- Nov 13, 2019 at 12:27 pm #3618466
Why Can’t Science Explain Consciousness?
By Philip Goff – Durham University 2 days ago Human Nature
It’s the greatest scientific challenge of our time.
The human brain is composed of nearly 1 billion neurons.
How does the human brain, consisting of nearly 100 billion neurons that are each connected to 10,000 others, give rise to consciousness?
Explaining how something as complex as consciousness can emerge from a grey, jelly-like lump of tissue in the head is arguably the greatest scientific challenge of our time. The brain is an extraordinarily complex organ, consisting of almost 100 billion cells — known as neurons — each connected to 10,000 others, yielding some 10 trillion nerve connections.
We have made a great deal of progress in understanding brain activity, and how it contributes to human behavior. But what no one has so far managed to explain is how all of this results in feelings, emotions and experiences. How does the passing around of electrical and chemical signals between neurons result in a feeling of pain or an experience of red?
There is growing suspicion that conventional scientific methods will never be able to answer these questions. Luckily, there is an alternative approach that may ultimately be able to crack the mystery…Nov 13, 2019 at 1:06 pm #3618468
well it really depends on what you mean by “explain consciousness” ? – we have a lot of good theories as to why we have it, and which structures in the brain gives rise to it – and how it can disappear – and also the “subjective feeling” do we have some ideas of where its generated – this is well explained in the books of Anthony Damasio and Daniel Dennett – and i think Chalmers gives the best approch to a way of understand it in the counscious mind – but its a bit like saying we dont understand the universe because we dont really understand quantum physics (we understand the math but our brains and made to deeply understand something in a different way) – i think we understand the mechanisc of it – but the metaphysical/epistemological part of it is so tied to the structure of our brain and cognition and the very phenomenology of our being in the world that we will never feel like it can be fully explained
Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
“‘Luckily, there is an alternative approach that may ultimately be able to crack the mystery”
And that approach is?Nov 13, 2019 at 4:04 pm #3618499
“And that approach is?”
Panpsychism, which interestingly, the author states cannot be tested. Hmmm.
Interesting topic.Nov 13, 2019 at 4:25 pm #3618504
well panchycism might be a good story and feed our “spiritual” inner feeling – but its not science unless you have some ideas of proofing or testing it – so the reason it feels like science cant explain it is the same reason people are still religious and believe in all kinds of stories – that the human mind is made to put explanatory preference into these (i.e Daniel Dennetts different “stances” ) science has quite good explanations of consciousness – but that doesnt mean it will ever explain in thomas nagels famous words “what it means to be a bat” – we probably wont – but that doesnt mean we wont be able to understand the type and lever of consciousness a bat has and how it sees the world
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Interesting that life has evolved to the point we can ponder this
and each of us has a consciousness that we’re constantly experiencing yet we can’t answer basic questions about it
and even though we can understand the physics of individual neurons and synapses, the complexity of the total is beyond understanding
I think science may eventually solve this problemNov 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm #3618510
the complexity of consciousness is in no way totally beyond understanding – read some hoffstandter, damasio, dennett, chalmers and so on – lots of explanations of the evolution, function and the structures in the brain responsible for consciousness and how it works and what happens when it doesnt work
I tend to believe that this is one of those topics in which making sweeping statements about what can or cannot be known is highly problematic.Nov 13, 2019 at 6:47 pm #3618517
Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Dr. Frankenstein was able to add the spark of life to his creation through the use of lightening.Nov 13, 2019 at 6:58 pm #3618518
“I tend to believe that this is one of those topics in which making sweeping statements about what can or cannot be known is highly problematic“
Yeah I’d agree with that. I think these studies will help to get us one step closer to where we can transcend the limitations of the human body. Perhaps AI won’t come from written code as much as it’ll be a matter of learning how to copy and paste the code that already exists within us.Nov 13, 2019 at 7:38 pm #3618520
Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
Does it matter?Nov 13, 2019 at 7:51 pm #3618522
Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Perhaps some things are best left to philosophy.Nov 13, 2019 at 8:16 pm #3618525
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
all of math and science used to be philosophy but it has since split off
same thing with consciousness. It’s philosophy right now.Nov 13, 2019 at 8:48 pm #3618537
It’s great to ponder the Why but it’s still good to pursue the How. You’d hope that these answers would reduce superstition but yet we have a thriving Flat Earth Society in 2019.Nov 14, 2019 at 10:56 am #3618655
They’re not mystics. But materialism is not giving good answers so they are looking around
News : Mind Matters : August 1, 2019
It’s easy to mock the idea. But consider what neuroscientists studying consciousness are up against:
Traditionally, scientists have been stalwart materialists. But doing so has caused them to slam up against the limitations of materialism. Consider the chasm between relativity and quantum mechanics, or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and you quickly start to recognize these incongruities.
PHILIP PERRY, “THE UNIVERSE MAY BE CONSCIOUS, SAY PROMINENT SCIENTISTS” AT BIGTHINK, JUNE 25, 2017
Put another way, in a universe governed by uncertainty principles rather than hard facts, what is the “material” in materialism?
There is no good materialist theory of consciousness; far from it, an article in Chronicles of Higher Education last year labeled the current research a “bizarre” field of science.
