Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagConsciousness

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Abstract fractal spiral. Shell background

Quantum Theory of Consciousness Gains Support From Recent Study

The researchers were testing principles that underpin the Penrose–Hameroff theory

Cristiane de Morais Smith, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Utrecht in Belgium, has teamed up with colleagues from China led by quantum physicist Xian-Min Jin at Shanghai Jiaotong University to test principles that underpin a quantum theory of consciousness. Many dismiss the idea, originally proposed in the Nineties by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, because it is assumed that quantum mechanical laws (as opposed to classical physics laws) apply mainly at very low temperatures, for example at – 272 C, which is just below – 273 (absolute zero, when all classical movement stops). De Morais Smith and Xian-Min think, however, that they may have come a bit closer to validating the idea: Our brains are composed of…

Environmental awareness, global warming consciousness and aspirations to protect future of the planet conceptual idea with close up on hand holding the earth in the open palm

The Day Philosophers Started To Take Consciousness Seriously

Of course, once they did, they found themselves deep in huge conundrums

We sometimes forget how far we are from solving the mystery of consciousness. An anecdote from 1994 might help us understand. Picture an utterly boring, pointless conference in Tucson, Arizona, one of whose attendees was an obscure philosopher from Australia, scheduled to give the third talk. And shook everything up: The brain, Chalmers began by pointing out, poses all sorts of problems to keep scientists busy. How do we learn, store memories, or perceive things? How do you know to jerk your hand away from scalding water, or hear your name spoken across the room at a noisy party? But these were all “easy problems”, in the scheme of things: given enough time and money, experts would figure them out.…

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Illustration of synapse and neuron on a blue background.

Will We Soon Be Able to Test Theories of Consciousness?

Proponents of two leading theories of consciousness are trying to develop tests for their models, in a hitherto baffling field

Science journalist and author Anil Ananthaswamy has written a thoughtful piece at New Scientist on the leading models of consciousness and their relationship to quantum mechanics (quantum physics). Are we reaching the point where we can test at least one of them? Ananthaswamy is well qualified to assess the arguments. He is the author of both Through Two Doors at Once (2018) on quantum physics and The Man Who Wasn’t There (2015) on the nature of the self. Models of consciousness that assume that “consciousness isn’t separate from the material reality that physics explains” (materialist or naturalist theories) fall into three general classes, as he explains. Analysts like Tufts philosopher Daniel Dennett and Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano argue that consciousness…

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Microfono tenuto in mano conferenza

Round 2: Philosopher Papineau Replies to Neurosurgeon Egnor

Dr. Papineau is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.”

Yesterday, we published a portion of the transcript of the debate between materialist philosopher David Papineau amd neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, in which Egnor explains how, despite early atheism, the practice of medicine led him to believe that there is a God and that the mind is not simply what the brain does. He offered three reasons. Today, here’s a transcript of David Papineau’s reply. Starts, roughly, at 9:00 min: Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist,” a form of materialism according to which “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all…

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Mind Atoms

Neurosurgeon Egnor Takes on Philosopher Papineau Round 1

In the debate, Egnor begins by offering three fundamental reasons why the mind is not the brain

Recently, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor debated philosopher David Papineau at Theology Unleashed. Papineau is considered “one of the best defenders of naturalism” (actually, as he admits, physicalism). Egnor talks about how science and the practice of medicine persuaded him that there is a God and that the mind is real. The host is Arjuna and the show is billed as “Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” What follows is a partial transcript of the first portion, with notes: Michael Egnor: Just as a little background about where I’m coming from, I was raised as a functional atheist, and I was educated as a scientific atheist, so I was an atheist for most of my life. I was a biochemistry major in college,…

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Science Journalist: No Hype. Consciousness Is a HARD Problem!

Michael Hanlon reflected on the many futile efforts to “solve” consciousness

British science journalist Michael Hanlon (1964–2016), co-author with Tracey Brown of In the Interests of Safety (2014), had some sobering things to say about the trivial pursuit of an easy theory of consciousness. Considering materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett and less materialist philosopher David Chalmers (who coined the term the “Hard Problem of Consciousness”), he reflects, Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Daniel Dennett wrote that: ‘Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery.’ A few years later, Chalmers added: ‘[It] may be the largest outstanding obstacle in our quest for a scientific understanding of the universe.’ They were right then and, despite the tremendous scientific advances since, they are still right today. I do not think that the…

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Birth of Virtual Consciousness

