Monday, February 08, 2016


"We also use 'consciousness' for all sorts of ideas about what we are. Most of these are based on old myths, superstitions, philosophies, and other acquired collections of memes. We use these in part to prevent ourselves from trying to understand how we work-and in older times that was useful because that would have been such a hopeless quest. For example, I see that lamp in this room. That perception seems utterly simple to me-so direct and immediate that the process seems quite irreducible. You just look at it and see what it is. But today we know much more about what actually happens when you see a lamp. It involves processes in many parts of the brain, and in many billions of neurons. Whatever traces those processes leave, they're not available to the rest of you. Thus, the parts of you that might try to explain why and how you do what you do, do not have good data for doing that job. When you ask yourself how you recognize things, or how you chose the words you say, you have no way to directly find out. It's as though your seeing and speaking machines were located in some unobservable place. You can only observe their external behaviors, but you have no access to their interior. This is why, I think, we so like that idea that thinking takes place in a mental world, that is separate from the world that contains our bodies and similar 'real' things. That's why most people are 'dualists.' They've never been shown good alternatives."

RIP Marvin Minsky.

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