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13 June 2005 TOWARD A HIGH-LEVEL DEFINITION OF CONSCIOUSNESS . Manuel Blum Ryan Williams Brendan Juba Matt Humphrey. From Collins English Dictionary , 1995:. conscious adj.

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13 June 2005TOWARD

A HIGH-LEVEL DEFINITION OF CONSCIOUSNESS 

Manuel BlumRyan WilliamsBrendan JubaMatt Humphrey

from collins english dictionary 1995
From Collins English Dictionary, 1995:

conscious adj.

  • 4. a. denoting or relating to a part of the human mind that is aware of a person’s self, environment, and mental activity and that to a certain extent determines his choices of action.
  • b. (as n.) the conscious is only a small part of the mind. Compare unconscious.
a complete summary of my results
A complete summary of my results:
  • Consciousness is a kind of flashlight. The flashlight beam is a limited resource (what Minski calls a serial bottleneck)
  • Our conscious self is offered a set of choices. The beam of consciousness selects one. This repeats ad infinitum
slide5

Applications

Philosophy

  • Understanding “understanding,” “self-awareness,” “free will,” resolving:

“All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it.” — Dr. Johnson

Science

  • Building good theorem provers (as opposed to proof checkers), and better CAPTCHAs
slide6

Why Consciousness Now

  • There are many researchers trying to understand consciousness, including
    • Philosophers: since forever
    • Neurophysiologists: fMRI studies!
    • Cognitive psychologists
    • Roboticists
  • No complexity theorists that I know of
    • Les Valiant comes closest
    • Leslie Lamport “How to Write a Proof”
slide7

Why should Complexity Theorists study Consciousness?

  • They have not thought about it, but they are well-suited to develop the theory
    • Automata and Turing machines
    • Knowledge (Zero-knowledge)
    • Randomness (Pseudorandomness)
    • They understand that complexity rulez
  • Researchers in The Scientific Study of Consciousness cry out for a theory
slide8

Our approach is to define a formal concept of consciousness, called CONSCSness

  • CONSCS = Conceptualizing Strategizing Control Systems
  • CONSCSness = the state, condition, or quality of being CONSCS
informal notion of entity environment
Informal Notion of Entity & Environment
  • An ENTITY is an organism (such as an ant or a person) or an organization (such as an ant colony, a cultural group, or a nation) — in relation to an environment
  • An entity's ENVIRONMENT at time t is the entity's (relevant) world at time t: the context in which the entity functions
more formal definition of environment entity
More Formal Definition of Environment & Entity
  • An ENVIRONMENT is a computational device having the full power of a Universal Turing Machine (UTM). It is connected to a collection of other computational devices, called ENTITIES
  • An ENTITY is a computational device that (together with memory supplied by the environment) has the full power of a UTM
the conscs defining game
The CONSCS-defining game

1. Formal definition of CONSCS should be mechanically applicable to any entity in a well-defined environment

  • One should not have to be conscious to test if an entity is a CONSCS
  • This requirement has a similar (but weak) analogy with CAPTCHAs, which are bots that distinguish humans from bots
  • We do NOT require that our definition of consciousness be “black-box.” One may be forced to “open up” an entity
the conscs defining game1
The CONSCS-defining game
  • Formal definition of CONSCS should be mechanically applicable to any entity in a well-defined environment
  • The question whether an entity is CONSCS is a function of its algorithms, not the stuff (silicon or carbon) that implements those algorithms

3. In the real-world environment, people are CONSCS while rocks are not (CONSCS)

informally an entity is conscs relative to a given environment iff
Informally: An entity is CONSCS relative to a given environment iff:
  • The entity has a model of its environment, and a model of itself in the environment
  • 2. The entity is motivated/driven towards goals
  • 3. The entity is able to “try on any 'story' for size.” A story provides strategy for dealing in the world
  • 4. The entity has simple serial circuit — the CONSCS processor — as interface between self and world
slide15

1. The entity has a model of its environment and a model of itself in its environment

Environment

Entity

Model of Entity

Model of Environment

slide16
A. These models are for making predictions B. The models are derived from experimentC. The models are constantly revised

 1. The entity has a model of its environment and a model of itself in its environment

2 the entity is motivated driven towards certain goals
 2. The entity is motivated/driven towards certain goals
  • Initially, goals are determined by the values of two real variables: “pleasure” and “pain”
  • Later they are determined also by the current story and its associated strategy
  • The entity is driven to maximize

[ pleasure(t) – pain(t) ] dt

Expected

current stories

t0 = current time

3 the entity has the ability to try on any story for size
3. The entity has the ability to “try on any ‘story’ for size”
  • A story is a theory of the world, such as:. Other entities are built just like meOther entities are mindless robots
  • A story provides a corresponding strategy for dealing with the world:Treat other entities with respect

Treat other entities any way you like

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 4. The entity has a simple serial circuit — the CONSCS processor — as interface between: Entity’s internal unconscious (parallel) brainANDThe entity’s external (massively parallel) world

  • CONSCS processor is for choosing a story, and using story to select strategic option to focus on
  • The options are offered up by the entity’s internal (unconscious parallel) brain
  • Choice made according to current story/strategy
slide20

Applications

Philosophy

  • Understanding “understanding,” “self-awareness,” “free will,” resolving:

“All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it.” — Dr. Johnson

Science

  • Building good theorem provers (as opposed to proof checkers), and better CAPTCHAs
bibliography on the scientific study of consciousness
Bibliography on the Scientific Study of Consciousness
  • David Chalmers, philosopher logician, has a huge excellent online bibliography
  • Rodolfo Llinas, neuroscientist, wrote “I of the vortex”
  • Bernard Baars has a long history of good writing; his theater metaphor is widely accepted
  • Daniel Dennett, Antonio Damasi, …
  • Marvin Minsky never uses “consciousness” in his “emotion machine.” He (rightly) claims that “Consciousness is a packrat