Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Mind, Machines, and Mathematics

Creativity: The Mind, Machines, and Mathematics: A Public Debate
November 30, 2006 Running Time: 0:59:10
About the Lecture
Two of the sharpest minds in the computing arena spar gamely, but neither scores a knockdown in one of the oldest debates around: whether machines may someday achieve consciousness. (NB: Viewers may wish to brush up on the work of computer pioneer Alan Turing and philosopher John Searle in preparation for this video.)

Ray Kurzweil confidently states that artificial intelligence will, in the not distant future, “master human intelligence.” He cites the “exponential power of growth in technology” that will enable both a minute, detailed understanding of the human brain, and the capacity for building a machine that can at least simulate original thought. The “frontier” such a machine must cross is emotional intelligence—“being funny, expressing loving sentiment…” And when this occurs, says Kurzweil, it’s not entirely clear that the entity will have achieved consciousness, since we have no “consciousness detector” to determine if it is capable of subjective experiences.

Acknowledging that his position will prove unpopular, David Gelernter launches his attack: “We won’t even be able to build super-intelligent zombies unless we approach the problem right.” This means admitting that a continuum of cognitive styles exists among humans. As for building a conscious machine, he sees no possibility of one emerging from even the most sophisticated software. “Consciousness means the presence of mental states strictly private with no visible functions or consequences. A conscious entity can call on a thought or memory merely to feel happy, be inspired, soothed, feel anger…” Software programs, by definition, can be separated out, peeled away and run in a logically identical way on any computing platform. How could such a program spontaneously give rise to “a new node of consciousness?”

Kurzweil concedes the difficulty of defining consciousness, but does not want to wish away the concept, since it serves as the basis for our moral and ethical systems. He maintains his argument that reverse engineering of the human brain will enable machines that can act with a level of complexity, from which somehow consciousness will emerge.

Gelernter replies that believing this “seems a completely arbitrary claim. Anything might be true, but I don’t see what makes the claim plausible.” Ultimately, he says, Kurzweil must explain objectively and scientifically what consciousness is -- “how it’s created and got there.” Kurzweil stakes his claim on our future capacity to model digitally the actions of billions of neurons and neurotransmitters, which in humans somehow give rise to consciousness. Gelernter believes such a machine might simulate mental states, but not actually pass muster as a conscious entity. Ultimately, he questions the desirability of building such computers: “We might reach the state some day when we prefer the company of a robot from Walmart to our next-door neighbor or roommates.”

Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging


"This is an ambitious undertaking...chapters dense in information, but actually it works..."--The Psychologist
"This excellent book marks the advent of a new discipline, the cognitive neuroscience of aging. It comprehensively covers measurement tools, empirical findings, and theoretical models. Editors and authors are leading scholars of this evolving discipline. I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in the intriguing dynamic between brain and cognition in old age." -Ulman Lindenberger, Professor of Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Director, Center for Lifespan Development
"This is the right book, by the right authors, at the right time. The editors have assembled most of the leading investigators taking a neuroscience approach to the study of cognitive aging, and have asked them to write integrative reviews of the existing literature and to speculate about productive directions for future research. The result is not only a compendium of, in the editors' words "state-of-the-art knowledge about the cognitive neuroscience of aging in 2004," but a valuable source of ideas for research over the next 5 to 10 years." -Timothy Salthouse, Brown-Forman Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia

Product Description
Until very recently, what we knew about the neural basis of cognitive aging was based on two disciplines that had very little contact with each other. Whereas the neuroscience of aging investigated the effects of aging on the brain independently of age-related changes in cognition, the cognitive psychology of aging investigated the effects of aging on cognition independently of age related changes in the brain. Because an increasing number of studies have focused on the relationships between cognitive aging and cerebral aging, these two disciplines have begun to interact. This rapidly growing body of research has come to constitute a new discipline: cognitive neuroscience of aging. The goal of this book is to introduce this new discipline at a level that is useful to both professionals and students in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, neuropsychology, neurology, and related areas. The book is divided into four main sections. The first section describes noninvasive measures of cerebral aging, including structural (e.g., volumetric MRI), chemical, (e.g., dopamine PET), electrophysiological (e.g., ERP's), and hemodynamic measures (e.g. fMRI), and discusses how they can be linked to behavioral measures of cognitive aging. The second section reviews evidence for the effects of aging on neural activity during different cognitive functions, including perception and attention, use of imagery, working memory, long-term memory, and prospective memory. The third section focuses on clinical and applied concerns, such as the distinction between health aging and aging with Alzheimer's disease, and the use of cognitive training to ameliorate age-related cognitive decline. The final section describes theories that relate cognitive and cerebral aging, including models accounting for functional neuroimaging evidence and models supported by computer simulations. Taken together, the chapters in this volume provide the first unified and comprehensive overview of the new discipline of cognitive neuroscience of aging.

See all Editorial Reviews
Product Details

* Format: Kindle Edition
* Print Length: 408 pages
* Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (October 22, 2004)
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
* Language: English

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