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Mathematical Model Suggests That Human Consciousness Is Noncomputable

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the opposite-would-be-more-suprising dept.

AI 426

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "One of the most profound advances in science in recent years is the way researchers from a variety of fields are beginning to formulate the problem of consciousness in mathematical terms, in particular using information theory. That's largely thanks to a relatively new theory that consciousness is a phenomenon which integrates information in the brain in a way that cannot be broken down. Now a group of researchers has taken this idea further using algorithmic theory to study whether this kind of integrated information is computable. They say that the process of integrating information is equivalent to compressing it. That allows memories to be retrieved but it also loses information in the process. But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay. By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy, they use algorithmic theory to show that the process of integrating information must noncomputable. In other words, your PC can never be conscious in the way you are. That's likely to be a controversial finding but the bigger picture is that the problem of consciousness is finally opening up to mathematical scrutiny for the first time."

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Ghost in the machine? (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#46952881)

Nope, just a bad copy of it.

Re:Ghost in the machine? (4, Insightful)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about 3 months ago | (#46953271)

"Non-computable" does not mean "non-copy-able". In other words, consider the sort of consciousness associated with recognizing oneself in a mirror. Humans are not the only animals that can do that. Among those that can are quite a few other primates, dolphins, elephants, some species of birds (certain parrots), and even the octopus. So, think about that in terms of brain structure: Birds have a variant on the basic "reptilian brain", elephants and dolphins have the "mammalian brain" extension of the reptilian brain, chimps and gorillas have the "primate brain" extension of the mammalian brain, and the octopus brain is in an entirely different class altogether (the mollusk family includes clams and snails). Yet Nature found ways to give all of those types of data-processing equipment enough consciousness for self-recognition. And after you include however-many extraterrestrial intelligences there might be, all across the Universe, well, anyone who thinks "no variant of computer hardware will ever be able to do that" is just not thinking clearly.

no Ghost_no "singularity"_only sci-fi (4, Interesting)

globaljustin (574257) | about 3 months ago | (#46953477)

And after you include however-many extraterrestrial intelligences there might be, all across the Universe, well,

Then you're in science fiction land...woo hoo! I like scifi as much as the next /.er but your imaginations of the possible existence of a civilization that can fully digitize continuous data is worthless to a **scientific discussion**

That's the problem. Hard AI, "teh singularity", and the "question of consciousness" are so polluted in the literature by non-tech philosophers throughout history that the notion of ***falsifiability*** of computation theory get's tossed aside in favor of TED-talk style bullshit.

Falsifiability kills these theories *every time* and hopefully this research in TFA will help break the cycle.

To be science it must be able to be tested. It must be a premise that is capable of being proven or disproven. "hard AI" proponents like Kurzweil and the "singularity" believers ignore this part of science.

So happy to see this research

pff (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952909)

that's what they think.

Bad syllogism (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 3 months ago | (#46953003)

Baloney. What a stupid argument. Here is it, summarized:
1. Here is one mathematical model of a way that memories could work.
2. This method would be computable.
3. But that would mean memories degrade the more you remember them
4. But memories don't degrade the more you remember them.
5. Therefore memories are not computable.

Assignment for the student: find the flaw in this argument.

Re:Bad syllogism (5, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#46953097)

The flaw is as followed: the summary is missing a crucial step, which would read as such: "6. Profits!".

Re:Bad syllogism (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46953327)

The flaw is as followed: the summary is missing a crucial step, which would read as such: "6. Profits!".

They are missing an even more fundamental step: "0. Define consciousness." The definition they give, "a property of a physical system, its 'integrated information'," is a definition that I have never heard before, and I doubt most people would agree with. Before you try to explain something, you need to have a definition that people accept, and you have to also have a consensus that the phenomenon actual exists. There is some evidence that consciousness is an illusion, and that people make decisions unconsciously, and then rationalize them after the fact [about.com] . Arguing about "consciousness" is like arguing about "free will" or arguing about whether people have a soul.

Re:Bad syllogism (3, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 3 months ago | (#46953141)

The error is in step 5. It should be:
5. Therefore, that mathematical model is incorrect.
They found a contradiction, so the model must be revised.

