Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Contemplations on Consciousness

Originally posted on May 21, 2013

I’ve been enjoying an exchange with some friends about current arguments relating to the possibilities that computers will reach the point of consciousness. I doubt this for the following reason: The whole enterprise hinges on a deep misunderstanding of the mind as rational, logical, and therefore reproducible via algorithms of sufficient complexity. But this is like art before fractals and chaos theory. There are levels of complexity that dip into types of non-rationality that cannot be duplicated by any machine. Mind involves the following variables, among others:
– temperament: many sub types and gradients. For example, imagine a person whose level of introversion-extroversion was, say, 43 on a scale of 1 – 100 scale. My point is that this number reflects a quality of consciousness which is different from those who might rate 42 or 44, as much as the quality of light experienced at a certain wavelength is different, yellow, rather than yellow-orange. This then blends with other temperamental variables.
– abilities, again many subtype and gradients, each of which has its own “qualia”
– stamina, degree of ability to handle intensity, overload, fatigue
– age and focus, how much life has been lived, making it less intriguing or pressing to check out what has been sufficiently sampled to know that one cares for it only 42 or 22 or 12 %
– degrees of novelty in that which is perceived—related to the previous item
– interests, again finely divided and partaking of intermixing qualities, so that a bit of theatricality might enjoy more pantomime than the fun of elocution more motor than verbal, and innumerable other combinations and permutations
– background, including peculiarities of the family, neighborhood, region, culture, and historical era, etc.
… all combining with the mind’s inestimable power for imagery, symbolism, etc. In other words, I doubt strongly that those who advocate or work with artificial intelligence deviate much from the illusion that consciousness and mind are essentially rational and logical, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Nor can these folks begin to explain savant qualities, how some people are fabulously gifted. The idea that the deep under-mind is 10 or 100 times as clever and quick as the conscious mind seems to be beyond them, blocked by overweening hubris.

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