Can (Theoretical Computer) Science come to grips with Consciousness

ACO Distinguished Lecture
Saturday, October 24, 2009 - 5:00pm for 1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
LeCraw Auditorium, College of Management
Manuel Blum – Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Robin Thomas

Please Note: Preceded with a reception at 4:10pm.

To come to grips with consciousness, I postulate that living entities in general, and human beings in particular, are mechanisms... marvelous mechanisms to be sure but not magical ones... just mechanisms. On this basis, I look to explain some of the paradoxes of consciousness such as Samuel Johnson's "All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience is for it." I will explain concepts of self-awareness and free will from a mechanistic view. My explanations make use of computer science and suggest why these phenomena would exist even in a completely deterministic world. This is particularly striking for free will. The impressions of our senses, like the sense of the color blue, the sound of a tone, etc. are to be expected of a mechanism with enormously many inputs categorized into similarity classes of sight, sound, etc. Other phenomena such as the "bite" of pain are works in progress. I show the direction that my thinking takes and say something about what I've found and what I'm still looking for. Fortunately, the sciences are discovering a great deal about the brain, and their discoveries help enormously in guiding and verifying the results of this work.