. To me, this strongly implies that the universe is in fact computable. I know that some forms of hypercomputation assumes say analog natural or real numbers, and this is non-TM, but the claim is that so far it doesn't really represent the physics. I.e. we can talk about the distance between two particles as being represented by a real number, and hence you have infinite data, but the reality of physics strictly limits that due to Heisenberg. However, we have a quote from Hawking (which is argued against by some physicists): Although there have been suggestions that space-time may have a discrete structure I see no reason to abandon the continuum theories that have been so successful. Others, such as Wheeler, strongly disagree with him.

So the next question for me becomes does the sum of that planck scale activity, discrete or not, become effectively discrete, and thus computable? Your bar comment suggests the answer is very most probably, if I read you right.
__________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir
roger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 12:08 PM   #325
roger
Penultimate Amazing
 
roger's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 11,465
Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
This tells me that the EM field generated by the brain itself is an important part of how it operates, and so if we just modelled the electrochemical connections of the neurons, we would not be able to make a brain.

This would make the brain at least "apparently" nonalgorithmic because we weren't tracking all the inputs and outputs of the system when we measured it. Whether or not the EM field could act as a form of oracle neuron or not is an open question, in part because no one has asked it....
Sorry, I wanted to respond to this as well. I don't think any of us are claiming that modelling only the neurons would necessarily be sufficient. There are other factors, not the least the chemical soup they swim in. A better wording would be modelling the brain, which leaves open whatever other influences there are. I don't see any reason to think those influences, known or unknown, would be nonalgorithmic unless it turns out the universe is not discrete, and occurances at that level act on the brain in a meaningful way.
__________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir
roger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 12:19 PM   #326
drkitten
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21,629
Originally Posted by roger View Post
My thinking was along the lines of Feynmann, stating that we really, really know that at the lowest levels the universe is composed of quanta - discrete packets.
Well, Feynmann's wrong. After all, what does he know -- he's only the fourth or fifth smartest human ever to have lived on this planet!

Seriously, though. The universe seems to be (beyond reasonable doubt) composed of discrete packets of "stuff," but that doesn't mean that the framework of the universe (time and space) are. Some physicists have proposed a quantized theory of time and space, but most physicists do not accept them. (Physics is a rough gig, and sometimes you have to propose all sorts of gibberish to get a paper out. Doesn't mean that even the author necessarily believes the gibberish -- even when the gibberish turns out to be true. See "Cat, Shroedinger's.")



Quote:
I know that some forms of hypercomputation assumes say analog natural or real numbers, and this is non-TM, but the claim is that so far it doesn't really represent the physics. I.e. we can talk about the distance between two particles as being represented by a real number, and hence you have infinite data, but the reality of physics strictly limits that due to Heisenberg.
Er, no. Heisenberg's principle simply introduces probabilistic errors into the system; it doesn't neutralize the representational capacity. Suppose that I place two particles a distance x apart, and another two particles a distance x+e where e is less than the Heisenberg limit for the system. While I can't recover the original distance x, I do know (and Heisenberg doesn't contradict me) that it is probable that I will measure the second pair as being more distant than the first.

This allows for the possibility of repeated measurement for arbitrary precision. I can encode a single point with arbitrary precision, and you can measure it with moderate precision. I can then encode the same datum into a different point (with arbitrary precision) and you re-measure until you've achieved better accuracy in representation than a TM can get.

Or you could not bother and assume that the brain is noise-tolerant instead of noise-reliant.

Quote:
However, we have a quote from Hawking (which is argued against by some physicists): Although there have been suggestions that space-time may have a discrete structure I see no reason to abandon the continuum theories that have been so successful. Others, such as Wheeler, strongly disagree with him.

So the next question for me becomes does the sum of that planck scale activity, discrete or not, become effectively discrete, and thus computable? Your bar comment suggests the answer is very most probably, if I read you right.
Yup. Although this kind of stuff is theoretically possible, it would essentially throw most of neuroscience on its head if it were true. Among other things, it means that the most important part of brain effects are not the large scale neural pulses that we can measure, but the tiny microscale things that we can't, which makes mapping techniques like EEGs and PET scans not just misguided but actively wrong. (We're literally judging a brain by the least significant part of its activity....)

Fun to speculate about just before last call, but nothing more.
drkitten is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 12:25 PM   #327
drkitten
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21,629
Originally Posted by roger View Post
Sorry, I wanted to respond to this as well. I don't think any of us are claiming that modelling only the neurons would necessarily be sufficient.
Well, someone wrote this a couple of pages earlier:


Originally Posted by roger View Post
I see that I can't do that in a way that you'll agree, since you apparently don't think that what neurons do is 'computation'. I'll point out that neuroscientists as Krasnow et al are using computational models to produce extremely precise models of neural behavior. [snip]

Second, on the neuron front. We have identified nothing in a neurons behavior that is not computational. The fact that we can simulate it proves it is computational. This is such a basic point that I think you must have some weird definition of 'computation' that is not actually used in information science. To be clear, by the definition the rest of us are using, a lever is computational. A set of equations is computational. An algorithm on a computer is also computational. "Computational" has nothing to do with silicon chips or computers, except that in practice computers sure do computations quick. But neurons do computations too.