Re:Bad syllogism (2)

ilguido (1704434) | about 3 months ago | (#46953559)

The contradiction is that the system is not computable while the model is, that's their reasoning. They know that the model, that is the thesis, is incorrect, otherwise the reductio ad absurdum wouldn't work.

Re:Bad syllogism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953165)

1, 4, and 5. Most importantly, 4.

Re:Bad syllogism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953171)

In your assumption: you're using syllogistic logic, they're using truth-functional, since that's what mathematics is largely based off of--apart from set theory.
Truth functional logic works exactly as stated--assume X, when you reach an impossible statement or contradiction, then NOT X must be true.

Go back to school before you look into teaching.

Re:Bad syllogism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953547)

In your assumption: you're using syllogistic logic, they're using truth-functional, since that's what mathematics is largely based off of--apart from set theory.
Truth functional logic works exactly as stated--assume X,Y, Z, U,V, and W, when you reach an impossible statement or contradiction, then at least one of Not X,Not Y, not Z, not U, not V, or not W must be true.

Go back to school before you look into teaching.

FTFY. But in all seriousness, this model has a ton of assumptions and they try to use it to prove one particular premise by hand-waiving the other ones.

Re:Bad syllogism (1)

blackiner (2787381) | about 3 months ago | (#46953237)

It is like the researchers went out of their way to forget Alzheimer's... or maybe they just have Alzheimer's.

Re:Bad syllogism (5, Interesting)

Thagg (9904) | about 3 months ago | (#46953277)

In fact, it's pretty clear that 4. is incorrect. There was a fascinating recent study.

There is a drug that you can give somebody (or in this experiment, a rat) that will prevent it from creating new memories. They trained the rat to solve a maze, and it did it just fine. They gave the rat the drug, and it solved the maze perfectly. Once. After that, it couldn't do it again.

Implying that when you remember something, that very process of remembering removes the original memory,and it has to be created again. It will be different the second time; colored by your current experience. The more times you remember something, the more you are remembering the previous memory, not the original event.

A reference is

Re:Bad syllogism (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 3 months ago | (#46953325)

A reference is

I think you remembered your reference once too often. ;-)

Re:Bad syllogism (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 3 months ago | (#46953577)

Thanks! Now I have to clean my keyboard!

Re:Bad syllogism (2)

erikkemperman (252014) | about 3 months ago | (#46953289)

Well they have serious problems with even
0. The assumptions on which their model is based.

FTFS:

They say that the process of integrating information is equivalent to compressing it. [...] By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy [...]

Re:Bad syllogism (1)

AmazinglySmooth (1668735) | about 3 months ago | (#46953303)

Baloney. What a stupid argument. Here is it, summarized: 1. Here is one mathematical model of a way that memories could work. 2. This method would be computable. 3. But that would mean memories degrade the more you remember them 4. But memories don't degrade the more you remember them. 5. Therefore memories are not computable.

Assignment for the student: find the flaw in this argument.

You cannot blame the theory when the data doesn't match! That is denial-ism!

Re:Bad syllogism (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#46953441)

I assume that this depraved recourse to 'the empiricism' will soil my hands in the minds of the mathematicians; but we can and have demonstrated the degradation of memories during the recall process. That area of research(while it has serious applications to memory disorders, trauma treatment, and basic research in neuroscience) is practically a party game of 'who can achieve the most ridiculously false 'memories' in experimental subjects the fastest?

They might as well have just used some Schneier Facts in place of the paper: "SHA-256 is a hash algorithm, and not reversible." "Bruce Schneier uses SHA-256 as a compression algorithm for Alice and Bob's shared secret." "Therefore Bruce Schneier is not computable, except by himself."

It would have taken about ten minutes to email anybody in the psych department and this all could have been avoided. Good Work!

Re:Bad syllogism (2)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 3 months ago | (#46953469)

1. something
2. something else
3. ...memories degrade the more you remember them.
4. But memories don't degrade the more you remember them.
5. Therefore memories are not computable.

I just read your post and was going to reply but I forgot what point you were making. I kept thinking about it too long. What really pissed me off though is that you had the nerve to insult my mother or my religion or something. Just know for the rest of my life, I'll be keeping an eye on you, and you'd better be looking over your shoulder.

People who say stupid things piss me off. Yeah, it doesn't compute, I know.

