Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Two Kinds of Minds

In The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, David J. Chalmers argues that there are two concepts of mind: the Phenomenal and the Psychological. The Phenomenal is primarily concerned with experience or how mental states feel. The Psychological refers to the casual basis of behavior or what mental states do.

When considering means of programming computers to think we are exclusively working in the realm of the psychological. I, for one, doubt that the present architecture of a computer can host the
Phenomenal (although some practitioners of Strong AI might differ).

It seems unlikely that computers will become intelligent in the human sense until we have an understanding of the phenomenal. What is the simplest machine that can feel? Can such a machine be formally specified as Turing did when he considered the simplest machine that could compute anything effectively computable?

Why is the phenomenal crucial for intelligence? If you ever had a hunch about something or felt that an answer was wrong or were awed by the elegance of a mathematical proof then you know what an important role feeling has in your own intelligence. In
The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans, Stanley Greenspan and Stuart Hanker argue that emotions are the primary tools of intelligence and that more abstract and higher order modes of though rest on the foundations provided by our emotions. If this is the case then we have some interesting clues to consider. Emotions are often associated with hormones which act globally rather than locally. Neurotransmitters are more local but their relative concentrations have global effects. There is really no good counter part to the function of hormones and neurotransmitters in modern computers except if we somehow equate them to software.

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