If a creature can answer a question about a hypothetical experiment, without actually performing that experiment, then he has demonstrated some knowledge about the world. For his answer to the question must be an encoded description of the behavior, inside the creature, of some sub-machine or model responding to an encoded description of the world situation described by the question.

Marvin Minsky

Matter, Mind and Models

1965

Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. The human brain is made up of approximately 86 billion neurons that communicate through electrical and chemical signals. Understanding how the neurons connect and function to generate thoughts, behaviors, memories, and feelings is the fundamental aim of neuroscience research.

Major topics in neuroscience include neural development, neural plasticity, neurochemistry, computational neuroscience, and behavioral neuroscience. Technologies like MRI scanning and transgenic model organisms allow neuroscientists to study the living brain down to the level of a single neuron. Applying findings from neuroscience research has implications for better understanding and potentially treating neurological and psychiatric disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and schizophrenia. The interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience bridges biology, psychology, medicine, computer science, engineering, economics, and more to more fully elucidate the complexity of the human brain.

Documents

David Chalmers   (2016)

Hard Problem of Consciousness

Philosopher David Chalmers on the combination problem, dualism, and panpsychism.

Bryce Huebner   (2013)

Macrocognition

A Theory of Distributed Minds and Collective Intentionality

Bryce Huebner develops a novel approach to distributed cognition and collective intentionality, arguing that genuine cognition requires the capacity for flexible, goal-directed behavior enabled by integrated representational systems. It posits that collective mentality should be ascribed where specialized subroutines are integrated to yield group-relevant, goal-directed behavior. The approach reveals that there are many kinds of collective minds, some more akin to those of honeybees or cats than humans. It challenges traditional notions of collective intentionality, suggesting that groups are unlikely to be "believers" in the fullest sense, shedding new light on questions of collective intentionality and responsibility.

Donald Hoffman   (2019)

Reality Isn't

What if the way our senses perceive reality is not at all representative of its true nature, but rather a highly abstracted interface? Donald Hoffman is working on a mathematical theory to find out.

John von Neumann   (1958)

The Computer and the Brain

John von Neumann's unfinished book, begun shortly before his death and published posthumously. He discusses how the brain can be viewed as a computing machine, touching on several important differences between brains and computers of his day (such as processing speed and parallelism), as well as suggesting directions for future research.

Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett   (1981)

The Mind's I

Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

Brilliant, shattering, mind-jolting, The Mind's I is a searching, probing cosmic journey of the mind that goes deeply into the problem of self and self-consciousness as anything written in our time. From verbalizing chimpanzees to scientific speculations involving machines with souls, from the mesmerizing, maze-like fiction of Borges to the tantalizing, dreamlike fiction of Lem and Princess Ineffable, her circuits glowing read and gold, The Mind's I opens the mind to the Black Box of fantasy, to the windfalls of reflection, to new dimensions of exciting possibilities.

Alan Watts   (1960)

The Value of Psychotic Experience

Watts questions society’s rigid definitions of sanity and madness, arguing we should embrace diverse states of consciousness rather than forcibly conform people. Drawing from Zen and Eastern thought, he advocates a humble, curious approach to the human condition, eschewing the search for grand, predetermined meanings. Instead, Watts encourages simply being present and attentive to the spontaneity of existence, free from the narrow constraints of societal norms and expectations. He cautions against dismissing the nonconformist as “sick,” urging an open-minded tolerance of life’s variations.

David Chalmers

What is it Like to be a Thermostat?

Commentary on Dan Lloyd, “What is it Like to Be a Net?”

Could a simple thermostat possess consciousness? Philosopher David Chalmers believes it's possible. He compares connectionist networks to mundane thermostats, finding uncanny similarities in how they process information. This suggests thermostats could model basic conscious experience, if we accept certain criteria. Chalmers argues complexity alone cannot explain awareness. Though advanced artificial networks mimic consciousness, some essence eludes. He concludes we must look beyond connectionist models, seeking deeper laws not yet conceived, as we continue our quest to unveil the very essence of consciousness.