By Chet Yarbrough
Consciousness and the Brain
Written by: Stanislas Dehaene
Narrated by: David Drummond
Stanislas Dehaene argues that consciousness is a measurable state of mind. He speculates that a measurable artifact will be found to quantify consciousness. Dehaene believes consciousness is within the grasp of science and technology. He suggests mapping of brain consciousness may produce standardized principles of artificial intelligence. Dehaene explains that brain mapping is far from complete but its potential for defining consciousness is experimentally testable.
Dehaene explains current science experiments show that elements of consciousness can be identified and measured. Specific electro/chemical signals from different parts of the brain are being mapped. With the use of electroencephalographs, documented patient experience, and the use of brain probes, repeatable electro/chemical signals are identifiable. Physical and mental performances have been repeated in controlled experiments by using identified electro/chemical signals. Specific electro/chemical bursts between dendrites and axons in the human brain have been shown to create thoughts and actions.
What Dehaene explains is that brain function is highly complex. Physical and mental activity involve different parts of the brain. Some thoughts are subconscious or pre-conscious and obscured; others are conscious and re-callable. An element of consciousness is periodicity; i.e. how long a stimulus is maintained. Anything less than 1/3rd of a second is noted but is obscured from the conscious mind. However, subconscious activity does have a measurable effect on cognitive function. The complexity of memory involves many parts of the brain that are interconnected by electro/chemical signals between neural dendrites and axons.
Some subconscious functions are evident in what might be classified as instinct. For example, the story of a fireman that senses a collapse of a building because of a subconscious experience of many similar catastrophic events. The fireman orders his team out of a building without clearly understanding why.
Dehaene believes quantum computing opens a door to artificial intelligence that can replicate consciousness. He implies the myriad signals that come from different parts of the brain will eventually be mapped. Dehaene infers brain mapping offers a framework for consciousness that can be created in a computer program.
In a world based on probabilities rather than Newtonian cause and effect, artificial intelligence offers a “Brave New World”. Is that a good or bad thing? Will A.I. be a Huxley redux or revision?