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r norman rsn_ at _comcast.net
Wed Nov 12 08:30:18 EST 2003

On Wed, 12 Nov 2003 16:31:48 +1100, Matthew Kirkcaldie
<Matthew.Kirkcaldie at removethis.newcastle.edu.au> wrote:

>In article <8e53rvs4p64t9ba1njjfb2e3n7ufpnk6e2 at 4ax.com>,
> r norman <rsn_ at _comcast.net> wrote:
>> However, if it is true that consciousness is nothing more than the
>> working out of laws of physics and chemistry given a particular albeit
>> highly complex arrangement of molecules, organelles, and cells, then
>> once we understand the mechanisms it should be conceptually possible
>> to produce an artificial device that uses the same laws of physics and
>> chemistry with a rather different arrangement of non-biological
>> components to acheive the same effect.
>So, to exaggerate that line of reasoning, it should be possible to build 
>a hydrogen atom out of other non-elementary components and have it 
>behave the same way?  Or make a working atomic bomb out of Meccano?
>I know these extrapolations are ridiculous but I make them to point out  
>that the assertion that a process is created by the physical properties 
>of its consituents does not imply that it could also be created by 
>different materials.  Right or wrong, I simply do not believe that 
>consciousness is seperable from the biological nature of the brain. 
>Most AI and connectionist approaches seem to me to be like piling up 
>large heaps of components and hoping that they will become a 747 
>somehow.  Actually, more like piling up large heaps of sandwiches and 
>hoping they will become a 747 somehow.

We are not really disagreeing, just having a lot of fun with

You hit the nail on the head by your "assertion that a process is
created by the physical properties oits consitutents does not
imply..."  I originally included some form of computation or
information processing as an essential part of consciousness.  In my
way of thinking, "computation" like "negative feedback regulation" or
"controlled release of energy" is a  "process" separate from its
physical implementation.  Processing a broadcast electromagnetic wave
to produce a television picture with sound is the "same" whether the
machinery is vacuum tube or very large scale integrated circuitry. I
argue that "consciousness" is likely to be the same type of thing.  In
computerese, it could be ported to a different platform.

The failures of AI to date merely indicate the enormity of what we
don't know.  At some point we are likely to figure it out.  I can't
imagine that point coming even in the next few decades, though, if
even in the next century!

Where we strongly disagree is you believe that consciousness is
inseparable from the biological nature of the brain.  If consciousness
lies in the physical implementation, then there must be something
special about the structure of neurons.  But there isn't anything
there that is not found (in one form or another) in virtually all
cells!  Do all living cells have some form of nascent consciousness?
Then consciousness is an integral part of what we think of as "life".
I disagree.  It must be in the pattern of arrangement and interaction
of the nerve cells.  And patterns of interaction can be replicated in
different hardware.

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