Re:Bad syllogism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953523)

Here is one huge flaw - memories *do* change. Psychology is bursting with studies that show how people's "memories" of events change over time as they think about the event more and more. The memories start to reflect more of what the person was/is thinking then they do the event itself.

But ignoring that, any physical system is computable - one just needs a large enough computer system and a sufficiently detiled description of the system and a sufficiently detailed set of rules for how mater & energy interact and one can run an emulation of the physical system. Physicists do this all the time. A human brain has too much material and too much structural information to be modeled in today's computer systems, but there is no reason to believe that given a suitable computer system the brain could not be modeled via brute force simulation.

This is, obviously, a different endeavor than what researchers want to do -which is to devise a way to create an artificial intelligence, but the claim that consciousness is non-computable is just silly.

gzip? (1)

mork (62099) | about 3 months ago | (#46952917)

> They say that the process of integrating information is equivalent to compressing it.
>

So human consciousness equals gzip?
Wait..what??

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952921)

How do we compute it then?

Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952929)

Is hard. Lets go shopping!

Re:Math (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#46953023)

Exactly. This is like the intelligent design argument. "This problem is complex, so we're going to propose that it can't EVER be solved. Let's discuss where we're all going for lunch."

Re:Math (1)

hubie (108345) | about 3 months ago | (#46953257)

I thought they recalled all you defective Barbies in the 90's.

Physically impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952937)

Any turing machine operation by definition must be completable by any turing machine, the only difference would be the time it takes. Sooooo, I don't know what these guys are smoking but I guess I'll take a look at the actual article.

Re:Physically impossible (3, Informative)

drxenos (573895) | about 3 months ago | (#46953119)

No. All Turing complete means is a universe Turing machine can execute anything any other Turing state machine can. People misunderstand "Turing complete" can think it means someone that is Turing complete can do "anything." That is NOT what it means.

Memories do decay (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46952939)

But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay.

Memories do decay upon recall. People misremember something and convince themselves that the misremembered notion was correct.

Re:Memories do decay (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952983)

I'm pretty sure you are remembering that wrong.

Re:Memories do decay (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46953329)

That's because of all those people he had been correcting for years on this issue. They are the ones to blame.

Re:Memories do decay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952985)

They were saying that the act of retrieving memory would erode the memory.

Re:Memories do decay (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 3 months ago | (#46953013)

Which is wrong, unless you read it with information loss and then store the retrieved version with more information loss. If information is lost on storage it does not mean it is lost on retrieval. If it is lost on retrieval it does not mean it is lost on storage. Even if it's lost on both actions, it does not degrade the stored version more unless you remove it and re-store it.

Re:Memories do decay (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953139)

No, it isn't.

Ever time you remember an event, it is off by a little bit. The more you recall it the more faulty it gets.

people asking you the right question can change the memory as you try to recall it.

all data shows that memory is lossy.

Protip: The brain isn't a computer.

Re:Memories do decay (2)

arth1 (260657) | about 3 months ago | (#46953253)

Protip: The brain isn't a computer.

Obviously it is, as it demonstrably can be used for computing.
However, it isn't a very reliable computer, nor necessarily Turing complete.

Re:Memories do decay (1)

allo (1728082) | about 3 months ago | (#46953489)

why shouldn't the computer have a decay? You can have read/write errors, you can compute a lossy encoding if you want to ... and i would just implement the brain so lowlevel, that the neurons are modeled. And how the decay in the signals between neurons works can be observed, and will be better observed in future.

Re:Memories do decay (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about 3 months ago | (#46953251)

They were saying that the act of retrieving memory would erode the memory.

Right - it's not the act of recollection that causes the memory to decay.

Memories are not a sequence of visual images like a film reel; they're associations between "symbols" representing the things you experienced at the time the memory was formed. The more often you think about the memory, the stronger those associations become, and the more permanent this memory - however, the initial impression is not guaranteed to be a perfect record, so details that are incorrectly recorded initially will become reinforced over time as the memory is recalled. Whether a detail is correctly recorded initially depends on how much attention you were paying to that detail and other factors (such as how "intense" the experience was).

