Monday, September 18, 2017

673: The Brain is not a Computer...

In 1984 John Searle wrote in “Minds, Brains and Science”: “ The prevailing view in philosophy, psychology, and artificial intelligence is one 
which emphasises the analogies between the functioning of the human brain and the functioning of digital computers. 
According to the most extreme version of this view, the brain is just a digital computer and the mind is just a computer program. (…)
On this view, any physical system whatever that had the right program with the right inputs and outputs would have a mind in exactly the same sense that you and I have minds.  (…)
Most people who hold this view think we have not yet designed programs which are minds. But there is pretty much general agreement among them 
that it's only a matter of time until computer scientists and workers in artificial intelligence design the appropriate hardware and programs
which will be the equivalent of human brains and minds. These will be artificial brains and minds which are in every way the equivalent of human brains and minds.”
In that publication he presents another time his famous “Chinese Room” argument, which he published in his paper, "Minds, Brains, and Programs", in “Behavioral and Brain Sciences” in 1980.
Look at the years: 1980, 1984. The years of the introduction of the personal computer. You could have 
such a magic machine on your own desk! A time of euphoria and unlimited expectations regarding computers.
Now 2017 we are more than 35 years and a lot of technological developments further. 
In contemporary philosophy the most common move is to insist that materialism must be right and that we must eliminate consciousness by reducing it to something else. 
The well-known philosopher, Daniel C. Dennett is an obvious example of a philosopher who adopts this position. 
Favourite candidates for the phenomena to which consciousness must be reduced are brain states described in purely "physical" terms and computer programs
But all of these reductionist attempts to eliminate consciousness are as hopeless as the dualism they were designed to supplant. 
In a way they are worse, because they deny the real existence of the conscious states they were supposed to explain
They end up by denying the obvious fact that we all have inner, qualitative, subjective states such as our pains and joys, memories and perceptions, thoughts and feelings, moods, regrets, and hungers.   
This urge to reductionism and materialism is motivated by the fear, that if we accept consciousness as having its own real existence, we will somehow be accepting dualism and rejecting the scientific worldview.
But as I said in a previous lecture: consciousness
is a natural, biological phenomenon. It is as much a part of our biological life as digestion, growth, or photosynthesis.
Consciousness is a natural biological phenomenon that does not fit comfortably into either of the traditional categories of mental and physical. 
It is caused by lower-level micro-processes in the brain and it is a feature of the brain at the higher macro levels.
Concepts like “mental” and “physical”, which refer to mutually exclusive categories, are probably outdated traditional concepts. We need new theories.
A start was already made by “The Chinese Room” argument. The sheer volume of the literature that has grown up around it,
mainly attempts to refute the argument, inspired Pat Hayes, a British computer scientist, to comment that the field of cognitive science ought to be redefined 
as "the ongoing research program of showing Searle's Chinese Room Argument to be false”.
Next time we’ll pay a visit to this Chinese Room and find out why the brain is not (like) a computer.
Thank you for your attention… ^_^

The Discussion  

[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:19] herman Bergson: I promised to tease you Bejiita :-)
[13:19] CB Axel: I am not at all familiar with the Chinese Room.
[13:19] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well, a computer might seem indeed to be close to the brain,
[13:20] herman Bergson: You will be next Tuesday CB :-)
[13:20] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): like us it have 1. memory. input and output (for ex like hearing and speech) and a way to process information
[13:20] herman Bergson: We'll see next Tuesday, Bejiita :-)
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i saw about a month ago that there were two computers who began to invent their own language and interact between themselves and actually the creators shut them downn immediately
[13:21] CB Axel: I think I heard about that, too, Gemma.
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): fearing what they might actually propose to each other to do
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:21] herman Bergson: Yeah I heard about that too, but I think it is just a nice story
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however in reality a computer is just a mockup of our own brains, a computer even with artificial inteligence can not really think, behind this apparent self learning capability it will just be as dumb
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i don’t think so herman
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): slavically following what we have programmed it to about how to learn
[13:22] herman Bergson: We'll address that issue next Tuesday again, Gemma :-)
[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok  will do some research on that too
[13:23] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Bejiita is writing a novel:)
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ohoh
[13:23] herman Bergson: yes ..would be interesting to find out the exact story
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): a computer might be able to self learn if programmed to but it will still work the same on the inside = billions of tiny switches = dumb and unable to feel anything
[13:23] CB Axel: I'd like to believe you, Bejiita.