Anyway, a single neuron in a petri dish responds to inputs as they come.
I wanted to make sure that people understood that simply modelling neurons in a petri dish was not going to be sufficient to build brains.
drkitten is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 12:44 PM   #328
roger
Penultimate Amazing
 
roger's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 11,465
I have no idea who that idiot is.

One of my big weaknesses in forum posts is not writing precisely. that argument is supposed to be extended to the networks the neurons make, the neurotransmitters, etc.
__________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir
roger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 12:47 PM   #329
drkitten
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21,629
Originally Posted by roger View Post
I have no idea who that idiot is.
Oh, he's hardly an idiot and he makes a very good argument. I just wanted to make sure that people didn't read more into his writing than was intended.
drkitten is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 01:07 PM   #330
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos
Nap, interrupted.
 
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 19,143
Thanks, drkitten.

So, among other things, this leaves us wondering whether noise plays an important role in the workings of the brain. And if it does, whether we could model that noise on a computer in sufficient detail to play the same role.

~~ Paul
__________________
Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. ---Susan Ertz

RIP Mr. Skinny, Tim
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 01:11 PM   #331
drkitten
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21,629
Originally Posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
So, among other things, this leaves us wondering whether noise plays an important role in the workings of the brain. And if it does, whether we could model that noise on a computer in sufficient detail to play the same role.
More or less. Any my off-hand answer would be "no, it doesn't, it's a hindrance there as elsewhere" which renders the second question irrelevant.

But there's definitely an interesting line of research there if anyone wants to chase it and isn't worried about the possibility [probability] of not getting tenured.
drkitten is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 01:16 PM   #332
roger
Penultimate Amazing
 
roger's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 11,465
drkitten, not having personally read Penrose's book, isn't this along the lines of what he was proposing? Basically QM effects making into the macro level, causing non-algorithmic behavior?

Lucky for him he didn't need to get tenure through that book.
__________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir
roger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 01:23 PM   #333
drkitten
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21,629
Originally Posted by roger View Post
drkitten, not having personally read Penrose's book, isn't this along the lines of what he was proposing? Basically QM effects making into the macro level, causing non-algorithmic behavior?
Somewhat. He was proposing that the QM behavior dominates at the synapse level -- i.e. whether or not a synapse triggers is not driven by the electrochemical potential, but by the Mind of God.

But he's not really talking about hypercomputation. He's talking more about God actually running a deterministic universe at below the level where Heisenberg says He's just playing craps.

Quote:
Lucky for him he didn't need to get tenure through that book.
Oh, you know it.

I used to be a great admirer of Penrose. Then he stopped doing math.
drkitten is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 01:24 PM   #334
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos
Nap, interrupted.
 
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 19,143
Some guys not so worried about tenure:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17285879

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...ubmed_RVDocSum

~~ Paul
__________________
Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. ---Susan Ertz

RIP Mr. Skinny, Tim

Last edited by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos; 13th August 2009 at 01:29 PM.
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 01:26 PM   #335
drkitten
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21,629
Originally Posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
Some guys not so worried about tenure:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17285879

~~ Paul
Cool!
drkitten is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 01:39 PM   #336
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos
Nap, interrupted.
 
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 19,143
Also interesting:

http://www2.computer.org/portal/web/...9/FBIT.2007.71

~~ Paul
__________________
Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. ---Susan Ertz

RIP Mr. Skinny, Tim
Paul C. Anagnostopoulos is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:11 PM   #337
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Philosaur View Post
Who's to say that there is no "what it's like" to be the stock market, or a video camera-and-monitor, or a heater-and-thermostat.
The same reason we know that a Barbie doll isn't going to get up and dance the fandango just cause it's got legs.

I sometimes run across the "thermostats could be conscious" line from computer folks who haven't read about the brain.

It's bad reasoning.

It's like saying, well, space shuttles move people around, and skateboards move people around, and I could fly off into orbit on a space shuttle, so maybe I could fly off into orbit on a skateboard.

This line of thinking ignores the fact that flying off into orbit requires equipment that the skateboard ain't got.

There's an idea floating around that consciousness is an "emergent property", but that's not accurate. If it's emergent, then it's an emergent feature or function.