So memories do decay, but it's from weak associations, not from more frequent recollection. How does this pertain to consciousness? If human consciousness is a phenomenon of a massively complex system of symbolic representation in the brain, then it's only developed gradually over years of absorbing input and forming connections, and developing an AI with true consciousness basically requires simulating a brain down to a low physical level and having it "grow up" over time. This is both discouraging from the perspective of the technology required, and encouraging in that if we have the technology for neural simulation then the result of artificial consciousness may be reliably achieved.

Re:Memories do decay (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | about 3 months ago | (#46953509)

The advantage with an AI is that it only has to grow up once, then you can image it.

Re:Memories do decay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953025)

Agreed. Decay may not occur based on the amount of times it is recalled but rather occurs over the duration of time. Let's face it, our mind begins to dull as we age. You may hear old folks saying they remember a time back when they were kids like it was yesterday, but it is probably so decayed that the imagination begins to fill the voids that possibly exist.

Re:Memories do decay (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 3 months ago | (#46953163)

Ok, take the memory of reading this statement. Then remember it, and remember it again. Have you started to forget the statement? Keep doing that until you do. Giving up because you're board isn't forgetting.

Re:Memories do decay (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953233)

There is actually a physiological basis for memories decaying upon recall, and there's a separate process called reconsolidation that needs to be initiated at a synaptic level in order to prevent memories from progressively degrading with activation (that is, it reconstitutes the memory after activation). You can selectively block this reconsolidation process during a small time window using protein synthesis inhibitors or electroconvulsive shock. The result is that these treatments will leave unactivated memories intact but result in the degradation of activated memories. This explains, for instance, the memory deficits induced by ECS therapy.
http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n2/full/nn.3609.html

Re:Memories do decay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953249)

I was about to say that. Just this week I realised that I've forgotten a password that I've been using every month on the clock for a couple of years. I recall most, just not the last two characters. They just... fell out. Poof. Gone. And with no recourse, of course.

Then again, there's stories of people who recall bloody everything, that had to learn how to forget lest they go bonkers. So the last word about this assumption isn't said yet.

Re:Memories do decay (1)

clintre (1078849) | about 3 months ago | (#46953273)

Maybe we have ECC memory ;)

I think you are confusing decay with corruption. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953317)

In practical experience we know that the more we continually recall a memory, the better we remember it. Meaning recalling a memory actually preserves it. This has nothing to do with our tendency to combine memories with other memories and fantasies (corrupting the data).

Re:Memories do decay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953369)

Computers used to use something called "core memory" - little magnetic donut with wires going through it. Reading core memory is destructive. Every read had to be followed by an immediate write in order to retain the data. Does this mean that computers couldn't really compute because recalling memory was destructive?

"never" is a rather strong word... (1)

Kenja (541830) | about 3 months ago | (#46952953)

but then again, odds are anyone making such a claim will be long dead before it could be proven wrong.

Memory is non-lossy? Research suggests otherwise. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952957)

Retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay is talked about in a radiolab episode.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/91569-memory-and-forgetting/

Eyewitness accounts have been proven to be wrong over and over again. The assumption of a non-lossy memory is just false.

Re:Memory is non-lossy? Research suggests otherwis (3, Insightful)

frog_strat (852055) | about 3 months ago | (#46953167)

Hmmm. Do you find yourself occasionally having to re-learn your address or phone number ?

Re:Memory is non-lossy? Research suggests otherwis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953285)

Yes. Although your definition of re-learn might not be broad enough.

Stupid assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952967)

Memory is lossy, ask any psychologist/psychiatrist.

Memory is more like dynamic RAM. (4, Interesting)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | about 3 months ago | (#46952969)

Not retrieving memories is what causes them to decay. Ever hear of refresh?

Re:Memory is more like dynamic RAM. (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 3 months ago | (#46953093)

I've read studies that suggest the brain is designed to remember what's useful to it, and forget what isn't or what's harmful.

The same study stated that psychoanalysis, forcing the patient to constantly recall painful memories (what you call refresh) interferes with the brain's natural ability to heal by forgetting, maintains the patient's problem - and their dependency on the psychoanalist in their search for a cure.

Re:Memory is more like dynamic RAM. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953125)

Ever heard of SRAM?

lossy memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952973)

I think it is plausible that memory can be lossy. It is a well accepted concept in psychology that memories are subject to modification when they are recalled. This implies that memories must be resaved after being recalled and that errors can occur during this process.

