2014 – Toward a Science of Consciousness The Tucson Conference – 20th Anniversary
The 20th Anniversary of the Tucson Consciousness conference is an ongoing event in Arizona this week that features a plenary on mind uploading including both Kenneth Hayworth and H+ board chair Natasha Vita-More
This Saturday, Tucson AZ USA.
Kenneth Hayworth, Consciousness and The Connectome: How Brain Circuits Encode Self
In recent years scientifically-minded materialist philosophers have provided a set of conceptual tools for how to avoid logical mistakes when discussing the mind-brain problem. Dennett: It is an ill-posed question to ask exactly where and when a neural representation becomes conscious in the brain; the consciousness of a representation can only be judged by its causal influences on subsequent representations. Metzinger: There is no “true” self in the colloquial sense, only a Phenomenal Self Model (PSM) which the brain maintains to help organize its long-term planning. Within the PSM, qualia are represented to have been experienced, and decisions are represented to have been made by a self, but these representations are not secondary records of “actual” consciousness, they are themselves primary and carry full explanatory power for conscious behavior. Parfit and Kolak: There is no “further fact” about personal identity beyond the elements which make up a person’s unique psychology (memories, skills, personality traits, etc.). These conceptual tools have served to shrink our inflated folk-psychology views of self and consciousness down to size, and have cleared a path for a true science of consciousness based on neuroscience and cognitive models explaining exactly how the brain might compute and use a PSM. In this talk I will first discuss how our best computational model of human cognition (the ACT-R cognitive architecture) might be capable of supporting a PSM through production rules tailored to generating and processing self-modeling declarative memory structures. I will then detail how these parts of the ACT-R architecture are likely mapped onto the brain’s neural circuitry. Symbolic representations involved in memory and perception are encoded as stable attractor states within autoassociative brain networks, and production rules are implemented as feedforward pattern recognition networks. Such a model implies that all that is unique about an individual’s mind boils down to a set of discrete attractor states and pattern associations which are robustly written into the synaptic connections among cortical neurons. As the neuroscientist Sebastian Seung succinctly puts it: “I am my connectome”. If true, then there are some startling implications, the most important of which may literally be a cure for death. We are now on the verge of having the technology to preserve an individual person’s unique brain wiring using chemical fixation in a manner which is compatible with today’s 3D electron microscopic imaging technologies. This feat has already been demonstrated for a laboratory mouse’s brain. If developed into a medical procedure, such precision brain preservation will give us a scientifically verifiable way to preserve all that is unique about an individual in a static form which could last millennia -time enough for humanity to develop the technology to upload that person’s connectome into a computer simulation thus reconstituting all that is uniquely them.
Natasha Vita-More, Substrate-Diverse Persons By Design
Technology undoubtedly alters human nature. Computer-based interfaces and augmentations improve physical performance and molecular technologies propose to generate enhanced cognitive characteristics. The more intimate and transparent these interfaces become, the more diverse and expansive human nature becomes. This expansion requires a perceptual system closely intertwined through our cognition and interactions with the world. Its embodied mind would be a means for prolonging personhood, yet it would not rely exclusively on biology. One method to achieve this system would employ a cross-platform, substrate-diverse, whole-body prosthetic. To allow for new functions and capacities, this system would evolve continually and integrate persons across substrates and their varied actual material and virtual matter. Streamlined and adaptive, this new body could meet the needs of users who enjoy the physical world and virtual environments. For example, persons might desire a whole body prosthetic for enabling a longer biological lifespan as well as a docking system for transferring or uploading cognitive properties into digital platforms. As humans life longer and become more immersed with virtual worlds, we will need a better means to transfer presence back and forth between the biosphere and cybersphere. Because of its multi-level usability, this substrate-diverse body design specifies a smooth interface by adjusting to diverse social behaviors and safeguarding moment-to-moment experiences that form our human narratives and behavioral patterns.
Want to learn more about the Tucson Conferences?
See the archives here: http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/archived.htm