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machine brains

Joe Kilner jjmk2 at hermes.cam.ac.uk
Tue Feb 9 08:43:28 EST 1999

Some interesting points here I would just like to make a few comments:

William Thomas wrote in message <79pa28$1vr$1 at garnet.mint.net>...
>I agree with Michael, however in my original message I was just laying out
>some rhetorical questions to point out that brains, organisms, and quasi
>organisms all function quite comfortably without any need for
>The thing I really wanted to stress was not to get hung up on what is or is
>not conscious when thinking about designing a brain because:
>A.   The soul, or consciousness, if real, is separate from the brain. This
>is obvious, because there is no structural difference between our brains
>the brains of major primates that would account for the function of a soul.
>Now, if the soul crowd was interested in dishing out consciousness and
>to all the primates, it would be a different story, however I don't think
>they are ready to do that.

I thought that the Human brain had the greatest ammount of redundancy built
into it (but that may just be me being misinformed...)  I have also heard
some interesting theories that it is actually this redundancy that is what
allows conciousness to exist.  Also I would have a hard time believeing in
any theory that allowed for all of the creativity and inventiveness of human
thought without allowing for conciousness - just from my own experience of
the creative process!  But I do think that you are right - I don't think we
need to get bogged down in trying to understand conciousness before we try
to build a mechanical brain for the simple reason that we have a model to
work from.  We can replicate human brains without necesarily understanding
*how* they work, and through this replication may gain more insight than we
ever could through direct study.  All we need are electronic neurons and
some way of determining the precise positions, states and connections of all
the cells in a human brain.  Simple really.... ;)

>B.   The more likely reality is that the soul is an illusion created by the

>brain. In this case it could be assumed that if you design a clever enough
>machine brain, the brain would fool itself into thinking it had
>consciousness. In this event we would be hard pressed to argue, seeing as
>can not agree what, if anything, consciousness is.

OK - you have entered a really tricky area here without (I think) realising
it.  What exactly do you mean when you say that a brain could fool itself
into thinking that it was concious and in what way exactly would this differ
from the brain being concious?  For you to fool someone it implies that
there is someone there to fool, and if there someone "in" the brain for the
brain to fool then surely the brain "contains" a conciousness.  Similarly
what is the difference between believing you are concious and being
concious?  What is conciousness external to it's belief in itself - take an
analogy - It is meaningless to say of a drawing "That isn't a drawing of a
square, it just looks like one." because if it looks like a square then
there is no other property of it that could distinguish it from a drawing of
a square - infact it *is* a drawing of a square.  Similarly to say of a
brain "It isn't concious it just thinks that it is." is meaningless because
other than the fact that it thinks that it is concious there is no other
property which defines conciousness!  Now the brain may well fool us into
thinking that it is concious when it isn't, but it won't be fooling itself
because there won't be a "self" to fool.


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