Silicon Bad, Carbon Good: Er, Er, Grunt, Grunt

April 27, 2008

I learned something interesting last week in my neuroscience class: apparently there’s something exceedingly special about carbon that allows it to imbue us with ‘consciousness,’ something that silicon will never be able to do!

(Please note the sarcasm!)

We have these debates in Behavioral Neuroscience, and last week’s addressed the question: “Will AI ever develop a mind?” Loaded question, sure, because what the heck is a mind, anyway?

But you an imagine my shock when I was told that computers will never have a mind because, well, they’re programmed! I could have sworn that we’re programmed too, just by billions of years of physics instead of a few decades of human intervention.

And then I brought up the fact that, assuming evolution (which one might think is a safe assumption, but with this crowd, who knows!), billions of years of molecules just bouncing around managed to lead to our intelligence. So why not allow for a few hundred years of human intelligence to lead to an artificial kind?

That question, which I felt deserved some contemplation, got brushed off like so much crap. Apparently the concept that our intelligence arose out of an unintelligent universe just doesn’t hit home, even with a group of evolution-believing folks. I mean, I understand that it’s hard to grasp, but it’s still worth bearing in mind: our intelligence, again assuming evolution, came out of the random bouncing around of atoms!

Too bad that these folks are going to be on the leading edge of neuroscience research. I guess they’ll have to leave it up to the physicists and chemists and computer scientists (you know, the real scientistists! :) to keep their heads too far out of the clouds (or their asses).

Note: At this point I’d like to make it clear that I’m not that mad at the people in my course. Confused, yes. Annoyed, sure. But angry? Nah. It’s just… the failure of so many people to grasp the true implications of evolution combined with cosmology baffles me. Though I suppose it shouldn’t: I used to think that exact same way just 4 years ago. And the fact of the matter is, we’d like to think we’re somehow special. But more and more we’re realizing that we’re not. And that’s okay.

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One Response to “Silicon Bad, Carbon Good: Er, Er, Grunt, Grunt”

  1. dave in the west said

    Yeah, I haven’t read your blog in a while.

    I figured I’d just let you know that I’m not necessarily feeling that whole “random bouncing around” theory anymore. Not so much that I think god did it, but the whole concept is confusing to me and it doesn’t seem like natural selection could have developed such complex systems in nature. I feel like I would have to study those dynamics in order to get a better idea of the magnitude of change that goes on during punctuated equilibrium.

    My main seller is the sexual revolution. How the fuck does that just randomly happen? Well, usually I just grow buds to reproduce, but I’m just going to put this newfangled penis into her newfangled vagina and oh… how bout that, a baby. It makes no sense to me, lol

    It gets harder to believe every day. There might be something I’m missing.. be it a principle or otherwise, but I’m definitely missing it.

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