So! I'm an old fart AND a young whipper snapper! Isn't nature wonderful! :-)

Brent: 'Except it is obvious that it doesn't take that specific structure to make the muscles move - anything that sets off the appropriate efferent nerve will work. Do you agree that your brain could be replaced, say neuron by neuron, with electronic neurons and still move your muscles...and still maintain your consciousness? '

MP: This is a trick question of course, because in order to make any sense of it at all, at very least somebody has to say 'ceteris paribus' which ought to make us very suspicious at the outset. After that we need virtually to assume the very thing at question in order to proceed with the answering. That is to say, the question falls into a hole straight away if we do not allow the 'Turing emulation hypothesis' am I right?

I for one have at very least grave doubts about the validity of numeric emulation of the Real world. On the other hand, numeric emulation of an already digitised model probably presents no problems to an entity with unlimited time and resources,

MP: So Brent's question is actually composed of several parts and I don't have the time, or the theoretical language, to do the full kind of analysis that it deserves. Thus rough and ready but plain English is all I can give you here. 1/ Yes, ever since Galvani or somebody tried dissecting frogs on a pewter plate with a steel knife [yes?] it has been known that electric stimulation of muscles will cause them to twitch, even if the animal is already dead. At the most superficial level therefore it is true that 'all we need' is to provide sufficiently discriminated sequential stimulation of all the muscles involved, either directly on the muscles or indirectly on the efferent neurons, and we could make a fresh corpse get up and walk.

2/ Getting it to talk would be much harder, although making it produce the APPEARANCE of talking would be just a sophisticated extension of making it 'take up its bed and walk'. So yes, in principle, we could make a real good zombie suitable for a bit part in Hollywood, but not only would it not be conscious, it would have no autonomy whatsoever. It would just be dead meat on the move. And very much on the nose before long also! :-)

3/ We then reach the first deep limit: even if we emulate vast numbers of movement patterns, our wandering corpse will not be engaged in problem solving if all we have is an on board computer pushing out stimulation patterns for the muscles in response to remote control and inertial control routines in the on-board computer. If we try to emulate the activities of ALL the neurons in the recently deceased brain we will encounter complexity pretty much beyond all imagining. Yes a team of crafty Igors might imagine interactions amongst groups of neurons and model in silicon what they imagine the organic neurons to have been doing. But they have a snag to overcome: They don't know what synergistic effects emerge out of the interactions of vast numbers of neurons. They are confronted with a fundamental choice: a/ to work out what small bits of the brain do then construct a silicon based brain emulator comprised of many replicated copies of functional units and force it to LEARN, how to act properly, or b/ take out a mortgage on all real estate in the galaxy and buy or make all the equipment needed to do the philosophers' facsimile!

The reason for this is because the Igors [sounds much better than 'Nerds'] do not know beforehand everything there is to know about neurons working together. I mean the processes involved in the transmission of depolarisation waves or impulses along the dendrites and axons are reasonably well understood, but how much are neurons in close proximity to each other affected by local area electromagnetic fields generated by the actions of large numbers of their neighbours? As I have asserted before, the human brain is a dynamic system, and if the Igors want to emulate everything significant about the functioning of neurons then it is not sufficient to make what someone thinks is an electric model of a neuron, they have got to know already just what it is that is significant.

4/ For the reasons given so far [and hopefully they are sufficiently clear] it may be possible to create a generalised rendition of a 'typical' human being, but it won't be you or me or any other particular person. Now I know that logicians, engineers and economists want to deal with an abstract and ideal case and therefore demand that we say 'if all the practical problems could be overcome, how about then?' so I can go along with the game and say that: By definition, if you really could emulate within a silicon based computer system EVERYTHING SIGNIFICANT about the structure and functioning of a human brain, then if follows that so long as the body, or body emulation including the brain emulation in question can interact with an environment like what its organic original was involved with, the entity in question would be conscious.

Mark Peaty  CDES

Brent Meeker wrote:

Mark Peaty wrote:
Bruno, Stathis, Brent, Peter,Brent, Tom, Hal and others,

I have to be very impertinent here and try to draw your attention to
 something you are just not getting.

There is NO ultimate answer to the meaning of life, the universe and
 everything except that IT IS, and you are here to take part in it
and observe yourself and others doing so. Existence is the source of
value, indeed it is the essence of value.

