Christian Thought in the 21st Century

Consciousness: Mind, Spirit, Brain.

Part 5

Problems with Dennette and AI

The material on this page pertians to critique of functionalist Poster boy Daniel Dennette and to the argument that Artificial intelligence disproves consciousness as a dualistic propsect.

I. Problems with Dennett

A) Dennett Not true to Data


"But his model/metaphor of multiple drafts does not do its alleged job even in the context of the metaphor itself. The image of the metaphor is of a contemporary drafting of an article or book: Professors often send early drafts out, usually through email, to colleagues for review and comment, so the final published version that comes out in the journal is only an anticlimax, since all the readers have read it. Furthermore, it has gone on to change since then. In consciousness, too, there is no definitive draft: at any one moment, signals are coming from visual processing, memory, and other places, so that even the sequence of time itself is an illusion, and there is no one central or final processing place where all these signals come together and pass through some kind of filter into the consciousness arena (what he labels the "Cartesian theater").

Of all the experimental examples he cites, the most telling may be color phi phenomena: When two dots of different colors, spaced apart, are presented to subjects in rapid succession like a little movie, they appear like one dot moving back and forth27 --moreover, the color of the dot appears to change when the apparent dot is halfway between dot 1 and dot 2. Two Cartesian-theater-style explanations can account for the apparent time-warp: the "Orwellian," which holds that the history of the second dot's color was "rewritten" for the consciousness theater after the fact, and the "Stalinesque," which contends the pathways to consciousness fill in the missing information between the two dots. Dennett contends these two interpretations are both experimentally indeterminate, and as they are the only two Cartesian theatrical explanations, such theatrics cannot be the case. Time, as it appears in consciousness, is not necessarily related to time in the real world; the brain has its own ways and purposes in processing information. But Dennett, striving in his metaphor to capture this never-quite-definitive, multiply- and simultaneously-existing (many drafts are circulating at any given time) reality, never discusses the crucial basis of the metaphor: there is, for all its drafts, one work.

B) Dennett ignores data for Mind (Which mens it does it exist)

L. Miller

In fact, in perhaps an inadvertent paradox, Dennett keeps implying that there is some kind of emergent entity over and above (perhaps between?) all these drafts, though he never acknowledges it. Most tellingly, while deflating critics of strong AI by attacking the allegedly small size of their imaginations, Dennett states, "They just can't imagine how understanding could be a property that emerges from lots of distributed quasi-understanding in a large system." (439) Though one might think Dennett would certainly deny what it sounds like he just said, the words say that somewhere there is emerging some kind of whole over and above these widely distributed multiple drafts or subparts of consciousness. For something to emerge, it must come from somewhere and then exist in another place. Less explicitly, Dennnett's prose elsewhere keeps waxing pregnant with this same entity or process at least one step beyond the multiple drafts, but he never carries this burgeoning to term:

Referring to a certain optical illusion in which pink is seen in the white space between red lines of a grid, Dennett inscrutably says, "You seem to be referring to a private, ineffable something or other in you mind's eye, a private shade of homogenous pink, but this is just how it seems to you, not how it is." (329) Dennett does not add that the simple word "seems" does not merely appear via ink and paper and promptly wipe out the entire problem many authors are concerned about, but the word represents something --possibly very complicated --happening in the brains of humans.

Yes, this pink seems to be here, and I seem to experience a steady flow of time and consciousness --from a set of data and input more discontinuous than that for a movie. But just because there is a discontinuity in the input from all these multiple drafts and quasi-understandings does not make this "seems" that emerges somehow unworthy of our consideration and thus necessitate our turning the spotlight only on the multiple drafts themselves. To the contrary, the scenario makes the "seems" all the more amazing, even more begging us to account for it instead of turning our backs on it. In a curious twist of scholarship, Dennett finds that by adding "just" to this magnificent "seems" he has unearthed, he can then convince us we need not tremble when he tosses it out, saying it is "not how it is"28 --with no justification for an epistemology that would have a brain that would generate a "seems" and yet somehow that brain activity is not worthy of study. Apparently, Dennett intends only to study the aspect of the brain amenable to his method and simply dismiss the rest of it --hardly a theory of the whole brain and mind.29

1) Dennett Contradicts Himself

L. Miller.145-46

"This spottiness in the theory is reflected in Dennett's waxing and waning, hemming and hawing throughout the book, on whether he really is presenting a theory. Chapter after chapter, he refers to his "theory" and even, as the work proceeds, "developing our theory of consciousness as we go," (282) or "here is my theory so far." (253) But then he wavers: "My main task in this book is philosophical: to show how a genuinely explanatory theory of consciousness could be constructed." (256) But then at the end, he demonstrates a confidence in the model as theory by presenting several hypothetical experimental situations that would test the theory (thus presumably being falsifiable, thus scientific (Popper 1959) --certainly an assertion that this model is a theory. Yet this elusiveness has the effect of, on the one hand, asking to be excused from the rigors of clearly or distinctly stating the theory and what it applies to while, on the other hand, asserting predictive powers from pieces of what is said to inspire the fear and respect of a full-blown, entrenched theory."

2) Denntt's reductionism ignores complexities.