Consciousness depends on the brain, yes. But one may as well say that a student’s essay depends on her laptop. The laptop enables an essay that it does not create. Her ideas start elsewhere but where, exactly, do they start? What space do they inhabit?Nov 14, 2019 at 2:34 pm #3618665
well the “universe is conscious” is a nice and romantic notion – sure – but does it have some evidence or explanatory value? – and i do think modern non reductionist materialism with ideas of emergence like Chalmers are giving some good explanations and ideas of how to from a metaphysical standpoint understand consciousness – and the parallel to physics is … well not really saying a lot – its still within a materialistic world view – the change is in causality and what we understand by “material” i.e not atomar but cloud”ish” – the material is still energy-matter – but how it behaves is just within a feild of probability – and no – a students essay doesnt depend on her laptop – it depends on her brain – the laptop is just a random means to produce a physical shareable object –
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
For me it’s those who believe in AI and computers eventually becoming conscious or able to support consciousness who are the dreamers.
ain’t gonna happen.
consider the computing power at Amazon or Google–all that quantity of bits hasn’t resulted in the emergence of consciousness. I doubt that piling in more quantities of bits will ever do the trick.
We are precisely NOT built like computers. Nor toasters or tv sets. whatever consciousness may turn out to be…it’s NOT composed of bits, or supported by them.
Nov 14, 2019 at 8:02 pm #3618710
- This reply was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by jeffrey armbruster.
well AI research today knows quite well the difference between types of information processing and how to create maschine learning – next steps are creating AI build on a non static hardware base with plasticity so it can change and learn, restructure like the human mind – so sure its possible we will make conscious AI in the future if we develop the right technology and if we from moral and structural standpoints want to
Maybe there’s a different way to look at it?
Can you conclusively prove that love is “real” and not merely an elaborate act? From the recipient’s point of view, if it looks like love, feels like love…People get duped by false representation of supposedly very real and sophisticated emotions all the time.
So what if a machine can “dupe” us too?
At what point does the question of whether or not a machine is “truly” conscious become inconsequential to practical life? What if a human being cannot tell the difference in a phone conversation or interaction with said machine?Nov 14, 2019 at 9:13 pm #3618726
Well the classic Turing test is exactly about weather or not we call tell the difference – from a sceptical standpoint we also dont know if other human being are conscious or not – we assume so from logic and empathy – they act and behave like us thus they must be conscious – same in this case with AI – the case with love is diffenrent than consciousness – love can be false and be proven so by third party observations – whereas the consciousness is more of a metaphysical question inferred by physical signs/observations – fx the mirror test and other tests we use to see if a being is cognisent of itself and self reflective
“…love can be false and be proven so by third party observations – whereas the consciousness is more of a metaphysical question inferred by physical signs/observations.”
Not sure I agree that they’re so different at all; from a viewpoint of extreme skepticism, the affirmation of either is based upon A) A proclamation by the individual that it exists – and a machine or a human could say they’re in love or conscious and could very well be lying…or B) outside observation looking for the external physical behavioral characteristics of love or consciousness- and I see no reason both couldn’t be mimicked, especially via a simple platform like a text or telephone conversation.
(I doubt we’re far off from talking to machines on the phone while thinking they very well could be humans)
Take a hypothetical case of Locked-in Syndrome; an individual fully aware and conscious and yet completely paralyzed and unable to communicate. Were it not for eye movements and blinking, how could we demonstrate this person was conscious vs. someone that was alive and yet incapacitated and unconscious? Granted, today we have fMRI machines and the like, but 100 years ago what would be the measure? Assuming they could hear and could even understand your questions, would we ask them to blink once for yes and blink twice for no?
Blinking to communicate sounds a lot like binary to me, not far off from basic coding at all…
So could I not program a computer to answer questions in a yes/no fashion and produce a similar result? Further, if the flesh and blood person blinking to answer questions had limited brain function, a lack of language, etc., I presume their answers would be quite simplistic. Could a machine not easily be programmed to produce the same simple answers to the same simple questions? If we then placed the transcripts of these conversations side by side, removed the context of knowing that one was a flesh and blood human whereas the other was a machine, could an outside observer possibly determine which transcript belonged to who?
Despite all of the evidence pointing towards complete ambiguity between the two, when we learn that one is flesh and one is machine, we automatically rule out consciousness for the machine- but this seems rather arbitrary from an objective viewpoint, based not upon observation of behavior or any measurable standard, but upon belief systems and preconceived notions about consciousness.
*Here’s the part where I wonder if anyone is actually reading any of my nonsense. Well, I’m having fun with it anyway. ; )Nov 14, 2019 at 11:16 pm #3618750
One of the problems is (in my belief) animals clearly have consciousness. Cats certainly. I tend ** ***** **** Jeffrey that machines and even AI will not produce consciousness, or perhaps sentience is a better term for the quality of awareness and beyond that self-awareness. I don’t consider that the test of artificial consciousness that it can’t be distinguished from the human kind, then it is real, is authentic.Nov 14, 2019 at 11:21 pm #3618751
There is clearly a difference between a sensor responding to say humidity or temperature and a human doing so, when the human is fully aware, not just reacting at an instinctual level. We have the capacity to “know” in a deeper sense than just automatic recognition, surely?Nov 14, 2019 at 11:24 pm #3618752
And the huge problem of machine learning… but surely there is a qualitative difference, a huge leap, between machine and human?Nov 14, 2019 at 11:26 pm #3618753
Love is a feeling whereas consciousness is the subject which experience this feeling/emotion – animals have emotions and even if it’s hard there are both Internal (i.e in the brain) and external signs of love – body language and so on – you can in part say the same about consciousness but we would argue that a feeling (and not just emotion) like love requires the subject – meaning consciousness
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