[13:23] CB Axel: Aren't our brains made up of tiny switches? The synapses between neurons?
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): on the other hand, what causes us to feel and be aware
[13:24] herman Bergson: Well Bejiita, there you already admit that a computer does or can not have a mind like we have ?
[13:24] CB Axel: I guess our synapses are more complicated, though. Different kinds of receptors in each one.
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats the issue, but i have a hard time a device made up of billions of the same devices that are inside my amplifier - transistors can be made to feel just because there are so many of them
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but who knows
[13:25] herman Bergson: Indeed Bejiita.....
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it is a really tricky subject
[13:25] herman Bergson: To get an understanding of what consciousness is, think of that glass of water....
[13:25] CB Axel: Since we don't really know what makes us feeling creatures, where our consciousness comes from, we can't know what computers may do someday, can we?
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed not,
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes we can CB :-)
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): woooo now my mind start to spin from conflicting thoughts here
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:26] herman Bergson: ok....hold on for a moment......
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its a bit paradoxical
[13:26] herman Bergson: take this glass of water ....
[13:27] herman Bergson: there is water in the glass and it is liquid...
[13:27] herman Bergson: there are NOT to things..... water and the property of liquidity....
[13:28] herman Bergson: For centuries philosophers have discussed the ontologicla status of properties...
[13:28] herman Bergson: can liquidity exist as such...on its own...and what way....?
[13:28] herman Bergson: The answer today is simply NO
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true
[13:29] herman Bergson: no liquidity without H2O molecules at a given temperature....
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): exactly
[13:29] herman Bergson: we have theries why the H2O molecules behave as they do.....that is physics...
[13:30] herman Bergson: we can even predict the behavior of the molecules when we change the temperature and so on....
[13:30] herman Bergson: Now look atthe brain in the same way.......
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:31] herman Bergson: the billions of neurons (which consist of even more molecules) generate consciousness...
[13:31] herman Bergson: how...?
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): how
[13:31] herman Bergson: We do not yet know....
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): what makes that create feelings
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats the hard part
[13:32] herman Bergson: but we neurons/no brain , no consciousness
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): is it just like the transistors in the computer (meaning the computer can really feel)
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however there is one thing more
[13:32] herman Bergson: We already know what parts of the brain create certain conscious experiences....
[13:33] herman Bergson: Forget the computer metaphor, Bejiita
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): he is stuck on it
[13:33] herman Bergson: When you look at the evolution of the brain, it has developed in three stages....
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i want to try grasp the analogy in some way
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:34] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): you really cant according to Herman
[13:34] herman Bergson: about  a 250 million years ago the spin and rbainstam developed
[13:35] herman Bergson: that part of the brain controls functions like breathing, heartbeat, hunger, feelings….
[13:35] herman Bergson: upon it developed what is called the limbic system.....
[13:36] herman Bergson: which is only  a 70 million years old...
[13:36] herman Bergson: It generates emotions and the like
[13:37] herman Bergson: and upon that evolved the neocortex....the part of our brain that contains our reasoning abilities and so on
[13:37] herman Bergson: The point is that these three systems cooperate together but not in a perfect way....
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:38] herman Bergson: the neocortex is not able in some cases to prevent you from getting a fobia...
[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i guess that the brains has to develop more
[13:38] herman Bergson: or to prevent you from bestial behavior....
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true
[13:38] Ciska Riverstone: again I would throw experiences in the mix combined with how we humans use language and how that feedbacks into our brainsystem
[13:39] herman Bergson: Decent people turn into monsters under certain conditions....
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): particularly when drunk or high on something we can loose control and in worst case murder each other
[13:39] Zorba (code2.hax): Yes, consider the Standford experiment.
[13:39] herman Bergson: the jail experiment, Zorda?
[13:39] Zorba (code2.hax): yes
[13:40] herman Bergson: creepy yes
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aaa i think i know about that
[13:40] herman Bergson: But what was your point Ciska?
[13:41] Ciska Riverstone: the answer lays in the mix of experiences and brain reactions to it which are conditioned from childhood on
[13:41] herman Bergson: the answer to what?