Re:lossy memory (1)

biodata (1981610) | about 3 months ago | (#46953243)

This. Memories are changed by recall.

I haven't lost my mind... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952977)

... it's backed up in the cloud.

They really should pay attention to other fields (1)

bandy (99800) | about 3 months ago | (#46952981)

Remembering something is like reading a DRAM bit. You read it, and then you re-write it. This is why memory is fallible. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/... [smithsonianmag.com]

My PC cannot be conscious the way I am (3, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 3 months ago | (#46952987)

Because I'm a human being and it's a PC. Duh...

I think machines will eventually acquire their own form of consciousness, totally separate from ours. and I reckon it's just fine, and much more exciting in fact than trying to replicate our humanity in hardware that's just not compatible with it.

Proof that souls exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46952989)

Finally, concrete proof that there is a magical ghost inside each of us.

wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953001)

A. Memory *is* lossy. The more you remember something, the fuzzier the details get. You may *think* you're remembering it exactly as it was, but you just don't remember the previous versions to compare the current version to.

B. Everything is computable given the right models and starting conditions. Even uncertainty can be built into the model. That doesn't mean your brain sim and your real brain will be in sync, but the process could be identical.

C. We know hardly anything about how the brain works. To say consciousness is non-computable is like saying there's a Chuck E Cheese in the center of every black hole..

The halting problem is a counterexample (2)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46953143)

Everything is computable given the right models and starting conditions.

"Does the Turing machine with a given description halt?" That's been proven not computable on a Turing machine. And we lack a model more powerful than a Turing machine.

A call for help... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953005)

...can someone please explain why this is not just a bunch of new age crap? Thanks!

Re:A call for help... (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#46953137)

There's no Enya music in the background.

Re:A call for help... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46953511)

Come on, Enya is like 53 or so. That's not new age, that's old age.

Sounds Non-Deterministic to me (1)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | about 3 months ago | (#46953011)

Isn't noncomputable the same as saying non-deterministic? There are lots of non-deterministic computer operations where the result is based on a database query or a call to a web page where you can't know in advance what the result will be and you also don't really know how long it will take to get the information (if at all).

Re:Sounds Non-Deterministic to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953351)

You can simulate a non-deterministic Turing machine on a deterministic Turing machine. The overhead is exponential, but overall still computable (as in, it is possible to compute the result given enough time).

Your usage of non-determinism is slightly different from this mathematical definition. You are basically using the real world as an oracle in the program. Whether this process is non-computable depends on if the real world is non-computable.

A good analogy (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about 3 months ago | (#46953031)

Talking about whether a computer can think is like talking about whether a submarine can swim.

Trying to duplicate the mechanical details may be a waste of time. The fact that we can't duplicate the mechanical details today doesn't mean we never will.

worse than physicists (1)

joss (1346) | about 3 months ago | (#46953033)

> By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy

What a fucking strange way to start. Memories are recursive, really old memor s you don't directly remember, you remember remembering.

Re:worse than physicists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953263)

A thousand times this!

Memory Non-Lossy? I beg to differ. (1)

Ken Broadfoot (3675) | about 3 months ago | (#46953035)

"But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay. By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy."

Really? I can barely remember last friday night. Let alone my circumcision 50 years ago. What was that girl's name who slapped me in my face? Or punched me... it's so hazy.... Caroline? Katy? Maybe it was Jeffery..... so fuzzy.... I had her number written on my hand.... oops right palm....

Memory non-lossy my ass...

misapplied mathematics (5, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 3 months ago | (#46953037)

One of the most profound advances in bullshitting in recent years is the way researchers from a variety of fields are beginning to misuse mathematical terms in order to give their ideas a facade of intellectual responsibility. Since no one has yet come up with an agreed-upon definition of what this "consciousness" is as an objective observable phenomenon, trying to talk about it in mathematical terms is nothing more than intellectual masturbation.

"Consciousness." (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953057)

No, we're absolutely nowhere toward understanding consciousness. How we think and how we retrieve memory, perhaps - but our ability to experience our own existence is not understood at all by science.

Illogical Distinction (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | about 3 months ago | (#46953063)

How is the brain not a computer? Pfft...ridiculous conclusions.

