Monday, October 14, 2013

Blockheads, Chinese Rooms, Zombies, and Internal Mental Life.

See The Mystery of Consciousness and comments for context.

I sometimes play chess against a computer program, Fritz 13, but mostly I just use it to analyze my games. It's a very good chess playing machine, probably stronger than any human player. Its internal mental life presumably consists of algorithms, alpha-beta pruning, and look up tables. I doubt that it has much capability for introspection, though it can be rather sarcastically critical of my play.

We don't really know much about our own internal mental lives, but we can rather justifiably suspect that it is different from that of Fritz. What we do know is that any system capable of highly complex behaviors has some kinds of internal mechanisms that implement the complexity.

Some would argue that there is a bright line between a system like (the hypothetical) Blockhead, which apprently does all its thinking with lookup tables, which are "zombies," and us, who presumably are not. Or are we? In our best models for human cognition, our brains indeed function with something that looks a lot like an elaborate system of lookup tables, that is, tuned strengths of neural connections.

Adjust your neural connection tables to contemplate that.