Re: [asa] Sense and nonsense

From: <>
Date: Thu Jun 21 2007 - 16:34:52 EDT

As someone who probably leans towards AI pessimism, I've always tended to see
how far we have to go rather than how far we've come. Maybe I need to be
updated on some of this progress.

E.g. wasn't it just recently that the U.S. started attempting high-tech video
security in airports in an attempt to have known terrorist faces "recognized"
by graphics software? And wasn't it discovered that things as simple as a
band-aid or change or removal of glasses was enough to easily fool the
software? In short, the computing power needed to match a 3-year old's
ability to immediately visually recognize his mother (at any angle, variable
lighting, and in real time with motion) hasn't yet even been remotely
conquered by programmers, has it? Or in the audio realm, computers can read
to us now, but can they read a poem or prose with any passion, (okay -- so not
all of us can do that) -- but Data on Star Trek is portrayed as quite the
aspiring artist in any number of pursuits. Can a computer give all the proper
inflections on the fly as many literate people can? These abilities may well
be the easiest part of simulating consiousness. And if that was
convincingly achieved, the religious questions would be interesting indeed!
2015 seems impossible beyond question, but maybe I'm just behind.


Quoting Iain Strachan <>:

> 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.
> Iain

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Jun 21 16:35:18 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Jun 21 2007 - 16:35:18 EDT