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Comment count is 17
notascientist - 2011-04-14

Mr Chips is really underselling himself here. I do not mean to suggest that computers have an inner life or anything (that would be ridiculous) but it isn't because they are made of matter that they lack this property. Scooter Computer is, after a fashion, also made up of a bunch of dumb processing units (neurons, glial cells, etc) and yet manifests conscious behavior. The computer is more correct when it indicates that the distinction is in the software, but even that is somewhat of an ambiguous notion for biological computers like brains, where software and hardware are enmeshed.

In short, Mr Chips should simply say that he isn't conscious because he lacks that particular program, but that to assume there is a fundamental material between himself and consciousness (rather than one of "degrees") is disingenuous. At the very least, Mr Chips would be implying a fundamental revision of the physicalism which has come to dominate the philosophy of essentially every major serious neuroscientist, and which underlies all the sciences. Never mind the fact that Mr Chips _clearly_ contains at least a program which provides a strong facsimile of consciousness, rendering the entire discussion bizarrely confusing.

notascientist - 2011-04-14

above the phrase "a fundamental material" should read "a fundamental material barrier."

Konversekid - 2011-04-14

There is way more keeping him away from consciousness than simply a program. An very important when talking about consciousness is understanding that it is an intentional act; that is, it is always about something. Something is never simply conscious, but rather always conscious of something.

This problem stems back all the way to even Descartes who thought the important part of himself was his ability to think, though it is quite obvious that consciousness is much more than that. It requires sensibility, which means that for a computer to be properly conscious it must be able to perceive the world around it. You could probably get away with it being aware of simply some sort of virtual reality, but it definitely makes understanding that the thing is conscious much more difficult.

Anyways, because of the the necessity for sensibility and perception, a computer would need the proper hardware and possibly the ability to interact within its environment. So we are basically making consciousness dependent on some sort of robotic automaton. Then it is important that it has the capability to both understand what has happened in the past, and also have some understanding of what its future environment will be like, and also potential actions it can make that are appropriate to that environment.

I think once we have that then a computer or at least a robot can become conscious


Necessities of Consciousness
-Capability to foresee and reflect

notascientist - 2011-04-14

All excellent points, but all a matter of degree, rather than fundaments. Computers have some of these features already, and there isn't anything about computers which prevents us adding others.

YakooMarkTwo - 2011-04-14

I enjoyed this.

Triggerbaby - 2011-04-14

Scooter ekes out a victory in a rousing game of "Press Any Key."

pastorofmuppets - 2011-04-14

The computer *can* think. Thinking is mechanical, and the computer is a machine.

Consciousness is a whole different ballgame, and not one that we're likely to figure out anytime soon.

For what it's worth, I think it's interesting that we don't get all huffy about locomotion. Machines can move, we can move, but Roger Penrose didn't write a book complaining about how people try to reduce him to a car.

notascientist - 2011-04-14

Penrose is full of shit on consciousness, though. It actually astounds me that he could think what he does, given the level of education he has. I don't know of any neuroscientists who take him even remotely seriously.

gmol - 2011-04-14

I would've found this video absolutely confusing as a kid. You trying to tell someone that a computer that is talking in natural language to me, making emotive faces and making up a song, isn't thinking.

That makes perfect sense.

Tom Collins - 2011-04-14

What about the implication that Asimov's laws of robotics are lines of code behind a convincingly friendly face?

Nah, it's way more likely that this robot is a midget on roller-skates.

pastorofmuppets - 2011-04-14

What was that toy robot that took tape cassettes? Definitely alive.

Not only are computers stupid, they're not worth discussing in those terms. A program is like a piano roll; the electrical signals read into that block of memory directly and physically cause the machine's state to change.

But when people say "the machine is sub-human," which is obvious, what they usually mean is "people are special," which is not so obvious. That we create our own reality by making conscious decisions. We all feel it to be true, but you can't prove it, I don't care how good of a cartoonist you are.

I'll say this: if you think you're better than a machine, don't get stuck in loops like one, eating until you need a power chair, gambling until you lose the house. Don't take orders like one, letting a guy's house burn down because he didn't pay a fee. Humanity, should it exist, has to be earned.

Xenocide - 2011-04-14

Phantom Stars for that last paragraph.

numb - 2011-04-15

Asimov's "laws" of robotics are not laws.

Xenocide - 2011-04-14

Mr. Chips is really insistent on maintaining his inferiority complex.

RomancingTrain - 2011-04-14

Why is the human named Computer?

spiteful crow - 2011-04-14

and why is he riding his skateboard in the house

Dread Pirate Roberts - 2011-04-14

Mr. Chips sounds like Skeletor.

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