Topic: Philosophy/Philosophy of mind
Alan Mathison Turing (; 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite these accomplishments, he was not fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime, due to his homosexuality, and because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act.
During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre that produced Ultra intelligence. For a time he led Hut 8, the section that was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Here, he devised a number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bombe method, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine.
Turing played a crucial role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic, and in so doing helped win the war. Due to the problems of counterfactual history, it is hard to estimate the precise effect Ultra intelligence had on the war, but at the upper end it has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.
After the war Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the Automatic Computing Engine. The Automatic Computing Engine was one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory, at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, first observed in the 1960s.
Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts; the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 had mandated that "gross indecency" was a criminal offence in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES, as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as a suicide, but it has been noted that the known evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning.
In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he was treated". Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013. The Alan Turing law is now an informal term for a 2017 law in the United Kingdom that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.
- "Alan Turing's 100th Birthday - Mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, scientist" | 2012-06-22 | 146 Upvotes 19 Comments
- "Happy Birthday, Alan Turing" | 2011-06-23 | 78 Upvotes 6 Comments
Bicameralism (the condition of being divided into "two-chambers") is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once operated in a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3,000 years ago, near the end of the Mediterranean bronze age.
- "Bicameralism (Psychology)" | 2019-07-06 | 51 Upvotes 29 Comments
Bonini's paradox, named after Stanford business professor Charles Bonini, explains the difficulty in constructing models or simulations that fully capture the workings of complex systems (such as the human brain).
- "Bonini's Paradox" | 2019-05-26 | 88 Upvotes 52 Comments
The Chinese room argument holds that a digital computer executing a program cannot be shown to have a "mind", "understanding" or "consciousness", regardless of how intelligently or human-like the program may make the computer behave. The argument was first presented by philosopher John Searle in his paper, "Minds, Brains, and Programs", published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1980. It has been widely discussed in the years since. The centerpiece of the argument is a thought experiment known as the Chinese room.
The argument is directed against the philosophical positions of functionalism and computationalism, which hold that the mind may be viewed as an information-processing system operating on formal symbols. Specifically, the argument is intended to refute a position Searle calls strong AI: "The appropriately programmed computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the same sense human beings have minds."
Although it was originally presented in reaction to the statements of artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, it is not an argument against the behavioural goals of AI research, because it does not limit the amount of intelligence a machine can display. The argument applies only to digital computers running programs and does not apply to machines in general.
- "Chinese room argument" | 2017-07-04 | 11 Upvotes 9 Comments
The eight-circuit model of consciousness is a hypothesis by Timothy Leary, and later expanded on by Robert Anton Wilson and Antero Alli, that "suggested eight periods [circuits] and twenty-four stages of neurological evolution". The eight circuits, or eight "brains" as referred by other authors, operate within the human nervous system, each corresponding to its own imprint and direct experience of reality. Leary and Alli include three stages for each circuit that details developmental points for each level of consciousness.
The first four circuits deal with life on Earth, and survival of the species. The last four circuits are post-terrestrial, and deal with the evolution of the species, altered states of consciousness, enlightenment, mystical experiences, psychedelic states of mind, and psychic abilities. The proposal suggests that these altered states of consciousness are recently realized, but not widely utilized. Leary describes the first four as "larval circuits", necessary for surviving and functioning in a terrestrial human society, and proposed that the post terrestrial circuits will be useful for future humans who, through a predetermined script, continue to act on their urge to migrate to outer space and live extra-terrestrially. Leary, Wilson, and Alli have written about the idea in depth, and have explored and attempted to define how each circuit operates, both in the lives of individual people and in societies and civilization.
The term "circuit" is equated to a metaphor of the brain being computer hardware, and the wiring of the brain as circuitry.
Leary uses the eight circuits along with recapitulation theory to explain the evolution of the human species, the personal development of an individual, and the biological evolution of all life.
- "8-Circuit Model of Consciousness" | 2011-01-10 | 12 Upvotes 6 Comments
The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why and how sentient organisms have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how and why it is that some internal states are subjective, felt states, such as heat or pain, rather than merely nonsubjective, unfelt states, as in a thermostat or a toaster. The philosopher David Chalmers, who introduced the term "hard problem" of consciousness, contrasts this with the "easy problems" of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, and so forth. Easy problems are (relatively) easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, regardless of how complex or poorly understood the phenomena of the easy problems may be, they can eventually be understood by relying entirely on standard scientific methodologies. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set and will "persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained".
The existence of a "hard problem" is controversial. It has been accepted by philosophers of mind such as Joseph Levine, Colin McGinn, and Ned Block and cognitive neuroscientists such as Francisco Varela, Giulio Tononi, and Christof Koch. However, its existence is disputed by philosophers of mind such as Daniel Dennett, Massimo Pigliucci, and Keith Frankish and cognitive neuroscientists such as Stanislas Dehaene and Bernard Baars.
- "The Hard Problem of Consciousness" | 2010-05-03 | 28 Upvotes 18 Comments
The knowledge argument (also known as Mary's room or Mary the super-scientist) is a philosophical thought experiment proposed by Frank Jackson in his article "Epiphenomenal Qualia" (1982) and extended in "What Mary Didn't Know" (1986). The experiment is intended to argue against physicalism—the view that the universe, including all that is mental, is entirely physical. The debate that emerged following its publication became the subject of an edited volume—There's Something About Mary (2004)—which includes replies from such philosophers as Daniel Dennett, David Lewis, and Paul Churchland.
- "The knowledge argument" | 2015-03-19 | 31 Upvotes 54 Comments
The hypothesis of linguistic relativity, part of relativism, also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis , or Whorfianism is a principle claiming that the structure of a language affects its speakers' world view or cognition, and thus people's perceptions are relative to their spoken language.
The principle is often defined in one of two versions: the strong hypothesis, which was held by some of the early linguists before World War II, and the weak hypothesis, mostly held by some of the modern linguists.
- The strong version says that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories.
- The weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions.
The principle had been accepted and then abandoned by linguists during the early 20th century following the changing perceptions of social acceptance for the other especially after World War II. The origin of formulated arguments against the acceptance of linguistic relativity are attributed to Noam Chomsky.
- "The reason why Blub programmers have such a hard time picking up more powerful languages." | 2007-09-29 | 7 Upvotes 28 Comments
Moravec's paradox is the observation by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, reasoning (which is high-level in humans) requires very little computation, but sensorimotor skills (comparatively low-level in humans) require enormous computational resources. The principle was articulated by Hans Moravec, Rodney Brooks, Marvin Minsky and others in the 1980s. As Moravec writes, "it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility".
Similarly, Minsky emphasized that the most difficult human skills to reverse engineer are those that are unconscious. "In general, we're least aware of what our minds do best", he wrote, and added "we're more aware of simple processes that don't work well than of complex ones that work flawlessly".