Emergent properties are like the whiteness of clouds. Water droplets aren't white. But get a bunch of them in a cloud, and the cloud appears white, even though its constituents are not white. Compare that with a brick wall, which appears whatever color the bricks are.

So there's this notion that consciousness "emerges" simply by virtue of having a bunch of neurons in one place.

But that's not the case. Consciousness is something the brain does, like vision or motor coordination or regulating breathing. It's a specialized function.

We know thermostats aren't conscious for the same reason we know they dont' breathe (unless, for some reason, a breathing apparatus is built into them). They don't have the equipment for it.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:14 PM   #338
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
I'm running out of time to keep up with this thread. So, I'll perhaps unfairly only respond to a bit. However, it is the crux.

Okay, certainly it has not been proven, but it follows from everything we know about physics. Yes, physics. Physics is, as far as we know, computational. Certainly QM is - our predictions and calculations have reached a level of precision that we have never achieved in any other field.

From physics you get to chemistry. Again, chemistry is computational, so far as we can tell. We conclude this in two different ways. First, we observe that we can compute everything that we have seen so far. Second, reductionism. Chemistry devolves to physics, or QM. Put another way, QM in a macro environment is described as chemistry. And, as we know from Turing, any combination of computable elements is also computable.
QM is computational at a statistical level. There is genuine randomness with regard to specific instances.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:27 PM   #339
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
"Explanatory" - I don't want to be one of those people who grasp a word out of context, but I think you probably chose this word well.

QM is not a good explanatory model of chemistry. No one uses QM to do chemistry, except in certain circumstances. There are far better models.

Yet, there is no doubt that chemistry is merely the sum behavior of QM.

Just because we can't right now come up with an easy computational model for language in no way means that language is not computational.

This is where my assertions of dualism comes in. You are saying the brain is chemicals and networks, both of which we have extraordinary evidence are computable, and then you say the sum of the parts is not computable. It just doesn't follow without a dualist element.
I'm not saying language is not computational.

But we can't yet say that it is.

Now, here you seem to be saying that there is no randomness at any level of granularity in the physical world. A pretty bold statement. Care to back it up?

Of course chemical reactions are extremely predictable.

But to view neuronal activity as an idealized chemical reaction is unjustified. The brain is a biological system, not a test tube.

Some have even hypothesized that a certain degree of randomness must be inherent in biological systems for evolution to occur. Not only for the basic process, but because any totally non-random critter is bound to get wiped out by competitors &/o predators.

And anyway, if you're going to accuse me of introducing a dualist element, I'd appreciate it if you'd explain what it is, rather than saying I "must be" positing one when I haven't actually posited one. You can say I'm wrong, but please, drop this whole dualist thing.

In any case, how important is this to our thought experiment?

Does it really impact the question of neural speed?
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:29 PM   #340
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
Piggy, here you go again, making assertions about a field you know little about. The network of neurons and the information stored in the neurons is the programming. It's a very basic tenet of information theory. Daises are so bad an analogy to a computational brain that I'm astonished that you are suggesting that it is in any way a rebuttal to what I am saying.
Well that's all well and good, but I'm talking about the brain.

And you're over-reaching in your application of information theory.

My point with the daisies was simply that they don't have the equipment to generate consciousness.

Do you really want to dispute that?
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:32 PM   #341
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
Once again you don't understand computable, and you seize on irrelevant aspects. Computable does not mean deterministic, it does not mean rigid, it does not mean an inability to handle fuzziness. And certainly physical robustness has nothing to do with it. Finally, if neurons are computable, they are computable. We are talking about equivalence, not identity.
If there's something I don't understand, then by all means, please explain it and its relevance.

But what jumps out at me is your unwillingness to actually look at the brain.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:33 PM   #342
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
Still computable.
Ok, great. Relevance?
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:34 PM   #343
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
I wonder - I read a book that I now forget, by a prominent language theorist, using arguments much like this. What a terrible book, because he understood nothing about computability. I wonder if you have been influenced either by him or the field in general. Because you have said nothing that is not computable. "Messy" "fluid" "open" are all ill-defined words in the space of information theory. More importantly, nothing you are describing is uncomputable. The book talked about things like Excel, and how it was exact, created the same result every time, and imagine if your taxes were computed differently each time. Sure, but only because the algorithms chosen were for computing taxes. What a misunderstanding of computing - the same misunderstanding you are showing.
Why do you think that an understanding of information theory is all you need to understand how the brain creates consciousness?