I am not in the habit of putting myself forward, but here I believe
the ideas are what count and I believe the issue is very important.

No, problem - we're all human beings here.

mean at 55 yo I know I have already attained 'old fart' status for
most people I meet. But one thing I know for sure is that, just like
me, YOU are not going to live for ever.

Bruno thinks he will  :-)

As most of you seem a fair
bit smarter than me I assume that you can/will mostly choose how you
spend your limited lifetime. Choose wisely 'cause it's a once-off.

I really do think that before any of you get much older you should
take a VERY careful look at what I have been writing here. Have a
look also at the common meanings for the word physics [samples
included below].

I don't need to read definitions of physics - I are one. :-)

If you don't then I think you are going to spend the
rest of your lives chasing shadows, and end up a bunch of old men
sitting on the cyberspace equivalent of a park bench, STILL chewing
over the same old problem! Of course, if that is what you want then
that's fine. But don't say you weren't warned!  :-)

There's something to be said for chewing the metaphysical fat. But worry about yourself - I race motorcycles on the weekend.

the fact is, being conscious is inherently paradoxical, and there is
no escape from the paradox, just like there is no escape from the
universe - until you die that is. Your impressions, perceptions,
feelings, intuitions, etc. of being here now [where you are of
course] is what it is like to be the updating of the model of self in
the world which you brain is constantly constructing all the time you
are awake. When you sleep there are times when enough of the model
gets evoked that you have a dream that you can remember. The paradox
is that for most of the time we assume that this awareness -
consciousness, call it what you like - IS the world, i.e. what it is
like to be 'me' here now, whereas in fact it is only what it is like
to be the model of 'me' here now. This does not mean that you don't
exist; you do exist, and you must pay taxes in partial payment for
the privilege, until you die that is. [I work for the Australian
Taxation Office so I know about these things :-] There is however a
lot more stuff going on in your brain than is actually explicitly
involved in your consciousness of the moment, as far as I can see
there are usually a couple or triple of very sophisticated tasks going on in parallel but swapping in and out of focussed attention as
 needs and priorities of the moment require. There are often also
several other tasks simmering away like pots on the back burners of
your stove.

I agree. Consciousness is a very small part of thinking - even of logical and mathematical thinking (c.f. Poincare' effect).

I believe it is the hippocampus which maintains the tasks in process
 through re-entrant signalling to the relevant cortical and other
areas which embody the salient features of the constructs involved.
Binding is achieved through re-entrant signalling of resonant wave
forms such that each construct EXISTS as a dynamic logical entity
able to maintain its own structure sufficiently to prevent certain
other things happening and to invoke through association [or perhaps
through reaction to patterns of inhibition, whatever] other
constructs as necessary. Note the key word 'exists'. The energy is
supplied through the work done as the neurons re-establish the
resting potential of their cell membranes. And here I should point
out that most of the posts on this list do not seem to talk much
about structure, and yet it is the spatia-temporal structures of
interacting cell assemblies which embody the patterns of information
which make muscles move. Think about it! This is what you should be
really concentrating on, because you and I are NOTHING if our muscles
can't be made to move in exactly the right way and the right time.

Except it is obvious that it doesn't take that specific structure to make the muscles move - anything that sets off the appropriate efferent nerve will work. Do you agree that your brain could be replaced, say neuron by neuron, with electronic neurons and still move your muscles...and still maintain your consciousness?

I know I have written 'I believe' up there a few times, but if you
wish I can go hunting for you and find a bunch of references that
back up what I am saying. I do not have access to pay-as-you-go
academic journals, so I have been gleaning ideas and items of
interest about this for the last couple of decades. I put it to you
that if you seriously think I am wrong, then you have a moral duty to
show me on the basis of clear and unambiguous empirical evidence
where it is that I am wrong about this. Because otherwise it is just
a matter of opinion and speculation, in which case mine is as good as
anybody else's that I have seen on consciousness related lists and
what I am proposing is not in contradiction to any good evidence that
I have heard about. I think William of Occam would be more than happy
with what I am putting forward.

I hope no one is offended by this. Is they are, sorry! But time
returns for no one and you do not have for ever, just all the time
there is - for you. That is what entropy is about.

Entropy is about possibilities.

Brent Meeker


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