Consciousness is irrational (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953073)

Cognitive dissonance ALONE would defy mathematical understanding.

better than human (1)

Daniel Williams (3614367) | about 3 months ago | (#46953087)

this is based on a faulty assumption. humans make up portions of their memories in the first place. memories Do Degrade, And Warp, And morph Over Time.

Retrieving memories causes decay? (5, Interesting)

Verdatum (1257828) | about 3 months ago | (#46953111)

"retrieving them repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay"

Ouch. Just. Ouch. No. Noooo. NOOOOO.

There is so much wrong with this statement I don't even know where to start. It implies that the memory is overwritten with the memory of recalling the memory, which is a huge and ridiculous assumption. Memory likely works much more like ant paths. The details that are recalled more frequently are reinforced, and can be remembered longer. It could also be compared to a caching algorithm; details used more often are less likely to be lost, or need fewer hints to retrieve them.

And then using this assumption to declare something as non-computable demonstrates a lack of understanding of the concept of computability. The only way that conciousness could be non-computable would be if there is a supernatural element to it. Otherwise, the fact that it exists means it must be computable.

Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 3 months ago | (#46953267)

Irrational Numbers are Non-Computable.

Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (1)

VorpalRodent (964940) | about 3 months ago | (#46953335)

Irrational numbers are supernatural.

Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 3 months ago | (#46953485)

The Universe is Natural
Irrational Numbers are Supernatural
The Universe is Dependent upon The Cosmological Constant
Pi is an Irrational Number
The Cosmological Constant is Irrational because it contains Pi which is also Irrational.
The Universe Must be Supernatural.

Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (2)

Paxinum (1204260) | about 3 months ago | (#46953425)

Actually, no. Almost all numbers that are defined, are defined in a manner that describes an algorithm on how to construct them. Hence, they are computable. You need to brush up your theory on computable real numbers. It is all about the definitions...

Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 3 months ago | (#46953549)

The only way that conciousness could be non-computable would be if there is a supernatural element to it.

Roger Penrose [wikipedia.org] (for one) is vehement in his insistence that consciousness is non-computable, possibly quantum in nature. Certainly there are other ways that consciousness could be non-computable without being supernatural.

Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (1)

Dimwit (36756) | about 3 months ago | (#46953573)

It's not true that it has to be supernatural to be noncomputable, unless you agree that physics itself is computable. The jury is still out on that one (although I believe that it will turn out to be true).

Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953591)

Yeah, exactly... that's the point of the argument, that the statement is wrong.

I thought memories do decay (4, Insightful)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46953129)

That allows memories to be retrieved but it also loses information in the process. But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay.

I remember hearing a radiolab episode on NPR talking about how memories actually get modified every time you recall them.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/91569-memory-and-forgetting/

Maybe the radiolab episode is completely wrong, but I don't think it's fair to assume memories are lossless without providing some evidence of this.

Kurt Gödel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953159)

Tell me something new.

otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would c (1)

allo (1728082) | about 3 months ago | (#46953185)

> otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay

So, i guess this was never observed on real humans?

a bunch of silly assumptions (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 3 months ago | (#46953191)

First, I do agree with the result - that consciousness is not definable via mathematical equations and algorithms.

That said:

1) Most memory researchers believe it IS lossy. Specifically each time you access a memory you change it, losing original information

2) Not all computers have to only use mathematical equations and algorithms. Specifically their are quantum computers that do not work that way. While I am not an expert on such things I highly doubt that the rather limited definition they are using for 'computer' includes all things we would consider a computer.

Sounds like complete bullshit. (2)

eddy (18759) | about 3 months ago | (#46953211)

There seems to be a step missing from A (that's not how memory works) to B (therefore uncomputable). The premise that memory isn't lossy sounds like rubbish, even IF it's perhaps not so simply a question of 'read errors'

I recently watched this talk, Modeling Data Streams Using Sparse Distributed Representations [youtube.com] , which seems to be able to represent memory in a layered and lossy way perfectly fine in a computer.

Memories do decay upon recall (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 3 months ago | (#46953217)

Memories decay upon recall. [wired.com] Your brain basically alters the memory slightly each time. This can be used to erase or alter memories.

