Christof Koch - What It Will Take for Computers to Be Conscious

#1
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/531146/what-it-will-take-for-computers-to-be-conscious/

I think consciousness, like mass, is a fundamental property of the universe. The analogy, and it’s a very good one, is that you can make pretty good weather predictions these days. You can predict the inside of a storm. But it’s never wet inside the computer. You can simulate a black hole in a computer, but space-time will not be bent. Simulating something is not the real thing.

It’s the same thing with consciousness. In 100 years, you might be able to simulate consciousness on a computer. But it won’t experience anything. Nada. It will be black inside. It will have no experience whatsoever, even though it may have our intelligence and our ability to speak.

I am not saying consciousness is a magic soul. It is something physical. Consciousness is always supervening onto the physical. But it takes a particular type of hardware to instantiate it. A computer made up of transistors, moving charge on and off a gate, with each gate being connected to a small number of other gates, is just a very different cause-and-effect structure than what we have in the brain, where you have one neuron connected to 10,000 input neurons and projecting to 10,000 other neurons. But if you were to build the computer in the appropriate way, like a neuromorphic computer, it could be conscious.
 
#2


That there are still those who have it backwards and think consciousness is an emergent property. Apparently Planck was correct "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
 
#3


That there are still those who have it backwards and think consciousness is an emergent property. Apparently Planck was correct "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
I've always found the language of "emergence" pretty murky. What is the practical difference between saying consciousness is emergent from "Organize matter in just the right way, as in the mammalian brain, and voilà, you can feel." That, to me, is all that people have tended to mean when they've said consciousness is emergent.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
Yep. And that's backwards. Consciousness is primary, matter is an emergent property of consciousness.
I don't know if there's an argument to justify being 100% sure the bold is true. Though I'd agree the whole emergence thing is a non-starter, at least if we're talking about "strong" emergence.
 
#7
I don't know if there's an argument to justify being 100% sure the bold is true. T
??? What is doesn't need justification. That some humans haven't realized the actuality (yet?) is irrelevant. Let's be clear, I'm not one who thinks that the intellect and/or science-as-we-know-it is the path to the truth. 'Course, I think it's cool when people using those methods do happen to move in the direction of actuality.

I might not be understanding you - were you including koch's version as being backward?
Most definitely.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#8
??? What is doesn't need justification. That some humans haven't realized the actuality (yet?) is irrelevant. Let's be clear, I'm not one who thinks that the intellect and/or science-as-we-know-it is the path to the truth. 'Course, I think it's cool when people using those methods do happen to move in the direction of actuality.
Is there a strong enough argument from philosophy to irrefutably prove Idealism is true?

(To be clear I think naturalism/materialism is inadequate to explain the world. Just not sure what the right answer is from there.)
 
#9
Is there a strong enough argument from philosophy to irrefutably prove Idealism is true?
??? I'm not sure why, after what I just posted, you inquire that of me. Philosophy is an intellectual exercise. Yes it's helpful as a shorthand way of cataloging and communicating ideas or even knowledge but it's not a path to that knowledge. Actuality is not determined or discovered by arguments or intellect.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#10
??? I'm not sure why, after what I just posted, you inquire that of me. Philosophy is an intellectual exercise. Yes it's helpful as a shorthand way of cataloging and communicating ideas or even knowledge but it's not a path to that knowledge. Actuality is not determined or discovered by arguments or intellect.
Fair enough. I think a final understanding is intuitive, but one should have some understanding of philosophy/science to train that intuition.

Agree to disagree? :)
 
#12
Most definitely.
Ahh, that makes more sense! Sciborg, I think you - and others - have described Koch's approach as more pantheistic as well. But I'm not quite sure how its much different than the materialist/physicalist version which also is that matter organised in a certain way produces consciousness. While most of the discussions focus on the brain I don't think any materialist/physicalist should have an issue with other organisations of matter producing consciousness.

I'm not sure there is much meat to the distinction that koch suggests that a pure software program couldn't do it but a hardware version could. This just comes down to the empirical question of figuring out how the brain produces consciousness - ie: what is technically going on? It might just come down to our technical capabilities combined with someone figuring it out.

