[ExI] Digital Consciousness

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Mon May 6 13:55:29 UTC 2013

On Sat, May 04, 2013 at 11:59:19PM -0700, Gordon wrote:
> Giulio Prisco <giulio at gmail.com> wrote:
> >> Brains are not like digital computers.
> >> Brains are biological organs, not fundamentally different from livers or
> >> kidneys.
> > Livers and kidneys are computers: they are physical systems 
> > that evolve in time and interact with their environment according to 
> > well known physical laws and stored programs. 
> If livers and kidneys are computers then we might as well say that just about everything is a computer. It's warm here tonight and so I have a fan operating in my home office. It's oscillating back and forth, as if according to a program. I suppose I could think of it as a computer.

Giulio is incorrect in the sense that livers and kindneys are
computers. (But not in the sense that their function is not
computable, it certainly is).

However, the CNS and specifically the brain tissue is the result of billions
of years of darwinian optimization for the explicit purpose of information
processing. As such it has several unique features, from the metabolism,
the genome, and the different levels of organisation.

So the brain is very much different from the liver or the kidney.

Human designers had also to solve a very similiar set of problems, when
they invented communication networks, specifically packet-switched
networks and large scale clusters (which are mostly about networking,
and less about computation).

Human information technology is still in its infancy, so nobody should
assume the familiar features of today are going to persist for advanced
computers, which will be constrained by physics of computation and not
any particular design history.

Maybe when the computers don't look anything like today's electronics,
and are called differently the whole irrational objection is going to
go away quite naturally.

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