Windwalker wrote:Nevertheless, the fact that it's complex and still very partially known doesn't make it unknowable in principle.
Forgive me my dissent. I'll agree to your above statement, but I'll add another: just because we have learned a lot does not means that it is knowable
in principle, either.
We're fencing over semantics to a large extent. We are learning huge amounts about brain function, and will continue to do so. I even believe, or want to believe, that someday we'll build machines that past the Turing Test or some suitable modification. But I also suspect that terms like consciousness, awareness, free will, and so on, may
(note the emphasis) remain too slippery, too ill-defined. At best we'll have operational definitions, such as our current operational definitions of self-awareness, as in tests of dolphins and other intelligent creatures looking at themselves in mirrors.
Look at 'intelligence." We have a hundred years of so-called intelligence tests, and as far as I can tell, they mostly only test how well you do on an intelligence test. We can talk about the survival or operational advantages of intelligence, but really, we can't even define intelligence in any rigorous manner.
I insist on this not because I believe the human mind is a miracle or supernatural or anything, as both C.S. Lewis and Roger Penrose, for opposing reasons, conclude. But my training is in physics, and the history of physics has taught us that some questions simply cannot be satisfactorily answered and you'd better get used to the idea. There is no well-defined trajectory for a subatomic particle. There are true theorems that nevertheless cannot be proved. There is no absolute rest frame. In fact, progress is usually made by jettisoning those old concepts and questions that shackle us. And my guess is that at least some of the terms "thought," "intelligence," "consciousness," "free will" will have to be relegated to the dustbin before we can really make progress. (Maybe not. Maybe only some of them. But I'll willing to hit the eject button on any and all.)
That is my ultimate response to the Dijkstra quote that SC began this thread with. Asking whether or not a computing is "thinking" is probably besides the point and will only hinder you. So let's burn those terms and make some progress! that's what I say.