(Edit: I meant panpsychism rather than pantheism)
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
Ahh, that makes more sense! Sciborg, I think you - and others - have described Koch's approach as more pantheistic as well. But I'm not quite sure how its much different than the materialist/physicalist version which also is that matter organised in a certain way produces consciousness. While most of the discussions focus on the brain I don't think any materialist/physicalist should have an issue with other organisations of matter producing consciousness.

I'm not sure there is much meat to the distinction that koch suggests that a pure software program couldn't do it but a hardware version could. This just comes down to the empirical question of figuring out how the brain produces consciousness - ie: what is technically going on? It might just come down to our technical capabilities combined with someone figuring it out.
Because software means only what we read it to mean. The problem is that the attribution of 1s to a set of states, and 0s to the complementary set, is that there’s nothing intrinsically computational about those sets. Searle raises this issue Is the Brain a Digital Computer? - there’s no definitive meaning to anything in the physical world, let alone what a computer does.

You could take a program's machine code and, using a different method of translating that to higher level abstractions, make that string of 1s and 0s mean anything.
 
#14
Because software means only what we read it to mean. The problem is that the attribution of 1s to a set of states, and 0s to the complementary set, is that there’s nothing intrinsically computational about those sets. Searle raises this issue Is the Brain a Digital Computer? - there’s no definitive meaning to anything in the physical world, let alone what a computer does.

You could take a program's machine code and, using a different method of translating that to higher level abstractions, make that string of 1s and 0s mean anything.
Again - I don't know if its theoretically possible or not - but that's not the issue I'm focusing on. My real question is what philosophically is the difference if it could be produced using software or only hardware - so long as at its essence we're talking about organising matter in a way that produces it? Why is one panpsychism (sorry above I said pantheism, meant this) and the other not? I don't think a materialist/physicalist would have an issue if it turns out that the particular way that matter is organised in order to produce consciousness means that we can't produce it merely by programing software but could replicate it by building hardware that could produce it.

This is maybe the problem with defining materialism as mind=brain. I think we we say that its really just a short form for: matter is organised in a particular manner in the brain and the body that produces consciousness. It doesn't mean that materialist/physicalists (I presume) don't believe that other organisations of matter could not produce consciousness.
 
#15
I don't understand something. Don't you people have jobs and stuff? Where do you get the mental energy to focus on these sorts of issues, while presumably you're expending much of it with whatever it is that you do everyday. These conversations tire me out and I don't do shit.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
Again - I don't know if its theoretically possible or not - but that's not the issue I'm focusing on. My real question is what philosophically is the difference if it could be produced using software or only hardware - so long as at its essence we're talking about organising matter in a way that produces it?
Software isn't matter.
 
#17
Software isn't matter.
Well, it's matter enough for this discussion right? Ie: no one seems to allege that "materialists" don't believe in software! And no one seems to be arguing that a "materialist" who believes computers can be conscious shouldn't call themselves a materialist. Also immaterialists don't tend to argue that software could be conscious because it's not material.

This is still skipping around the point I'm trying to zoom in on: on a fundamental level how is Koch's position substantially different from the "materialist/physicalist" position? How is his view pansychism and the materialist/physicalist not?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#20
Well, it's matter enough for this discussion right? Ie: no one seems to allege that "materialists" don't believe in software! And no one seems to be arguing that a "materialist" who believes computers can be conscious shouldn't call themselves a materialist. Also immaterialists don't tend to argue that software could be conscious because it's not material.

This is still skipping around the point I'm trying to zoom in on: on a fundamental level how is Koch's position substantially different from the "materialist/physicalist" position? How is his view pansychism and the materialist/physicalist not?
I think most people would agree some arrangement of brain batter matter evokes consciousness? Seems like the issue is whether it's production (materialists), evocation/binding proto-consciousness (accretive panpsychism), filtering/transmission (Cartesian dualists), an expression of Platonic Form in matter (hylemorphism), or the phenomenal brain being a mere icon/image for an underlying reality/process in which the whole comes to have individual aspects (idealists, holistic panpsychism, maybe Bohmians & other Neutral Monists).

Koch, AFAICTell, is saying you need a physical system to evoke an extant consciousness. Materialism would say there is no consciousness until the physical system is built & set in motion - IIRC this is Searle and Massimo's position, that consciousness likely depends on not just the arrangement but also the underlying material. Computationalism would say you can have individual conscious entities hanging out in a virtual environment, since what matters is running a program and thus the consciousness program can be a subroutine run in the virtual environment.
 
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