What makes human beings effective is not their individual intelligences, though there are many very intelligent people in this room, but their communal intelligence. Over the next few months we are rolling out the fifteen talks—videos, EdgeCasts, transcripts.
Click to expand photo. This has been a fantastic meeting. It was remarkable how prescient the ideas seemed to be. Although we have made tremendous progress in understanding many details of the brain, there are huge gaps in our knowledge. What's relevant to me, as somebody who's interested in the nature of moral behavior, is how little we understand about the nature of reasoning, or if I may use a different expression, problem solving. I don't know what reasoning is. For a long time, people seemed to think it was completely separate from emotion, but we know that can't be true.
The nature of problem solving is something that is still very much in the pioneering stages in neuroscience.
It's a place where neuroscience and psychology can cooperate to get interesting experimental paradigms so that we can attack the question: How is it that, out of all these constraints and factors, a reasonable decision can be made? That's a tough one. It will require us to find good experimental paradigms and new techniques.
Her research has centered on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy, with a current focus on the association of morality and the social brain. Patricia S.
How do we understand that our ,fold excess of numbers on this planet, plus what we do to feed ourselves, makes us a tumor on the body of the planet? I don't want the future that involves some end to us, which is a kind of surgery of the planet. That's not anybody's wish. How do we revert ourselves to normal while we can?
How do we re-enter the world of natural selection, not by punishing each other, but by volunteering to take success as meaning success and survival of the future, not success in stuff now? How do we do that? We don't have a language for that. We're now going through a phase of history where people are so blown away at the success of physical science and the wonderful technology it's produced that they've forgotten its philosophical underpinnings. They've forgotten its inherent limitations. If we want a science of consciousness, we need to move beyond Galileo. We need to move to what I call a post-Galilean paradigm.
We need to rethink what science is. That doesn't mean we stop doing physical science or we do physical science differently—I'm not here to tell physical scientists how to do their jobs. It does, however, mean that it's not the full story. We need physical science to encompass a more expansive conception of the scientific method. We need to adopt a worldview that can accommodate both the quantitative data of physical science and the qualitative reality of consciousness.
That's essentially the problem. Fortunately, there is a way forward. There is a framework that could allow us to make progress on this. It's inspired by certain writings from the s of the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the scientist Arthur Eddington, who is incidentally the first scientist to confirm general relativity after the First World War.
I'm inclined to think that these guys did in the s for the science of consciousness what Darwin did in the 19th century for the science of life. It's a tragedy of history that this was completely forgotten about for a long time for various historical reasons we could talk about.
But, it's recently been rediscovered in the last five or ten years in academic philosophy, and it's causing a lot of excitement and interest. Philip Goff's Edge Bio Page. One of the great books in science was published in by a young Frenchman called Sadi Carnot. In about six pages, Carnot explains how you would make a steam engine that would work with the absolute maximum efficiency possible.
It was almost entirely ignored, and he died before anything much could come out of it. It was rediscovered in when William Thomson, who later became Lord Kelvin, wrote a paper that publicized this work. Within a couple of years, thermodynamics had been created as a science. It caused a tremendous lot of excitement from the s onwards.
The key thing about this work of Carnot's is that if you have a steam engine, the steam has to remain in a cylinder in a box. You want the steam engine to work continuously, so you keep on having to bring the steam and the cylinder back to the condition it was before. It's remarkable that the development of what's called statistical mechanics—to understand how steam behaves—led to the discovery of entropy, one of the great discoveries in the history of science, and with it the mystery of the arrow of time.
And it all followed out of this work of Carnot on how steam engines work. And moreover, it was very anthropocentric thinking about how human beings could exploit coal to drive steam engines and do work for them. At that stage, nobody was thinking about the universe as a whole; they were just thinking about how they could make steam engines work better. This way of thinking, I believe, has survived more or less unchanged to this day.
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You still find that people who work on this problem of the arrow of time are still assuming conditions that are appropriate for a steam engine. But in the s and early s, Hubble showed that the universe was expanding, that we live in an expanding universe. Is that going to be well modeled by steam in a box? My belief is that people haven't realized that we have to think out of the box.
We have to think in different ways. My collaborators and I keep on finding ways in which the mathematics that was developed before to understand systems confined in a box have to be modified with quite surprising consequences and, above all, possibly to explain why we have an incredibly powerful sense of the passage of time, why the past is so different from the future. My perspective is closest to George Dyson's. I liked his introducing himself as being interested in intelligence in the wild.
I will copy George in that. My interest in AI comes from a broader interest in a much more interesting question to which I have no answers and can barely articulate the question : How do lots of simple things interacting emerge into something more complicated? We have trouble perceiving it because of this notion, which Ian McEwan so beautifully described, of the Golem being such a compelling idea that we get distracted by it, and we imagine it to be like that.
That blinds us to being able to see it as it really is emerging. There's a pattern in all of those emergences, which is that they start out as analog systems of interaction, and then somehow—chemicals have chains of circular pathways that metabolize stuff from the outside world and turn into circular pathways that are metabolizing—what always happens going up to the next level is those analog systems invent a digital system, like DNA, where they start to abstract out the information processing.
So, they put the information processing in a separate system of its own. From then on, the interesting story becomes the story in the information processing. The complexity happens more in the information processing system. That certainly happens again with multi-cellular organisms. It drags along and makes much more complicated bodies much more interesting once you have behavior. Is he right? America fought two world wars on European soil; American diplomacy was midwife to what became the European Union; American arms protected western Europe from Soviet invasion; and American statesmen oversaw German unification.
The EU thinks of itself as just a market, but it needs to act as a political bloc, with policies on technology, data and climate change to match.