Monday, May 19, 2008

Quantum consciousness, curling and glials...

The book of Prof. Penrose is a very interesting read. For the core A.I. people that believe in the "everything is perfectly computational and so is human thought" (not taking into account memory, processing or storage resources), it can be bit disheartening. Prof. Penrose asserts that there are things about the mind that can be simulated, although not perfectly, but that by simulating things it doesn't make a machine aware.

This of course depends on the definition of awareness, how awareness is raised in the human brain and whether awareness is real or whether we're just thinking we're aware and not in the same computed state as something else.

Another interesting thought here is with regards to the ability to steer thought and the ability to visualize things "in the mind's eye" as it's called. The interesting thing here is that besides regular perception that reacts to stimuli, we can also invoke stimuli on our own brain. Mostly for thought experiments or for dreaming. Although the last objective is nicer :).

I refer to the last post on "The plot thickens". I imagine that glial cells may have a more active role than previously perceived. Neuro-scientists have for example asserted that the glial cells are cleaners.

Ever heard of the sport "curling"? It's a sport where you have a heavy 20kg stone that is "thrown" on ice. The team consists of three players, where one player executes the throw (neuron) and two players clean the track in front of it. The cleaners can affect the trajectory of the stone, lengthening it or shortening it or moving it to a side and thereby affect the nature of the game.

One could imagine that the cleaners in curling have a similar role to the glial cells. If it's true, then it certainly makes things more interesting. And the search for the real "consciousness" would also just be starting. Would it be something in the brain? Would it be more like "waves"? Those glials than sort of become the manipulators of neuron cells, like an overwatch or teacher. If one maintains the Hebb's theory, the plot thickens indeed. Then learning isn't necessarily triggering neurons based on input and then making the cells fit, learning would be controlled by a network 10 times the size of the neurons, which seem to be driven by some other force.

At this point I'm not sure how to imagine consciousness then, nor do I intend very well the activity and power of the glial cells to influence the behaviour of neurons (or slight modifications in its firing pattern, or perhaps entire modification of the network itself?). Is this where consciousness is really located?

Some people resort to quantom consciousness.

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