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AI Science

Mathematical Model Suggests That Human Consciousness Is Noncomputable 426

Posted by timothy
from the opposite-would-be-more-suprising dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "One of the most profound advances in science in recent years is the way researchers from a variety of fields are beginning to formulate the problem of consciousness in mathematical terms, in particular using information theory. That's largely thanks to a relatively new theory that consciousness is a phenomenon which integrates information in the brain in a way that cannot be broken down. Now a group of researchers has taken this idea further using algorithmic theory to study whether this kind of integrated information is computable. They say that the process of integrating information is equivalent to compressing it. That allows memories to be retrieved but it also loses information in the process. But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay. By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy, they use algorithmic theory to show that the process of integrating information must noncomputable. In other words, your PC can never be conscious in the way you are. That's likely to be a controversial finding but the bigger picture is that the problem of consciousness is finally opening up to mathematical scrutiny for the first time."
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Mathematical Model Suggests That Human Consciousness Is Noncomputable

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  • Bad syllogism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:10PM (#46953003) Homepage

    Baloney. What a stupid argument. Here is it, summarized:
    1. Here is one mathematical model of a way that memories could work.
    2. This method would be computable.
    3. But that would mean memories degrade the more you remember them
    4. But memories don't degrade the more you remember them.
    5. Therefore memories are not computable.

    Assignment for the student: find the flaw in this argument.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:13PM (#46953037) Homepage
    One of the most profound advances in bullshitting in recent years is the way researchers from a variety of fields are beginning to misuse mathematical terms in order to give their ideas a facade of intellectual responsibility. Since no one has yet come up with an agreed-upon definition of what this "consciousness" is as an objective observable phenomenon, trying to talk about it in mathematical terms is nothing more than intellectual masturbation.
  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:19PM (#46953129)

    That allows memories to be retrieved but it also loses information in the process. But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay.

    I remember hearing a radiolab episode on NPR talking about how memories actually get modified every time you recall them.

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/91569-memory-and-forgetting/

    Maybe the radiolab episode is completely wrong, but I don't think it's fair to assume memories are lossless without providing some evidence of this.

  • Re:Bad syllogism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:20PM (#46953141) Homepage

    The error is in step 5. It should be:
    5. Therefore, that mathematical model is incorrect.
    They found a contradiction, so the model must be revised.

  • by frog_strat (852055) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:23PM (#46953167)
    Hmmm. Do you find yourself occasionally having to re-learn your address or phone number ?
  • by VernonNemitz (581327) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:30PM (#46953271) Journal
    "Non-computable" does not mean "non-copy-able". In other words, consider the sort of consciousness associated with recognizing oneself in a mirror. Humans are not the only animals that can do that. Among those that can are quite a few other primates, dolphins, elephants, some species of birds (certain parrots), and even the octopus. So, think about that in terms of brain structure: Birds have a variant on the basic "reptilian brain", elephants and dolphins have the "mammalian brain" extension of the reptilian brain, chimps and gorillas have the "primate brain" extension of the mammalian brain, and the octopus brain is in an entirely different class altogether (the mollusk family includes clams and snails). Yet Nature found ways to give all of those types of data-processing equipment enough consciousness for self-recognition. And after you include however-many extraterrestrial intelligences there might be, all across the Universe, well, anyone who thinks "no variant of computer hardware will ever be able to do that" is just not thinking clearly.
  • Re:Bad syllogism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:36PM (#46953327)

    The flaw is as followed: the summary is missing a crucial step, which would read as such: "6. Profits!".

    They are missing an even more fundamental step: "0. Define consciousness." The definition they give, "a property of a physical system, its 'integrated information'," is a definition that I have never heard before, and I doubt most people would agree with. Before you try to explain something, you need to have a definition that people accept, and you have to also have a consensus that the phenomenon actual exists. There is some evidence that consciousness is an illusion, and that people make decisions unconsciously, and then rationalize them after the fact [about.com]. Arguing about "consciousness" is like arguing about "free will" or arguing about whether people have a soul.

  • Re:Bad syllogism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @05:07PM (#46953665) Journal

    You can, however, blame ignorant fucktards who don't understand the data OR the theory who go around acting like self-righteous assholes when a scientific theory intrudes on their ideological leanings.

  • Re:Bad syllogism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 08, 2014 @05:14PM (#46953739)

    There is some evidence that consciousness is an illusion, and that people make decisions unconsciously, and then rationalize them after the fact [about.com].

    But how could we rationalize about stuff if we weren't conscious?

  • No it isn't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by multi io (640409) <olaf.klischat@googlemail.com> on Thursday May 08, 2014 @08:29PM (#46955091)
    I hardly understand a goddamn word of TFA and have never heard of the "Integrated information theory", but I know that TFA's proposition must be false because the brain is based on the laws of physics, which are computable. Q.e.d.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:12PM (#46955743)

    Then you're in science fiction land...woo hoo! I like scifi as much as the next /.er but your imaginations of the possible existence of a civilization that can fully digitize continuous data is worthless to a **scientific discussion**

    To put it bluntly, this entire study is worthless as science. We don't know how human mind works. Should we ever know, we'd then have the oh so fun task of disentangling accidents of biology from fundamental underlaying limits. And because we don't know how the human mind works, we have no way of knowing whether a particular model presents it accurately or at all (however, any theory that claims human memory is in any way perfect is certainly off to a bad start), thus any conclusions based on it are firmly in the land of wild mass guessing.

    To be science it must be able to be tested. It must be a premise that is capable of being proven or disproven. "hard AI" proponents like Kurzweil and the "singularity" believers ignore this part of science.

    Well, the complexity of behaviour of the Universe has been increasing since at least the Big Bang in a virtuous circle. Is there some reason why the trend would stop, either now or at some future point? If not, then it seems like singularity would be the inevitable result.

    Anti-AI isn't science, it's just the ancient belief about the supernatural specialness of human soul, typically dressed in arguments from lack of imagination [wikipedia.org] and often seasoned with a helping of ego [wikipedia.org]. Nature has no way of telling between "artificial" and "natural", after all, so it's incapable of allowing natural intelligent creatures (us) yet disallowing artificial ones.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:39AM (#46959193)

    You can disagree with how these guys came to their conclusion, but it's the exact same conclusion others, by different means, reached decades ago: computation is insufficient.

    Computation is insufficient to solve all problems, yes. The questions are: is anything capable of solving all problems? That is, is there something beyond computation? And if there is, does human mind include it? And if it does, is it something essential or does it just give you an extra edge in some special situations?

    That's right. We don't. Of course, we don't need to know how it works in order to identify what does not.

    So far, no one has demonstrated any ability of human mind that couldn't be replicated through computation. That, of course, doesn't mean none exists. Knowing how mind works would would presumably allow us to enumerate over all its capabilities and settle the matter.

    Stop living in a fantasy land and learn to embrace reality. It's much more interesting than Kurzweil's video-game afterlife and Spielberg's sex-bots.

    And now we're back to meaningless rhetoric.

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".

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