X-Message-Number: 11875
Date: Wed, 02 Jun 1999 14:49:42 +0100
From:  (John de Rivaz)
Subject: Re: consciousness

In Cryonet article: <>  
> It is very easy to prove that a computer, however "intelligent" it may be, 
> not necessarily conscious. The first proof is just the reminder that 
> "intelligent" but unconscious computers already exist--e.g. the chess 
> Deep Blue that has Grand Master capability yet is merely a brute-force 
> program with a few flourishes. "Expert system" programs exist that may 
> diagnose medical symptoms better than most physicians, yet again are no 
> conscious than a dictionary. Conversation programs  exist that can fool 
> of the people some of the time. Surely anyone can see that, projecting 
> the future, programs and computers have unlimited potential for producing 
> impressive results, including goal-seeking and adaptive behavior, even 
> without the slightest hint of consciousness.

What about "idiot savants" - people are who virtually vegetables yet can, 
for example, work out the day of the week for any given date in a 
ridiculously short time or perform other mathematical, artistic or musical 
feats? Are these not a bit like Deep Blue being considered as a failure as a 
conscious entity?

Writing in "Strange Brains and Genius" Dr Clifford Pickover points out that 
brains need to be on the point of instability to produce really novel ideas, 
giving mini-biographies of several famous scientists. Without the work of 
people who from a social point of view were eccentric at best, modern 
civilisation would lack many of the things we take for granted. (He also 
mentions that most religous innovators, such as St Paul, were suffering from 
temporal lobe epilspsy.)


Sincerely, John de Rivaz
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