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1 Getting a Grip on Consciousness Manuel Blum Carnegie Mellon University

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2 Studying Brains in The Neurophysiology Laboratory of McCulloch and Pitts 1958, I apprenticed myself to the eminent neurophysiologist Warren S. McCulloch and his colleague Walter Pitts. From W. S. McCulloch I learned about brains Walter Pitts books Jerome Lettvin eyes Patrick Wall pain

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4 1969 I got tenure at Berkeley. Took a week off to think about consciousness. What I learned? Consciousness is like a flashlight. Wherever you look, whatever you choose to think about, ideas bubble up. I don’t know where those ideas bubble up from. Visually, we see a lot less than what we think we see. What we think we see is what we can see if we choose to look. –Can focus on whatever detail we want to see. –Can’t do that with dream images. –Can’t do that with pain. Pain is atomic to consciousness.

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5 Why look at consciousness? Several reasons: Interesting Philosophical questions. Curiosity about how the brain achieves it. Potent applications to high-level planning: learning to think. building computers/robots to understand stuff.

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6 Bernard Baars: Global Workspace Theory of Consciousness Views brain as an auditorium of unconscious processors. Only what’s on stage (in the floodlights) is conscious. What’s on stage is broadcast broadly to the unconscious processors (in the dark).

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7 There is broad consensus that Global Workspace Theory is essentially correct Rodolfo Llinas: Neurophysiologist David Chalmers: Philosopher who maintains online bibliography Antonio Damasio: Neuroscientist Susan Blackmore disagrees (with aspects)

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8 I like Global Workspace Theory. It agrees with what I discovered for myself… and it goes much further. It says something about what is conscious. Explains why consciousness is a serial bottleneck. Suggests experiments. Has broad backing.

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9 What’s in it (Global Workspace Theory) for us computer scientists? Global Workspace Theory lends itself to a theory of high-level planning. I view the proof of a theorem as a Triangle/Template/Tree It has an idea/ hint at the top/root. an informal proof at mid-level. a formal proof at the bottom/leaves. The nodes correspond to what is conscious (when we mull over that point in the proof).

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10 Template for a proof Hint More Hints Informal Plan / Idea : Informal Proof (typical math) : Completely Formal Proof (only a logician)

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11 Leslie Lamport corroborates this idea: “How to Write a Proof” 1993 Calls it a hierarchical proof. Creates such a hierarchical proof for a theorem in Kelley. Explains how he (Lamport) writes proofs.

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12 From where do we get these triangles/templates/trees? From examples, eg dynamic programming. Templates are reinforced with homework problems. New templates arise when those that don’t quite work get fixed with ideas from other templates (Terence Tao). My own shtick: New templates arise from problem modification: if the problem is hard to solve, modify it to get simpler problem.

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13 To create new templates, try Problem Mutation If the problem is hard to solve, modify it to get one you can solve. Use solution to modified problem as a template to solve the original problem. Repeat as needed. The END

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How triangles get created Example: To prove the Theorem: There exists an irrational such that is rational. Hint anyone ?!

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15 Hint: Try = sqrt(2). Sqrt(2)^sqrt(2) = ? Doesn’t seem to work : Ouch !! Theorem: There exists an irrational such that is rational.

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16 Theorem: There exists an irrational such that is rational. Hint: Try = 2. Plan for a Proof: Try = 2. Prove is irrational the way one proves that sqrt(2) is irrational.

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