No need for math model (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 3 months ago | (#46953221)

As always, the truth is in the Bible:

Genesis 1:27

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them; but man is not a machine, for God did not look like a beige box PC.

singularity (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 3 months ago | (#46953247)

If this is true, what does that mean for wankers like Kurzweil and the fantasy of the 'Singularity'?

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46953299)

Cannot be broken down?

Everything can be broken down, it's just a matter of learning how it works. The conclusions are half baked.

Sounds like utter bullshit (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#46953383)

Here's a a critique [arxiv.org] . (It's on arxiv; no need to sign up for "Medium")

The paper isn't impressive. It make the assumption that human (other mammals, too?) memory isn't compressed, and is somehow "integrated" with all other information. We've been through this before. Last time, the buzzword was "holographic". [wikipedia.org] We've been here before.

The observation that damage to part of the brain may not result in the loss of specific memories still seems to confuse many philosophers and neurologists. That shouldn't be mysterious at this point. A compact disk has the same property. You can obscure a sizeable area on a CD without making it unreadable. There's redundancy in the data, but it's a lot less than 2x redundant. The combination of error correction and spreading codes allows any small part of the disk to be unreadable without losing any data. (Read up on how CDs work if you don't know this. It's quite clever. First mass-market application of really good error correction.)

"By assuming..." (1)

mmell (832646) | about 3 months ago | (#46953385)

"By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy..."

Terrible assumption.

Anecdotal evidence that individuals may be capable of accurate recall is directly contradicted by evidence that even witnesses who are absolutely certain of what they saw in fact only recalled those specific items which somehow drew their attention at the time of an event.

Is that what it proves? (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 3 months ago | (#46953389)

Sounds more like you can't separate the human consciousness from the memories. I thought we already knew that. Perhaps there was a theory why until now.

Conscious phenomenon != complex processing (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 3 months ago | (#46953431)

Stop it. Just stop it, people.

Memory doesn't work that way. It's a live feedback loop that reinforces itself through the conscious mind. There is some lossy drift but stuff that maps to the real world is indeed corrected if lossily. Ancient stuff from when you were a kid (Gee, what did Koogle taste like) drifts and drifts.

Something from when you were a kid,
like Orange Julius taste, drifts but may suddenly be reset when you stumble across one at a mall somewhere (or Dairy Queen, whoever bought them). His model is a solution to a problem thatsn't a problem. It doesn't matter how clumsily intertwined actual brain processes are for this.

Furthermore, he conflates consciousness with deep thought. I could grant his proposition of complexity yet it would not matter one bit for the subjective conscious experience. The subjective perceptual experience may still be magic w.r.t. grounding in real physics, but it is there and not some.purely informational process (i.e. Searle is still undefeated) and there is nothing requiring consciousness to be synonymous with all this complicated brain activity.

Your unconscious mind does the vast bulk of difficult processing, then passes it through consciousness for some kind of review.

There is no evidence consciousness, however miraculous and awesome, need be particularly complicated in and of itself, nor is "what it does" as part of your larger, largely subconscious thought process, particularly valuable.

From an importance point of view, it is vastly overrated as information processor.

Your thinking, in other words, could be supra-Turing in computational model, yet the consciousness itself perfectly mundane, experencing these supra-Tuting-generated thoughts and doing a computationally mundane thing with them.

What do physicists say about this? (1)

pele (151312) | about 3 months ago | (#46953459)

Wouldn't this mean their search for a grand unified theory is now - for all intents and purposes - over?!
A single equation should be able to define the universe, including every single one of our feeblee minds in it.
42 to this I say...

Postmodernism or theology? (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 3 months ago | (#46953565)

This reeks of postmodernism or theology, in a bad way. I suspect they may be applying certain logical steps in ways they shouldn't be applied or confusing terminology somewhere. Like someone getting confused about certain qualitative statements in thermodynamics and coming to conclusions that are absurd from a statistical mechanics point of view - it happens in the classroom all the time. From a microscopic POV, the brain is all weighted connections and sigmoid transfer functions, and even if it's more complicated than that, one could still argue that all room-temperature ordinary matter physics can be approximately computed given an arbitrarily large amount of computing power. I refuse to accept that laws of physics that are computable would give rise to emergent behavior that is incomputable. Unless I'm the one who is confused about the meaning of the term "computable"...
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