The Machine Brain

What makes you, you? How do we define consciousness? Are we just biological computers? What is intelligence? — These aren’t questions you would expect to be answering in an internet seminar, yet much of our conversation revolved around these philosophical dilemmas (at times heading off the cliff of radical skepticism).

As humans, we think we are special. For thousands of years, we believed that we were the center of the universe. Still, many believe that we are created in God’s image, models of the divine. How could a computer or some artificial intelligence ever achieve human levels of intelligence, emotion, and complexity?

Just because the brain is neurochemical, as opposed to digital, does not make it special. If you look inside the human brain, there is no consciousness section. All you will find is neurons and neural connections processing stimuli in parallel to create massive computing power. If you managed to simulate the brain with transistors in the place of neurons, connected in parallel, I don’t think that you would be able to distinguish between the neurochemical brain and the digital brain. I don’t think the brains would be able to tell if they were digital or neurochemical, either.

Yet, this is just postulation. I have no idea if there is something else to consciousness besides neural connections, though we have yet to discover anything else.

I think that the more interesting thing to think about is the potential of the runaway artificial intelligence singularity. All of the current applications of artificial intelligence are narrow. This includes Google Translate and other A.I. initiatives. Gradually, I think we will see more and more narrow applications of A.I., followed by the merging of these applications, and finally a general A.I. software that will lead to an asymptotic development of computing power and intelligence (are they one in the same?). The importance is in setting parameters early and often.

I don’t foresee a malevolent artificial intelligence, but I may be underestimating the capacity of humans to do evil. Regardless, it seems like we’re just along for the ride.

A youtube channel that I follow, exurb1a, posted an timely video, which goes into the possible future utopias and dystopias that come along with the exponential growth of technology. I found it interesting.

1 Comment »

  1. Jim Waldo

    October 22, 2017 @ 8:49 pm


    I love the video…

    There is a real connection between the discussions we had about consciousness and the Internet– in that the Internet may be the closest thing we have experienced that has the level of connectedness that seems to be a major characteristic of the brain. It isn’t chemical, but if consciousness is an emergent property of the level of connectedness and complexity of the overall network, then the Internet might be the thing that become conscious.

    But it doesn’t seem to have done so, yet. Or if it has, it has decided not to tell us…

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