In Greek mythology, the hero Theseus, who slew the Minotaur and escaped its maze, returned from Crete to Athens where the Athenians preserved his ship in seaworthy state for more than a thousand years. It was an emblem of courage and a reminder of a national hero that many Greeks considered more legendary than mythological.
The Ship of Theseus was carefully maintained. Parts that rotted away were replaced with exact replicas. And in a ship made almost entirely of wood, crude iron, rope, and sail, everything rots, so eventually everything gets replaced.
Which makes the identity of the ship an interesting question.
Over the last few weeks I’ve written a series of posts leading up to the idea of human consciousness in a machine. In particular, I focused on the difference between a physical model and a software model, and especially on the requirements of the software model.
The series is over, I have nothing particularly new to add, but I’d like to try to summarize my points and provide an index to the posts in this series. It seems I may have given readers a bit of information overload — too much information to process.
Hopefully I can achieve better clarity and brevity here!
Over the past few weeks we’ve explored background topics regarding calculation, code, and computers. That led to an exploration of software models — in particular a software model of the human brain.
The underlying question all along is whether a software model of a brain — in contrast to a physical model — can be conscious. A related, but separate, question is whether some algorithm (aka Turing Machine) functionally reproduces human consciousness without regard to the brain’s physical structure.
Now we focus on why a software model isn’t what it models!
If you have read this blog much, you know that a topic that interests me greatly is the nature of consciousness. How is it that a three-pound clump of cells, a brain, gives rise to the rich experience of consciousness, our minds? Cognitive scientist David Chalmers termed this “the hard problem” of consciousness, and as it stands we really have no idea what consciousness is (and yet we all experience it all the time).
Back in 1979 cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter wrote Gödel, Escher, Bach, a book that attempts to answer the question. GEB, as it became known, was a large book most took as a random tour of interesting scientific ideas. But GEB did have a theme, so 25 years later Hofstadter wrote another (much shorter) book to re-state his case.
That book is called I Am a Strange Loop, and it has much worth considering!
This may be the first actual Brain Bubble I’ve ever posted! The original intent was to provide a mechanism for sudden (short) thoughts I wanted to record or put out there. But the BB posts quickly turned into mini collections of thought bubbles.
But today I started trying to get into Immanuel Kant (again), and that naturally led to a bit of Wiki Walking.
It was when I got to the article about the subject-object problem that a sudden brain bubble burst!
In my first post I mentioned René Descartes and his seminal statement, “Cogito ergo sum.” I think, therefore I am. Because this statement and the ideas that spring from it lie at the heart of my philosophy and interests, it is a fitting topic for my second post. I also mentioned beginnings; these beginning posts explore such core topics as form my core and inform my mind.
And mind is the topic at hand. “I think, therefore I am,” concerns one of the most central, most personal, most mysterious, most fantastic aspects of our existence. It concerns something each of us shares every waking moment, but which remains–thus far–completely unknown.
That every moment mystery is that we think and we experience. Each of us has a voice inside their head; an «I» that is us. It’s the driver of the car that says, “I’m hungry,” or “I’m going to the library.” It’s the sound track running in your head right now as you read this. It’s the basis of your thoughts and experience.
We have no idea what it actually is.