Philip Ball is a science writer and broadcaster who has nature More than twenty years.his book critical mass Winner of the 2005 Aventis Science Book Award.Ball is also the host science story, a BBC Radio 4 series on the history of science. He trained as a chemist at Oxford University and a physicist at the University of Bristol.
Below, Philip shares 5 key insights from his new book, The Book of Mind: How to understand ourselves and other creatures, from animals to artificial intelligence to aliens. Listen to the audio version read aloud by Philip himself in the Next Big Idea app.
1. There is room for possible ideas.
In 1984, computer scientist Aaron Sloman published a paper arguing that it was time to rethink mind, based on new information on human and animal cognition and artificial intelligence. Sloman’s dissertation is titled “The Structure of the Space of Possible Thoughts.” He wrote:
Obviously, there is more than one kind of heart. In addition to clear individual differences among adults, there are also differences among adults, children of different ages, and infants. There are cross-cultural differences. There are also differences between humans, chimpanzees, dogs, mice, and other animals. There are differences between all of these and machines.
Thought, he argues, does not exist along a line that measures things like intelligence, but in a space rich in multidimensional structure. When it comes to mind maps, we don’t yet know what the coordinates are, but some researchers have speculated what a map might look like.
Perhaps there is a dimension that measures “intelligence,” which means how much information processing the brain can do to convert a stimulus into a response. With that said, computers have a lot of intelligence. Maybe there is a dimension that measures awareness, awareness or experience – how much inner life the mind has. No computer system has this, but we certainly have. Likely, some animals do too. Babies may have more limited intelligence than adults, but they have a lot of experience. Maybe there is one dimension that measures memory and another that measures purpose or intent. Perhaps it is too simplistic to think that intelligence is a single thing. Even humans have different types of intelligence: some are very spatially aware, some are good at math, or have social intelligence.
Anyone is sitting somewhere in this thought space. Humans gather in a cloud, and possibly a cluster of chimpanzees nearby, and then spread farther and farther, with different kinds of bird hearts, octopus hearts, and so on. Then we can ask: what’s here or there? What kind of mind is possible?
“Perhaps it is too simplistic to think that intelligence is a single thing.”
2. Minds exist to free us from genetically hardwired behavior.
All minds (as we know) evolved through natural selection. They are related by branches in the evolutionary tree of life. Each is shaped by the needs of its environment. Dolphins use echolocation because this is more useful than underwater vision. Some bird minds can sense the Earth’s magnetic field.
All these natural thoughts help the thought bearers to survive and reproduce by producing some kind of adaptive behavior. These minds respond to the environment with biologically beneficial behaviors—indeed, the minds predict what is best to do in the situation.
This view of the mind as a predictor shows how it different A stimulus-response system from a machine-like. The simplest organisms, such as bacteria, often exhibit innate behavior: environmental stimuli reliably and predictably generate a limited repertoire of actions. But human and animal thought is not the stimulus-response circuit that creates action.they are choose to automaton-like behavior.
In other words, the mind exists to free us from the hard-wiring of heredity by allowing behaviors that are not pre-programmed. The magic of humans is not that our genes influence how we make choices, but that many of our actions escape their dominant influence. Complex Minds has a vastly expanded repertoire of behaviors that can be fine-tuned and improvised for new situations. This makes evolutionary sense because if an organism has many behavioral choices that are optimal for survival, evolution can hardwire responses to every foreseeable situation, or (more efficiently) it can provide That creature builds a thought.
3. All living things may have a thought.
You have ideas, and so do I. You might accept that some animals have minds – gorillas, dogs, and even in their bossy way, cats. But what about ants? Ants have small brains and can exhibit fairly complex behaviors.maybe you will agree all Animals have thoughts.
“Flytraps that prey on insects can count.”
But what about plants? Plants don’t have brains and nerves, how can they think? Plant cells transmit electrical signals between them, a bit like neurons. Plants can move, respond to stimuli and learn. A flytrap that preys on insects can count; it counts the number of movements it perceives from insects that land on it, so that it doesn’t waste energy consuming a loose piece of dust. A time-lapse video of the plant roots or tendrils of a climbing plant looks odd, like the behavior of a touch-sensitive intelligent creature.
Some biologists think we should talk about plant minds.Some go further, arguing that every organism, including single-celled bacteria, is Cognition Way – some kind of decision is being made. Does this require a brain? Do bacteria, fungi, or plants feel something like that?
We still don’t have a complete scientific understanding of what perception or consciousness is, but it’s been suggested that “primordial sensations arise once a cell opens its membranes so that what’s outside of it affects the cell’s internal state.” In this view In , the brain, mind and cognition are collections of perceptual atoms. This is a position called biopsychology, which assumes that all living things have some kind of mind because they are alive.
4. AI may not exist.
When research into artificial intelligence created in computer systems began in the 1950s, some researchers thought we would have “fully intelligent machines” within a few decades. This overoptimism seems to stem from a perception of the gross inadequacy of human intelligence and cognitive abilities: as if the highest expression of the human mind is the ability to play chess.
One of the goals of artificial intelligence today is to create machines that can do everything a human can do: a capability called artificial general intelligence, or AGI. But today’s AI can easily find things that are hard for us to find (such as complex computations), and vice versa. Artificial intelligence lacks common sense and strives to do what young children can do without much thought. Common sense is largely an adaptive, intention-driven form of behavior inspired and informed by our internal representations of reality: by intuitive physics and intuitive psychology. None of this would appear in AI if we made circuits bigger and gave them more processing power. If we want the machine to exhibit common sense, we have to put it in by hand.
“AI lacks common sense, striving to do what young children can do, without deliberation.”
But from the possible mind space, AGI seems very arbitrary. We’re just a place in this mental space, and there’s no particular reason to think it’s special. Why direct artificial intelligence there? Why give AI all our weaknesses and limitations? If an artificial brain lacks consciousness, can we even be sure it can do everything we do? There may be many other types of minds in artificial intelligence. Even if it could imitate ours, that doesn’t mean the same thought would underlie the behavior. Maybe AGI is just a pointless fantasy.
5. Free will is real.
If the mind doesn’t make decisions, they have no meaning. Evolution may also produce an unconscious machine-like system that responds to its environment like a puppet. What’s the point of watching helplessly when consciousness responds like an automaton?
However, the debate over the existence of free will has been going on for centuries. Some scientists insist it cannot exist because everything that happens, driven by blind forces between atoms, inevitably follows the exact state of the universe. What room is there for free will in the operation of these physical laws?
These arguments ignore the issue of causality. Just because any event can be broken down into the atoms and fundamental forces involved, doesn’t mean those atoms and forces are the cause. There is now clear evidence that, in some complex systems, causality is not all bottom-up: major causal effects can arise at higher organizational levels.Anyway, that’s exactly our intuition: no one would think of the real author the great gatsby It’s the atoms of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s brain.
To believe in free will, recognize that our actions and decisions are determined by our brain’s will-decision neural circuits. They, not their constituent atoms, are the real reason for what we do.
To listen to the audio version read aloud by author Philip Ball, download the Next Big Idea App now: