The Q-Drive and the difficulty of interstellar exploration

I've discussed the difficulties of interstellar exploration before.  To get a spacecraft to another star within a human lifetime requires accelerating it to an appreciable percentage of c (the speed of light), say 10-20%.  In general that requires titanic amounts of energy.  (Forget about the common sci-fi scenarios of going into warp drive or jumping … Continue reading The Q-Drive and the difficulty of interstellar exploration

Viruses and the definition of “life”

One of the things we often debate here is the definition of "consciousness," but consciousness is far from the only concept that is difficult to define.  Others include religion, democracy, free will, and biological life. Life has a number of definitions, many of which are suitable for particular purposes.  If I recall correctly, NASA, for … Continue reading Viruses and the definition of “life”

The sensitive soul and the rational soul

I think examining the evolution of consciousness in animals helps shed light on it in humans.  Admittedly, there are difficulties.  Animals can't self report using language, which limits just how much of their experience can be garnered from experiments.  Still, taking data from human studies and combining it with animal studies can provide a lot … Continue reading The sensitive soul and the rational soul

AI: An Exercise in Analytical Philosophy

An excellent analysis of the issue! It seems like this is a problem for any interesting philosophical question. I’m always struck by how often philosophical disagreements are really just definitional disputes in disguise. It’s particularly troublesome for any discussion about the mind, about us at the most fundamental level, because people have intense emotions about the conclusions.

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The Question

I recently attended a computing group in which the following question was asked:

Can Software Achieve Human Level Intelligence?

We covered this question over the course of 3 meetings (7-9 hours total).  Those meetings didn’t go well.  We spent hours talking past each other, objecting to arguments, and accusing each other of missing the point.  In the end we gave up and agreed to talk about something else.

How can people spend hours talking about something without anything to show for it?Because we weren’t talking about the same thing and never settled on meanings first to discover that.

After reflecting on those meetings, I thought the following process would have been more productive:

  1. Each person precisely translates the sentence as they understand it.
  2. Replace any contentious terms to avoid arguing over semantics.
  3. Decide if there’s any basis for arguing.

So let’s continue by assuming two arguers: John and…

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The response schema

Several months ago Michael Graziano, and colleagues, attempted a synthesis of three families of scientific theories of consciousness: global workspace theory (GWT), higher order theory (HOT), and his own attention schema theory (AST). A quick (crudely simplistic) reminder: GWT posits that content becomes conscious when it is globally broadcast throughout the brain, HOT when a … Continue reading The response schema

An excellent explanation of quantum decoherence, and how it might lead to many worlds

Matt O'Dowd is a first class science communicator.  In this latest video, he does an excellent job explaining decoherence, and why the MWI (many worlds interpretation) ends up being so tempting when you see it through. Of course, this doesn't mean MWI is the right interpretation, but it does demonstrate why many find it … Continue reading An excellent explanation of quantum decoherence, and how it might lead to many worlds