ETA: That bit about Excel sounds like horribly bad thinking to me, too.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:39 PM   #344
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
Piggy, as an aside, i think there is a lot of misunderstanding going on because Paul, I and others are referring to concepts that we are very familiar with, and that many books have been written about. When Paul or I say "pencil brain" we know and understand the 100 implications we both mean by that. When Paul says slow the brain down, we understand that we are not talking about the implementation domain, where for a specific implementation you cannot run slower than the impulse speed and duration of the signal. After all, what a boring question to ask - for any given substrate of course there is a speed to slow and a speed too fast. Can you imagine starting a JREF post - can I rev my engine too fast? Well, yes! Duh! Or "Can I run my car engine at 0.000001 rpm" - NO! But we could make an engine to do that, if we wanted.

So from my perspective you are arguing extraordinarily strange things - like comparing a pencil brain to a fart. But then I have at least 10 books by leaders in the field under my belt on this one topic alone, and dozens more on computational theory and the like. I guess I can see where you are coming from if you don't recognize the referents, but on the other hand, recognize we are talking in professional shorthand. Pencil brain for us is a UTM. It's a useful thought experiment because it challenges preconceptions - "how could a pencil think" type feelings. Of course, we aren't saying the pencil thinks, but the system produced by the pencil. It gets right to the crux of the matter.

A physicist might say "acceleration times time is velocity" - in that statement is the assumption that we aren't at relativistic speeds, that we are dealing with macro objects where Heisenberg effects are below our measurement accuracy, all kinds of things that don't need to be explained. A literalist JREFer, fresh from reading a bit of Einstein for the first time, hopping into the conversation, would be sputtering "but relativity states....", etc.

There are genuine misunderstandings about computation in this thread as well, but a lot of the argument is of this nature.
Then it would be courteous to do some explaining.

And btw, I have to confess that what I'm seeing from my POV is a lack of understanding about the brain, the only real-world example we have of a thing which actually creates consciousness.

Perhaps it would be best if we tried to make ourselves understood to each other.

If you would take the time to describe the details of this "pencil brain", then I'll be happy to explain whether it seems plausible that such a thing could do what the brain does when it generates conscious awareness.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:41 PM   #345
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
This is what we have been talking about all along, in the shorthand of 'pencil brain'. But since that is a sticking point for you, try super-big-blue-robot instead without worrying about Turing's math, or 'virtual' vs physical.
Great. Done. Now, regarding this SBB robot, what is the question?
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:45 PM   #346
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
We were talking about a hypothetical world, right? In this world, it is actually possible to use billions of pencils and paper with one for each neuron, and each neuron is described in terms of when it fires, based on what input, and what output the firing results in.
Ok, let's drill down here.

In this hypothetical world, how exactly does any given pencil-paper pair (p3) work like a neuron?

Thanks.

(I know it's cumbersome, but we can't just gloss over that kind of detail if we're going to posit a simulation.)
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:47 PM   #347
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
This huge paper machine will in principle be able simulate a brain complete with consciousness, but obviously each simulated millisecond will take a few centuries to finish in real time.
What does it mean to "simulate" consciousness?

That's a tough nut, because consciousness is a sense of experience.

Are you saying the machine would be conscious?

If not, how has consciousness been simulated?
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:53 PM   #348
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
I can't believe you are asking this question - or I may have no idea what you are thinking about! Practically anything you do on a computer is a virtual simulation. A pencil/paper simulation could never be an actual simulation of anything that does not involve pencils and paper!
That's exactly why I'm asking.

Now, I had my own assumptions earlier when I said there could be no pencil brain with pencil thoughts.

When I said that, I was speaking entirely from the frame of reference of consciousness -- which is a pretty small part of brain activity.

By "thoughts" I mean specifically "conscious thoughts". I don't see other types of thoughts as relevant.

Of course you can make a pencil brain, a cog brain, an abacus brain.

But the OP stipulates a robot which is conscious in the way we are.


So what I'm trying to get at is specifically whether the pencil brain can be conscious.

To do that, it has to do something very specific.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:56 PM   #349
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
It is essential for the simulation to be able to simulate every single element that is part of the consciousness in a real brain. Neurons are fairly simple as far as we know, and they are governed by simple rules, which is excellent for simulations. However, as long as we do not know for sure how exactly to achieve consciousness, we also cannot be sure that we have got all elements right. For this theoretical paper machine to be certain to work, all neurons will have to be simulated, and if neurons have more sophisticated functions than we know today, these would have to be simulated too. If there are other cells that have a function in consciousness, these too will have to be simulated.

Once we know exactly how to achieve consciousness, ie, we have a working CTM, then we may be able to reduce the number of elements, both in types and quantity, and this is what is the goal for CTM, because obviously, a paper simulation, or even a super fast complete computer simulation of a brain is too impractical for us at this stage.
Well, let's start with what we know and stick with the thought experiment.

Could your pencil brain perform the kinds of tasks that we know the brain is required to perform in order to generate conscious experience?