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: I try to search for a way to put it in short ;)
[13:42] herman Bergson: yes plz  ^_^
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: let me think another moment and go on
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: hahah
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:43] herman Bergson: The main point is, that  as Searle says, consciousness is a feature of the brain
[13:43] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): got that so far
[13:43] herman Bergson: not some generated independent entity
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:44] herman Bergson: like liquidity is afeature of H2O molecules.....and not a caused effect that exists independently
[13:45] herman Bergson: However, we do not yet know how braincells generate consciousness
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): why do we have consciousness?
[13:46] herman Bergson: Ther emight come a day when we have developed a better theoretical context, appropriate measurement tools and so on, that we can observe how the system works
[13:46] CB Axel: Since consciousness seems to come from a certain area of the brain, the very primitive part, have there been any studies about how the cells in that part differ from those of other parts?
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we need to be able to measure it in some way like we can an EEG today but more advanced
[13:47] herman Bergson: Tha tis a tricky question if understood wrongly, Beertje...
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ore like copying the brains "operation system" onto an USB stick and study it
[13:47] herman Bergson: The question is only meaningful when your "WHY" means "HOW COME" that we have consciousness
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): which i doubt can be done
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): no I ment really WHY
[13:48] herman Bergson: If you read the WHY as "FOR WHAT REASON, you ar eon the wrong track
[13:48] CB Axel: What evolutionary reason is there for consciousness?
[13:49] herman Bergson: survival
[13:49] herman Bergson: survival of the species
[13:49] CB Axel: Trees seem to survive just fine without consciousness.
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ah
[13:49] CB Axel: I think I'd be much better off being unconscious. °͜°
[13:49] herman Bergson: consciousness is not a precondition for survival....
[13:50] herman Bergson: certain tress do not survive under certain conditions.....
[13:50] herman Bergson: so they spread out towards locations with more appropriate conditions
[13:50] herman Bergson: when they are not found the trees get extinct
[13:51] herman Bergson: but if you are able to insects have more chance to survive
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): smarter than us sometimes
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): they at least always find a way to bite me while in the middle of my golf swing
[13:52] Ciska Riverstone: you did ask " how is consciousness generated" and for me the answer in short is through experience - if we let go of dualism experience of all kinds do "infliter" the system in an osmotic way.: something happens to us and we neurologically make an inner note of it. At the same time we get information of others about what we experienced (language) which gives us the possibility to express (verbally) how we understand ourselves - of what we are conscious. That invites again a mirror back and so on- thats the "osmotic" picture and thats basically how I would thesis how consciousness comes into existence in one human being.
[13:52] herman Bergson: when you are able to experience pain and pleasure you even get more faculties to survive...
[13:53] herman Bergson: oops ..that is a complex answer Ciska....needs time to digest that....:-)
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: sorry I tried to make it short
[13:53] herman Bergson: Allow me to save it for next time...
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: but it did not really work hahah
[13:53] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): good idea
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: sure
[13:53] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:54] herman Bergson: do you have any references for your answer, Ciska?
[13:54] Ciska Riverstone: well let me think hard which talk I find for that one ;)
[13:55] Zorba (code2.hax): I would contend that we inherit consciousness, and need to nothing to have access to it if I'm understanding Ciska's comment properly.
[13:55] Zorba (code2.hax): need to do*
[13:55] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): another question is is the brain truly analog or digital, (firing on and off), the digital nature of a computer is another thing making it unlikley to be able to feel cause the world is analog, not digital and made up of 2 numbers
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: no I was trying to outline the process ZORBA!!!!!
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: of how it comes into existence
[1[13:56] Zorba (code2.hax): I think I understood that. I'm saying it exists in us even before we're born. The baby in the womb has been though to have consciousness.
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: I forgot that one is with the name
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: cannot say ur name until I put it out ;)
[13:56] herman Bergson: This tends  again to a kind of dualism......
[13:57] herman Bergson: Consciousness comes into existence due to the growth of a brain in the organism.....
[13:57] Zorba (code2.hax): As you stated earlier, it's an attribute of the brain.
[13:57] herman Bergson: what we inherit are genes, but no consciousness in my opinion
[13:57] Zorba (code2.hax): I agree, with the brain, comes consciousness.
[13:58] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:58] CB Axel: Sure, we're all born with it now, but what was the first creature ever to be a conscious being?
