17. 11. 2020

Consciousness explained

by Daniel C. Dennett


The quasivisual nature of the phenomenology of comprehension has been almost entirely ignored by researchers in cognitive science, particularly in Artificial Intelligence, who have attempted to create language-understanding computer systems. Why have they turned their beck on the phenomenology? Probably largely beceuse of their conviction that the phenomenology, however real and fascinating, is nonfunctional — a wheel that turns but engages none of the important machinery of comprehension. (Sunday, October 19, 2014, 04:53 PM, page 56)

Surely a major source of the widespread skepticism about “machine understanding” of natural language is that such systems almost never avail themselves of anything like a “visual” workspace in which to parse or analyze the input. If they did, the sense that they were actually understanding what they processed would be greatly heightened (whether or not it would still be, as some insist, an illusion). (Sunday, October 19, 2014, 05:01 PM, page 57)

We are fooling ourselves about something. Perhaps we are fooling ourselves about the extent to which we are all basically alike. (Monday, October 20, 2014, 10:18 PM, page 67)

There is a sound, sometimes called the auditory barber pole, which seems to keep on rising in pitch forever, without ever getting any higher. (Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 10:18 AM, page 69)

“from reft to light”?) (Friday, October 24, 2014, 10:46 AM, page 76)

But suppose we then asked Shakey: How do you tell the boxes from the pyramids? What should we design Shakey to “say” in reply? Here are three possibilities: (1) I scan each 10,000-digit-long sequence of Os and is from my camera, looking for certain patterns of sequences, such as blahblahblah (a very long answer if we let Shakey go into the details). (2) 1 find the light-dark boundaries and draw white lines around them in my mind’s eye; then I look at the vertices; if I find a Y vertex, for instance, I know I have a box. (3) I don’t know; some things just look boxy. It just comes to me. It’s by intuition. Which is the right sort of thing for Shakey to say? Each answer is true in its way; (Monday, October 27, 2014, 03:39 PM, page 92)

There is no cell or group of cells in the brain of such anatomical or functional preeminence as to appear to be the keystone or center of gravity of the whole system. WiLLIAM JAMES, 1890 (Monday, October 27, 2014, 04:46 PM, page 101)

Wherever there is a conscious mind, there is a point of view. This is one of the most fundamental ideas we have about minds — or about consciousness. (Monday, October 27, 2014, 04:47 PM, page 101)

Ernst Poppel (1985, 1988) has pointed out, thanks to these counter-balancing differences, the “horizon of simultaneity” is about ten meters: light and sound that leave the same point about ten meters from the observer’s sense organs produce neural responses that are “centrally available” at the same time. (Monday, October 27, 2014, 04:56 PM, page 106)

Since perception turns imperceptibly into memory, and “immediate” interpretation turns imperceptibly into rational reconstruction, there is no single all-contexts summit on which to direct one’s probes. (Thursday, October 30, 2014, 09:51 AM, page 136)

The phrase “B after A” is an example of a (spoken) vehicle that represents A as being before B, and the brain can avail itself of the same freedom of temporal placement. (Monday, November 03, 2014, 08:58 PM, page 149)