Fwiw, I don't think the neurons matter much.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 06:58 PM   #350
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by steenkh View Post
We do not have to discuss the pencil brain thing. It really does not matter on what hardware the simulation runs. The important point is really that we are of course talking about a virtual simulation, and all attempts at simulating consciousness or intelligence have been virtual. One day we could probably do actual simulations on biologically simulated brains, but I think that virtual simulations are much easier to implement.
But the OP is not concerned, and neither am I, with a virtual simulation of consciousness. That's what I've been on about all this time.

The OP posits a robot which is conscious in the way we are.

So any questions regarding such a robot will have to assume an actual instantiation of consciousness.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 07:06 PM   #351
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
Very cool!
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 07:20 PM   #352
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
roger:

To clarify a couple of points.

When I've been talking about a "brain" and "thoughts" on this thread, I've been meaning a conscious brain and conscious thoughts.

I don't doubt that a TM can be called a kind of brain, if you like.

You say that your pencil brain can do anything a human brain can do, because both are computable.

But that assumes that speed must be irrelevant. In other words, that nothing the human brain does is dependent on speed.

And that's what I've been trying to focus on.

I think we're butting heads because you're focused pretty much exclusively on information theory, and I'm focused on how the brain appears to create the phenomenon of consciousness.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 09:02 PM   #353
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
<Presses reset button>

Ok, after all that jabber (my apologies)....

Can we reframe the question to clear the tangents?

Originally Posted by OP
Consider a conscious robot with a brain composed of a computer running sophisticated software. Let's assume that the appropriately organized software is conscious in a sense similar to that of human brains.

Would the robot be conscious if we ran the computer at a significantly reduced clock speed? What if we single-stepped the program? What would this consciousness be like if we hand-executed the code with pencil and paper?
Point 1: This robot's brain, regardless of what it is built of, must be assumed to produce consciousness in basically the same way the human brain does, because that's the only way we know that it can be done. (And it would make no sense to ask: "There's a robot with a brain that produces consciousness by unknown means -- what happens to its consciousness when we slow the processing rate?")

Point 2: The question becomes equivalent to: "If we slowed the human brain's processing down to the equivalent of pencil-and-paper speed, would it still produce consciousness?"

Point 3: We can imagine building a brain using other materials with each neuron replaced by some other (much slower) mechanism that takes equivalent inputs and produces equivalent outputs, all arranged in the same sequential configurations we would expect to find in a human brain. We feed appropriate input to this brain to simulate typical input into a human brain.

Point 4: Both systems are computational.

Point 5: The mechanical brain can therefore do everything the biological brain does iff nothing done by the biological brain is dependent on being performed at a speed greater than that achieved by the mechanical brain.

Point 6: If consciousness in the biological brain somehow depends on a signaling speed higher than that achieved by the mechanical brain, then the mechanical brain will not be conscious. If not, the mechanical brain will be conscious.

Agreed?

If not, why not?

Thanks.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 11:20 PM   #354
roger
Penultimate Amazing
 
roger's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 11,465
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
roger:

To clarify a couple of points.

When I've been talking about a "brain" and "thoughts" on this thread, I've been meaning a conscious brain and conscious thoughts.

I don't doubt that a TM can be called a kind of brain, if you like.

You say that your pencil brain can do anything a human brain can do, because both are computable.

But that assumes that speed must be irrelevant. In other words, that nothing the human brain does is dependent on speed.

And that's what I've been trying to focus on.

I think we're butting heads because you're focused pretty much exclusively on information theory, and I'm focused on how the brain appears to create the phenomenon of consciousness.
Well, to my point of view speed is an implementation detail, and thus pretty uninteresting.

To expand on that, no, a pencil brain, actually and really implemented by a person sitting at a desk with a pencil, or by a TM, will not be conscious, or even work for no other reason that in a person's lifetime they won't even be able to compute one state of the brain, let alone have it do any processing. It'd take more than your life just to write the starting condition on paper.

So, yes, on a practical level a real pencil brain wouldn't work, especially if you were trying to process data in our world, real-time.

But, this whole thread is about thought experiments. I'm free to assume that I have an infinite life, essentially infinite paper (you'd need a very large, but finite amount of paper to simulate the brain) and the speed of inputs would have to be very, very slow compared to you. So, accelerate to relativistic speeds, tunnel to a multiverse, whatever it takes to get that time dilation.