Neuroscientist: Conscious AI Is Not an Insurmountable Problem

Neuroscientist: Conscious AI is not an insurmountable problem

Neuroscientist Ryota Kanai, founder and CEO of Tokyo-based startup Araya, aims to “understand the computational basis of consciousness and to create conscious AI.” He isn’t sure, he says, if we want AI to be conscious. But, technically, he doesn’t see it as an insurmountable problem: If we can’t figure out why AIs do what they do, why don’t we ask them? We can endow them with metacognition—an introspective ability to report their internal mental states. Such an ability is one of the main functions of consciousness. It is what neuroscientists look for when they test whether humans or animals have conscious awareness. For instance, a basic form of metacognition, confidence, scales with the clarity of conscious experience. When our brain…

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creature

We Are Now Informed: Consciousness Does Not Really Exist

Rubbish. Giving up consciousness as an illusion would be like turning off the master switch. What would the ensuing darkness and powerlessness tell us?
What you think is enabling you to listen with any attention to neuroscientists (your dog, coffee cup, and your toothpaste are not listening to neuroscientists) is something — some of them tell us — we should give up as an illusion. Read More ›
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Human brain with an implanted chip.

What Will Elon Musk’s Neuralink Really Change, If It Catches On

Neuralink’s computer chip implants may help restore function in people with motor or sensory disabilities

Finishing the third and final podcast of the series, “Unity of Consciousness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, had a look at entrepreneur Elon Musk’s implanted brain chip venture, the Neuralink: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 14:28 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Let me end our discussion together by asking you an outlier question. Elon Musk is developing something called Neuralink. It’s a chip which goes into the brain. Its immediate application is going to be for those that are handicapped. It is going to allow them communicate directly to objects that they can’t control normally because of their handicap.…

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Double exposure. A curly-haired brunette is standing in the doorway of the theater. Poster events, personality psychology. Cloak and reincarnation. Fasting alcoholic fears. Bifurcation. Made in camera

Why Do We Stay the Same Person Over Time? Why Not Split Up?

It would be a total fluke if all the different clouds of atoms that produce your brain would always produce the same consciousness. But they do

In the third podcast of the series, “Unity of Consciousness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, on unique features of human consciousness, including the fact that our experiences are a unity, despite being scattered across many brain regions and even if our brains are split in half: But now let’s do some thought experiments, as proposed by Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 04:55 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Angus Menuge: There’s another problem raised by [philosopher] Richard Swinburne: He imagines that he’s going to have an operation where each of his cerebral hemispheres is placed in another person. So…

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X-ray of the head and brain of a person

Bingecast: Michael Egnor on the Human Brain

In this Bingecast episode, Dr. Robert J. Marks and Dr. Michael Egnor explore the human brain and its relationship to the mind. Is the mind an emergent property of the brain? Is there neurological evidence for the soul? What have brain experiments taught us about free will and the human person? Can you still think in a coma? Show Notes…

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3D rendering of female robot looking sad.

Can We Apply Tests for Consciousness to Artificial Intelligence?

A robot could be programmed to say Ow! and withdraw its hand from a hot object. But did it feel anything?

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, where the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness, they established that one of the implications of quantum mechanics is that consciousness is a “thing”; it exists in its own right. How can we apply that finding to claims for artificial intelligence? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 25:33 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): Here is the big AI question: I know that I am conscious. Is there a way we can test for consciousness in others? And if we can, could we apply this test of consciousness in others to artificial intelligence? Can I test…

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Quantum particle, quantum mechanics

Can a Materialist Consciousness Theory Survive Quantum Mechanics?

Quantum mechanics requires that the observer be part of the measurement; thus quantum measurements must include consciousness

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, where the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness, one of the questions was whether quantum mechanics can help decipher consciousness. But that leads to another question: Can any materialist view of consciousness survive quantum mechanics? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 22:35 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Is quantum consciousness rooted in materialism? Can you look at quantum consciousness and say, this is materialistic? Angus Menuge: That’s a tricky question. For most materialists, their paradigm is really set by older 19th-century views of physical science. By definition, this goes beyond that. However, if one defines materialism…

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Schizophrenia

Dr. Angus Menuge: Unity of Consciousness (Part III)

It’s the curious conundrum of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Why do most of us have one consciousness? And what is the nature of consciousness in split personalities? In today’s final episode with guest Dr. Angus Menuge, Dr. Robert J. Marks engages Menuge on the question of unity of consciousness. Show Notes 00:30 | Introducing Dr. Angus Menuge 01:04 |…

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Looking through glasses to bleach nature landscape - tulips field. Color blindness. World perception during depression. Medical condition. Health and disease concept.

