Toward a Science of Consciousness 1998

modlin at modlin at
Thu Apr 23 16:11:50 EST 1998

In <353EFFF7.857AE508 at>, Lyle Bateman <lbateman at> writes:

>Its a matter of a lot more than just programming, I'd have to say.  Hardware
>design is critical here.  With the type of architecture currently popular in
>the computer industry, conciousness will never happen.  Expert systems maybe,
>but conciousness no.  The reason is that todays industrial computers are
>nothing more than big calculators.  They crunch numbers, and thats all they
>The human brain (my assumption here is that the brain is the root of human
>conciousness, but that is by no means certain) is constructed in a vastly
>different way than most current computers.  Neural nets provide something of
>an analogy between computer architecture and brain design, however the
>complexity level differs by many orders of magnitude.

In the sense that you seem to mean it, your statement that hardware 
design is critical is wrong.

Hardware design is important in a lot of practical ways.  A design must 
provide devices and channels for information to come into the system and
out of it... sensors and effectors, in biological or robotic terms.
Hardware design also determines how fast computations can proceed, and 
how much information can be stored and manipulated... all very important
to the practicality of solving any particular computational problem.

But hardware design has absolutely nothing to do with the kinds of 
things that can be computed,  given that we are comparing designs that 
are capable of elementary computation at all.   Anything any computing 
machine can do, all computing machines can do, given enough time and 
physical capacity.   Architecture affects practical issues of 
performance, but makes absolutely no difference to what is possible if 
we provide enough capacity and don't care how long it takes.

The difference between any computing machine and any other computing 
machine is only a matter of programming.  A finite program running on
either of the machines would suffice to emulate the operation of the
other, so that exactly the same programs could run on either one.

Bill Modlin

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