What we are trying to get to here is whether the brain and consciousness is nothing more than a consequence of matter - a completely non dualistic position. Sure, in this world a pencil brain is ridiculous - it'd never process data fast enough, but we are interested in principles. So, the chain of reasoning goes like this:

1) the universe at a macro level is computable
2) everything in the brain that we have observed - neurons, chemical soup, the networks, are computable, and not susceptible to noise that would make them non-computable
3) consciousness comes from the brain ad it's coordinated activities
4) So, consciousness is computable, or there is something 'extra' in the brain we have never observed
5) hence, it's a very strong position(meaning likely) to state that a computer could be conscious, so long as it was structured the same as a brain

Note there is no dualism in 5. We don't require a person to interpret the symbols in the brain, or the computer. The organizational structures in the brain, their self-referential way of computing, is the consciousness (I have trouble talking about 'creating' consciousness, as I don't think of it as a 'thing', to me consciousness is just the brain's machinery doing its thing).

Now, information theory tells us a TM - a pencil, a paper tape, a motor, and just a tiny handful of operation, can do anything computable. So, a person with a pencil can do the same, following rules blindly, neither understanding what they are doing, why they are doing it, or the meaning of all the 1s and 0s they are writing down.

When we talk of a pencil brain, we mean formalizing all of the systems, components, and data in the brain as a set of computable functions, and then implementing it as a TM and associated program. Realistically, TMs are really slow, and we'd really write a program on a supercomputer, but there is nothing stopping you from doing a TM or a person and a pencil.

And this sort of tests your convictions here, because it is very counterintuitive. Because my claim is that form of a pencil brain, a human with a pencil, would indeed be conscious, though that consciousness would stretch out over eons. Certainly as the person sat there and wrote 1s and 0s, there would be nothing you'd call consciousness, but then are you 'conscious' during a single planck time interval (~10^-44 secs)? I'd say no more than a pencil brain would be conscious over a year period. But that doesn't mean you are not conscious over a second, and that a pencil brain is not conscious over many eons. Consciousness is nothing more or less than the processes running.

So, going back to the OP, you can see I hope that Paul was asking questions about the pencil brain. Remember, computationally, the pencil brain is exactly the same as the biggest baddest supercomputer you can imagine, just a heck of a lot slower. So, if a pencil driven by a TM, or a human blindly following a program, is doing exactly the same thing as 1) a supercomputer, and 2) your brain, does the fact that the pencil goes a lot slower mean no consciousness will form? Again, this is a thought experiment, no bringing up the speed of impulses, or the indubitable fact that when trying to simulate 100billion neurons by hand the pencil marks for neuron one will fade long before you reach the 100 billionth neuron.

I say yes, the pencil brain will be conscious, measured in appropriate timescales (millions of eons, not seconds). Our year will be it's planck time. But that is just a scaling issue.

If you say no, and not for some practical concern like who has enough paper to write the state of 100 billions neurons, or pencil fade over several hundred years, then you must be introducing something extra - something noncomputable - in the brain that creates consciousness.

Is this clearer?

edit: since we've strayed so far, I'm going to quote the OP, and give my answer, with all of the above informing it. perhaps that'll add nothing, but perhaps it'll make it clear why pencil brains have been such a topic for us
__________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir

Last edited by roger; 13th August 2009 at 11:29 PM.
roger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 11:47 PM   #355
steenkh
Philosopher
 
steenkh's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Denmark
Posts: 5,292
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
So there's this notion that consciousness "emerges" simply by virtue of having a bunch of neurons in one place.

But that's not the case. Consciousness is something the brain does, like vision or motor coordination or regulating breathing. It's a specialized function.
So nothing but brains can have consciousness, by definition? Is this in the same way that only eyes can have vision because it is a specialised function?
__________________
Steen

--
Jack of all trades - master of none!
steenkh is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 13th August 2009, 11:54 PM   #356
roger
Penultimate Amazing
 
roger's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 11,465
Originally Posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
Consider a conscious robot with a brain composed of a computer running sophisticated software. Let's assume that the appropriately organized software is conscious in a sense similar to that of human brains.

Would the robot be conscious if we ran the computer at a significantly reduced clock speed? What if we single-stepped the program? What would this consciousness be like if we hand-executed the code with pencil and paper?

I can't take credit for these questions; they were posted on another forum. The following paper is relevant to this issue:

http://www.biolbull.org/cgi/content/abstract/215/3/216

~~ Paul
Interesting question, Paul.

I start from the assumption that the brain is purely physical. There is nothing 'extra' that provides consciousness. I'm assuming you make the same assumption, as you are positing a computer that is conscious the same way we are.

All of our studies show us that brains are comprised of macro structures which perform computable functions - we have never identified a neuronal behavior, for example, that was not computable.

The Church-Turing thesis tells us that any algorithm has an equivalent TM or lambda function associated with it. Sure, this has not been proven, but name me a serious researcher that does not accept Church-Turing. Certainly we know of no counterexamples.

Now, there are two features of a TM that are applicable to your question. First, there is no term for execution speed in a TM. A TM could perform 10^66 operations a second, or 1 an eon, and it would still be a TM, and the algorithm would still be computable. Naturally, for any given TM implementation you have to make the speed applicable for that medium - no second long brain impulses, no silicon impulses that are required to be FTL, etc. But there is nothing intrinsic about computation speed in the abstract.