Dr. Angus Menuge: Models of Consciousness (Part II)

What is it like to see a red rose? To smell a red rose? To feel pain? In this week’s podcast, Dr. Robert J. Marks and Dr. Angus Menuge continue their discussion on philosophies of the mind, delving into competing definitions of consciousness. Show Notes 00:26 | Introducing Dr. Angus Menuge 01:01 | Phenomenal consciousness and qualia 07:25 | Experiencing…

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Neurons electrical pulses. Interconnected neurons with electrical pulses.

How a Materialist Philosopher Argued His Way to Panpsychism

Galen Strawson starts with the one fact of which we are most certain — our own consciousness

In 2018, science writer Robert Wright interviewed physicalist philosopher Galen Strawson (pictured) who, in a long conversation, explained the logical steps by which he — a philosopher who holds that nature is all there is and that everything is physical — also came to believe that consciousness underlies everything. Wright published a long excerpt from the discussion in June 2020, in which Strawson explains his reasoning. Wright starts things off by noting that “In recent years more and more philosophers seem to have embraced panpsychism—the view that consciousness pervades the universe and so is present, in however simple a form, in every little speck of matter.” Indeed, even publications like Scientific American have run panpsychist opinion pieces in recent years.…

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Closeup of hand female caregiver holding oxygen mask with cute child patient in hospital bed or home,little girl putting inhalation,doctor or nurse intensive care,health care,support,help concept

A Short Film Explores the Dreamscape of a Child in a Coma

While her faithful father waits and tries to connect with her…

Last week, five animated short films competed for Oscar gold, with the top prize going to the emotionally charged “If Anything Happens I Love You.” The short is a bold examination of bereavement as two parents grapple with the violent loss of their young daughter. It’s a worthy winner. However, my own pick didn’t make the shortlist. WiNDUP (2020), written and directed by young creative Yibing Jiang, is also a poignant meditation on parenthood and grief — in this case, for a child in a possibly irreversible coma — as well as a technical gem. Jiang’s company, Unity, uses custom-built software to create shorts in “real-time 3D” on standard computers. Doing without certain tools that animators take for granted today,…

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Unfolding of Geometry

A Physicist and Philosopher Examines Panpsychism

Idealism says everything is an idea in the mind of God. Panpsychism says everything participates in consciousness (thus is not just an idea)

In last week’s podcast,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed philosopher of science Bruce Gordon on “Idealism and the Nature of Reality.” Idealism is the view that “something mental (the mind, spirit, reason, will) is the ultimate foundation of all reality, or even exhaustive of reality” – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. As Gordon noted in the earlier portion of this podcast, idealism is actually a practical philosophy. It originated with Plato (c. 424–347 BC) but the modern form, which he himself holds, is that of George Berkeley (1685–1753). In Berkeley’s view everything that exists is an idea in the mind of God. Thus, Dr. Egnor asked him what he thinks of panpsychism, the view that everything in the universe…

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Young blind man with white cane and guide dog sitting in park in city.

The Mystery of Blindsight Helps Us Understand the Mind Better

How can a blind person demonstrate awareness of an object in his visual field — and yet not be conscious of it?

Blindsight is the remarkable ability of some blind people to sense objects that they cannot actually see. It occurs when the blindness is caused by damage to the main part of the brain that processes visual information (the striate cortex). But the eyes themselves are intact. The eyes continue to see (sensation) but nothing is receiving the messages (perception). Or so we would think, except for this: One of the most contentious discussions in philosophy of mind and neuroscience is the nature of perception as opposed to sensation. How can we perceive objects in our environment? On a deeper level, what do we mean by “perception”? In what ways does perception differ from sensation, if at all? The neurobiology of…

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Artificial Intelligence digital Brain future technology on motherboard computer. Binary data. Brain of AI. Futuristic Innovative technology in science concept

How WOULD We Know If an AI Is Conscious?

It might be more complicated than we think. A powerful zombie is still a zombie.

Neuroscientist Joel Frohlich (pictured) asks us to reflect on the “philosophical zombie.” That’s not the zombie of the late nite frites. It’s an entity that behaves outwardly in every respect like you and me but has no inner experience (think Stepford Wives). Philosopher David Chalmers originated the term in 1996, by way of illustrating why consciousness is a Hard Problem. A powerful computer can crunch through many difficult jobs without any inner life or consciousness. But, Frohlich, who is editor in chief of the science communications website Knowing Neurons, asks, what if we weren’t sure? How would we test that? Trying to determine if a powerful AI is conscious means getting past programming that might enable it to generate plausible…