[13:58] herman Bergson: But I have to close-read your statement Ciska
[13:58] Zorba (code2.hax): No idea, CB
[13:59] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i wil have to go now
[13:59] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): have an appointment
[13:59] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): bye Gemma
[13:59] Ciska Riverstone: have a nice day gemma
[13:59] CB Axel: Bye, Gemma. I hope we see you Tuesday.
[13:59] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu gemma
[13:59] herman Bergson: the first creature that could respond on physical experiences, I'd say...
[13:59] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): wil try to make it Tuesday
[13:59] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:00] herman Bergson: Thanks for your participation Gemma
[14:00] CB Axel: I wonder what that creature was and what it thought about.
[14:00] herman Bergson: the amoebe that moved away from pain and was attracted to pleasure
[14:01] herman Bergson: don’t confuse consciousness with self-consciousness!
[14:02] Zorba (code2.hax): I think we should also be careful to separate reactions to input from consciousness. A Venus fly trap will close when a fly touches a certain part of it, but is it conscious? I can program a computer to do things based on input, but it's not conscious.
[14:03] herman Bergson: Crosssed my mind too Zorba.....
[14:03] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): trye
[14:03] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[14:04] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): a venus trap might have some sub conscious thing but that is like heartbeat or our own digestive system, it works sub conscious and we can not affect it in anyway
[14:04] herman Bergson: in the previous lecture I quoted Searle's definition of consciousness:"consciousness" refers to those states of sentience and awareness that typically begin when we awake from a dreamless sleep and continue until we go to sleep again, or fall into a coma or die or otherwise become "unconscious."
[14:05] Zorba (code2.hax) nods
[14:05] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[14:05] herman Bergson: this excludes the plants at least ^_^
[14:05] CB Axel: And the amoeba
[14:05] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:05] herman Bergson smiles
[14:06] herman Bergson: ok CB...bad luck for the amoebe :-))
[14:06] CB Axel: °͜°
[14:06] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however an experiment have shown (even mythbusters tried this) that slapping a plant produce a measurable signal from it like it felt pain
[14:06] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and after all plants are also alive
[14:07] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but i don’t think they are concious, they cant see, talk or move
[14:07] herman Bergson: alive they are Bejiita..but when we start with ourselves and go down the ladder of organisms, we do not know where consciousness kicks in....
[14:07] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[14:08] herman Bergson: Like we have discussions About Animal Rights and the question whether fishes experience stress
[14:08] herman Bergson: is this conscious experience or not?
[14:09] herman Bergson: How to deal with all animals we send to the slaughterhouses?
[14:09] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): or of my parents trees were in pain while i trimmed them last weekend
[14:09] herman Bergson: What to do with animals in zoos?
[14:09] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): I was thinking about that too
[14:09] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:09] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i hope they weren’t
[14:10] herman Bergson: You could say that to experience pain you need a central nervous system, Bejiita
[14:10] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): animals have that
[14:10] herman Bergson: indeed Beertje...
[14:10] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true and i don’t think they have such receptors, but how would that explain this signal then in that experiment
[14:11] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i need to check this up a bit more
[14:11] herman Bergson: Guess we all have to do some checking up after this discussion ^_^
[14:11] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[14:11] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): been very interesting thats one thing for sure
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:12] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): after these lessons we all will be vegetarians:)
[14:12] herman Bergson: So, thank you all again for your participation
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu soon again
[14:12] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[14:12] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): bye for now
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:12] CB Axel: Bye, bye. See you all Tuesday.
[14:12] Zorba (code2.hax): well, we'll be vegetarians unless we find out that plants feel pain.. ;-)
[14:13] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Have a goodnight all and thank you Herman
[14:13] Guestboook van tipjar stand: bergfrau Apfelbaum donated L$100. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[14:13] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol Zorba
[14:13] Zorba (code2.hax): tc all. Nice discussion.
[14:13] bergfrau Apfelbaum: thank you herman and class:-)
[14:13] herman Bergson: Then we wouldl be in serious trouble Zorba :-)
[14:13] Zorba (code2.hax): I think so too :-)
[14:13] herman Bergson: Makes even cows murderers
[14:14] Zorba (code2.hax): Murderers are to be executed, so we can go back to eating cows then....
[14:14] herman Bergson: Nice one
[14:14] herman Bergson: Class dismissed….. ^_^

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