The second feature that applies is the fact that a TM is nothing more than a pencil pusher. It consists of a paper tape, a pencil to write 0 or one on the tape, and a few instructions to move the tape, read it, write on it, and perform a few conditionals. We could easily substitute a person to push the pencil around according to a program, if we liked - give them a description of a TM, and tell them to execute the following instructions based on the data stream to be provided.

So, combining those two points, a person pushing a pencilaround on a piece of paper according to specific directions can do anything computable. If, as I argue, the brain is computable, and that consciousness arises from computable processes, we must conclude that consciousness is speed invariant within the limits imposed by the substrate hosting the computations - brains gotta keep the neuron impulses going.

While our brains don't appear to be synchonously clocked, we can impose the planck time interval on our brains - roughly 10^44 seconds. We could take a snapshot of the brain for every interval, and say that is our clock speed. During any one of those intervals, surely there is no 'consciousness'. I introduce scare quotes because consciousness is not a thing if it is computable - it is the result of the brain's systems interoperating recursively and self-referntially. yet, over say 10^44 of those intervals, we have consciousness.

So, even though it seem intuitively absurd to talk about paper and pencil having consciousness, I don't see how we could reach any other conclusion if we grant my assumptions. No, it won't be conscious for any small time duration, such as a single human life, but over many of them, say 10^44 of them, it would be.

Of course, this is the point where many people balk - how could a pencil, paper, and about 10 simple rules produce consciousness? it does seem crazy, but there it is, since we know there is nothing a supercomputer can do that the paper, pencil, and handful of rules cannot do, and vice versa. Our brains are matter, and so far as we know everything the brain does can be described as an algorith, so, a computer should create consciousness, and thus so should pencil and paper (given appropriate time scales).

Similarly, if we single stepped the computer consciousness would still be there. Sure, the time scale of that consciousness would be different. Say you stepped it at 1 instruction/second. It would be incapable of being aware of that time scale, just like our brains are unable of perceiving 10^-44 of a second. But the computer would still be conscious at a much longer time scale - eons perhaps, or millions of eons.

Of course, this is all off if it turns out the brain is not computable. Physicists argue whether the universe is ultimately discrete or not. I fall into the discrete camp, but oddly enough I can't find my name in the Nobel prize register. I'll have to ring them up. In any case, by the time you reach macro structures in the brain (and by macro I'm talking molecules and such) we can deal with it discretely, and thus everything in the brain is algorithmic. Finding out otherwise would invalidate a heck of a lot of physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine that we currently do.
__________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir
roger is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th August 2009, 12:09 AM   #357
steenkh
Philosopher
 
steenkh's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Denmark
Posts: 5,292
Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
In this hypothetical world, how exactly does any given pencil-paper pair (p3) work like a neuron?
By simulating all the functions of a neuron.

Quote:
(I know it's cumbersome, but we can't just gloss over that kind of detail if we're going to posit a simulation.)
I think you do not really understand that I am not saying that we know all of the functions of a neuron. Obviously, such a simulation can only be performed once we are sure that we know how neurons work down to the last detail.

I never claimed that the paper machine was something we could make right now, or ever.

It is not even certain that the brain works like a Turing Machine.

Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
When I said that, I was speaking entirely from the frame of reference of consciousness -- which is a pretty small part of brain activity.
I am not sure that it makes sense to distinguish consciousness from other parts of brain activities. If consciousness really is an emergent function of masses of neuron activity, then you need all of that activity to get consciousness.

Quote:
By "thoughts" I mean specifically "conscious thoughts". I don't see other types of thoughts as relevant.
I do not think it is meaningful to distinguish conscious thoughts from other thoughts, whatever they may be.

There has been some experimentation to show that people "make decisions" before they are "aware" that they make a decision. This sounds rather futile for me. Unconscious thoughts making decisions are as much part of consciousness as any other kinds of thoughts, so it really tells more about how we experience consciousness than what consciousness consists of.

Quote:
Of course you can make a pencil brain, a cog brain, an abacus brain.

But the OP stipulates a robot which is conscious in the way we are.
What does "conscious in the way we are" mean? According to you, only brains can have consciousness, so per definition, robots cannot be conscious, and this whole thread is futile.

Quote:
So what I'm trying to get at is specifically whether the pencil brain can be conscious.
Yes. And I have given my opinion. As long as we do not know exactly how the brain achieves consciousness, it remains an opinion.

Quote:
To do that, it has to do something very specific.
I fail to see why simulating every neuron and other elements in the brain that contribute to consciousness would not be "something very specific".

Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
Well, let's start with what we know and stick with the thought experiment.

Could your pencil brain perform the kinds of tasks that we know the brain is required to perform in order to generate conscious experience?
By definition, yes. This means that all elements are simulated properly, and that there are no non-computational elements involved in real consciousness.

Quote:
Fwiw, I don't think the neurons matter much.
OK. As long as the paper machine simulates all relevant elements, it would still generate consciousness.

Originally Posted by Piggy View Post
But the OP is not concerned, and neither am I, with a virtual simulation of consciousness. That's what I've been on about all this time.
The OP states: "Let's assume that the appropriately organized software is conscious in a sense similar to that of human brains." Where do you read that the OP is not concerned with a virtual simulation of consciousness? How do you interpret the word "similar"?

Quote:
The OP posits a robot which is conscious in the way we are.
No. and by your definition that would be impossible anyway.
__________________
Steen

--
Jack of all trades - master of none!
steenkh is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th August 2009, 04:21 AM   #358
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
What we are trying to get to here is whether the brain and consciousness is nothing more than a consequence of matter - a completely non dualistic position.
Ok, I'm sorry we got off on that tangent, then, because of course that's true.

So that was totally off the radar for me. I was only concerned with the question of speed, which is what the OP appears to be asking about.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th August 2009, 04:23 AM   #359
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
1) the universe at a macro level is computable
2) everything in the brain that we have observed - neurons, chemical soup, the networks, are computable, and not susceptible to noise that would make them non-computable
3) consciousness comes from the brain ad it's coordinated activities
4) So, consciousness is computable, or there is something 'extra' in the brain we have never observed
5) hence, it's a very strong position(meaning likely) to state that a computer could be conscious, so long as it was structured the same as a brain
Agreed there, too. I don't see why it will not be possible for consciousness to be manufactured one day.

In fact, the thought experiment with the robot assumes it. We never disagreed on that.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 14th August 2009, 04:34 AM   #360
Piggy
Unlicensed street skeptic
 
Piggy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 15,905
Originally Posted by roger View Post
Because my claim is that form of a pencil brain, a human with a pencil, would indeed be conscious, though that consciousness would stretch out over eons. Certainly as the person sat there and wrote 1s and 0s, there would be nothing you'd call consciousness, but then are you 'conscious' during a single planck time interval (~10^-44 secs)? I'd say no more than a pencil brain would be conscious over a year period. But that doesn't mean you are not conscious over a second, and that a pencil brain is not conscious over many eons. Consciousness is nothing more or less than the processes running.
Ok, this for me is the crux of it.

There's an easier (for me) thought experiment that can be done, which is just to posit that, somehow, neuronal activity in a human slowed down to that speed with no adverse affects to the body.

Same thing, right?

So to answer the question "Would the subject still be conscious?", we have to examine how the brain creates that effect and ask if it would work at that signaling speed.

That's what I've been on about.

You've been asserting that the function of consciousness can work if the singaling slows down to glacial levels, and positing a pencil brain that is somehow "conscious over many eons". But can it?

To answer that question, it's not enough to note that both the human and pencil brains are computable. We have to look at how the brain creates the effect and ask "Can this happen at extremely slow signaling speeds?"

Originally Posted by roger View Post
So, going back to the OP, you can see I hope that Paul was asking questions about the pencil brain. Remember, computationally, the pencil brain is exactly the same as the biggest baddest supercomputer you can imagine, just a heck of a lot slower. So, if a pencil driven by a TM, or a human blindly following a program, is doing exactly the same thing as 1) a supercomputer, and 2) your brain, does the fact that the pencil goes a lot slower mean no consciousness will form? Again, this is a thought experiment, no bringing up the speed of impulses, or the indubitable fact that when trying to simulate 100billion neurons by hand the pencil marks for neuron one will fade long before you reach the 100 billionth neuron.

I say yes, the pencil brain will be conscious, measured in appropriate timescales (millions of eons, not seconds). Our year will be it's planck time. But that is just a scaling issue.

If you say no, and not for some practical concern like who has enough paper to write the state of 100 billions neurons, or pencil fade over several hundred years, then you must be introducing something extra - something noncomputable - in the brain that creates consciousness.
I say no, and for entirely practical reasons.

The step which, from my point of view, you are failing to make is to actually go look at how consciousness is created and ask, "Is this a function that can be maintained by something that works as slowly as a pencil brain?"

I say no, because you don't have simultaneous coordination of large enough amounts of coherent data over short enough continuous spans of time to achieve it.

That's why I say that the pencil brain cannot mimic that particular function.
__________________
.
How can you expect to be rescued if you donít put first things first and act proper?
Piggy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Science, Mathematics, Medicine, and Technology

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 07:55 AM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.