L.Miller, 146

"Dennett finds a way to shirk definitions and delineations and talk about a wide range of experiments on mental phenomena with the assertion they fall within consciousness while dismissing a whole range of "seeming" as not consciousness, all with the tenor and omniscience of authority of a predictive theory. By this means, he does not have to state that even if the predictions he makes prove true after experimentation, we still do not have a theory about a sizeable part of the brain that is generating "seeming": Thus, accurate predictions will corroborate only that Dennett has characterized some properties about the "quasi-understanding" part of the brain but not about that emergent/"seeming" part. Instead, he jettisons that latter part --which, by the fact he acknowledges it is functioning because it does "seem," must exist-- into the realm of mysteriousness and inexplicability, just as he criticizes other philosophers for wallowing in mystery and "wonder tissue.'"

II. AI has not cracked consciousness

Consciousness as an Active Force

Amy L. Lansky, PhD

Renaissance Research

1000 Fremont Ave. Suite Z. Los Altos, CA 94024

Symbolic Systems Program

Stanford University

A) Introduction

"As a researcher in computer science and artificial intelligence (AI) for over twenty years, I am known for my work on a variety of automated planning systems [Georgeff+Lansky1, Georgeff+Lansky2, Lansky1, Lansky2]. For instance, I have built artificial agents that "perceive", reason about their environment and about their own "beliefs", and take actions as a result. Despite, or perhaps because of my expertise in this area, I find myself alarmed by the emerging trend in the consciousness community to equate consciousness with simple awareness, or even with more complex forms of reasoning and action based on awareness. The natural result of this equation will be to find computers capable of consciousness or, perhaps even worse, to view humans as complex machines" [Dennett].

"At the 1996 Tucson II conference, someone asked me whether I anthropomorphized my computer, remarking that they tend to do so. Upon reflection, I realized that although I used to do this in my early days of computing, I no longer do so in any way. To me, computers are complex tools, no more conscious than cars or telephones; artificial intelligence is just that -- artificial. Over time, the business of my life as a computer scientist has increasingly centered around building systems that do useful things --- a focus that is practical rather than philosophical. Moreover, despite years of working in AI, I have never subscribed to the notion of machine-as-human or human-as-machine. Perhaps it's because my primary training in computer science was not in AI. As a result, I have always tended to view artificial intelligence merely as computation that is focussed on applications normally considered to be the realm of human expertise. I never contracted the "Frankenstein syndrome" common among many AI researchers --- the desire to make a machine in ones own image."

Interestingly, just as my work as a computer scientist became more and more practical, my inner life became increasingly metaphysical. Over the years, I have come to believe that much more exists than meets our limited awareness; the universe is not the mundane three-dimensional mechanistic place that it appears to be. Indeed, I believe it is filled with energy fields and forces we have yet to measure. It is through an examination of human interaction with these energies that, I believe, humanity will ultimately expand its understanding of consciousness. The primary goal of this paper is to describe what I believe we may find in these explorations: that consciousness is an active force that we can exert upon the universe, not merely a passive perception or awareness of that universe.

Structurally and philosophically, this paper can be viewed as a thought exercise. By making various assumptions (which I believe to be true), I will argue for a definition of consciousness that would probably seem radical or unwarranted in the eyes of an emerging consciousness community increasingly focussed on neurophysiology. Yet, this definition is consistent with the so-called perennial philosophy -- the mystical view of consciousness common to most human cultures. In many ways, this approach is in sympathy with the anarchistic philosophy of Feyerabend [Feyerabend], who advocates use of radical hypotheses as a way of advancing knowledge. As he says,

"The consistency condition which demands that new hypotheses agree with accepted theories is unreasonable because it preserves the older theory, and not the better theory. Hypotheses contradicting well-confirmed theories give us evidence that cannot be obtained in any other way. Proliferation of theories is beneficial for science, while uniformity impairs its critical power. Uniformity also endangers the free development of the individual."

My reasoned argument for a more metaphysical view of consciousness is rooted in a quasi-mathematical definition of its mechanism -- one that assumes the reality of higheer spatial dimensions. The ideas presented on behalf of this view of consciousness draw together concepts and experiences in alternative medicine, physics, and parapsychology.


Charlmers concludes that the irreducibility of consciousness is probably the same as that of electro magnatism when Maxwell discovered that it could not be reduced to mechanicalfunction because it was a fundamental force of nature. Chalmers argues that consciousness is probably a fundamental force of nature as well. To my knowldge Charlmers is not a Christian. But one must wonder, how could a cold unvierse of dead matter and randum chance possess a fundamental force that gives rise to awreness and consciousness? That would seem to imply that some elment in the universe is conscious? If consciousness is a fundamental force like electro magnatism than it would have to be a part of the unified field. That is a strong indication of the existence of God, because it who, if not God, is this foroce of consiousness written into the template of the universe?

Now of course the village atheists will say that this doesn't prove "the Christian God" or that it merely proves that we are God because we are personal. It is probablly the case that we can logically assume that consciousness is bestowed upon us form a higher source. If Consciosuenss is a basic force and part of the unvierse the nature of consciousness itself dictates that it be God who can control and plan the universe. This is so because the notion of a conscious universe that just happens to be and yet has no control over itself is absurd. The Fact of consciousness fits the concept posited thus, it is more logical to assume that this the case.

The Religious A priori