RE: [asa] Sense and nonsense

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Thu Jun 21 2007 - 14:40:08 EDT

Perhaps I am na´ve but it seems to me than any living entity, say, a human being, cannot create anything superior to itself. The most intelligence, consciousness or rationality that humans can create is to give birth in the old-fashioned way.


Therefore, a super computer like "Data," BTW I have never watched Star Trek, will never equal or replace its creator, man. Let us not forget that sentient, conscious beings or entities presuppose life and how to explain life from the nonliving is no mean feat. Therefore, it is doubtful that the physical plus mere physical interactions can create life.


As Christine may have suggested, Christians have an answer in John 1:3, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being," which is not easily amenable to scientific proof or scrutiny. Herein is where ID serves as metaphysics of science.



From: on behalf of Iain Strachan
Sent: Thu 6/21/2007 1:26 PM
To: Christine Smith
Subject: Re: [asa] Sense and nonsense

On 6/21/07, Christine Smith <> wrote:

        To this I will repost an earlier question of mine
        which no one ventured an answer--it is evident, as Pim
        pointed out, that brain and thought, emotions, etc.
        are *correlated*, but *correlation does not prove
        causation*--can someone please point me towards
        specific research studies that *mechanistically* show
        how non-sentient electrical impulses and atoms can
        give rise to sentience? Do you propose that this is
        another fundamental property of substances, as I
        believe it was Don(?) argued earlier? Or do you
        propose another *mechanism* which directly causes
        these properties to emerge?

This is probably the 64 billion dollar question, and is a topic of much controversy among AI researchers.

The "strong AI" adherents would argue that consciousness is an "emergent property" of a sufficiently large and sufficiently interconnected neurons. The human brain has 10^10 neurons, with 10^14 interconnections (synapses). If you are of the strong AI persuasion, then you will believe that when we can build a computer with sufficient memory to simulate such a large neural network (and that time can only be a couple of decades away at most), then you will have a sentient, conscious machine like Data in Star Trek. In other words you would have a conscious algorithm. A futurologist from British Telecom gave a talk which I attended when he suggested that a "Data" would be a possibility by 2015 - a timeline much shorter than that envisaged by Gene Roddenberry!

Such theories reach their ultimate philosophical embodiment in so-called "Alorithmic Theories of Everything", which suggest that the universe is just a simulation on a gigantic computer. See for an introduction to this idea. It also led to a kind of religious idea, dubbed "The Great Programmer Religion" - the Great Programmer running all possible universes up to a similar complexity as ours, in parallel on a gigantic computer.

However, not everyone believes this will happen. Notably Roger Penrose, a maths professor at Oxford Univerity, and long-time associate of Stephen Hawking, does NOT accept that a mere algorithm will be able to be conscious. Penrose holds that some bit of physics is yet to be done to understand consciousness - he holds that it is in Quantum mechanics, and in particularly Quantum Gravity, that the answer to the riddle will be found (this would be the other mechanism you referred to that directly causes these phenomena). These ideas are explained in Penrose's popular science book "The Emperor's New Mind".

There are also quasi-religious ideas embodied in here. It has been suggested that at the scale of the Planck length and Planck time, that the interconnectivity of the universe itself mimics that of a brain, and that possibly consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, rather than an emergent one and that the properties of matter etc "emerge" from the fundamental underlying consciousness. I think a Google on "Quantum Consciousness" should dredge up some interesting info on all this. I think this latter seems to lie closer to eastern mysticism than to Christianity, however.

I don't know which side I'd take in the debate - I think we simply don't know enough to be able to say.


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Received on Thu Jun 21 14:41:16 2007

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