CONSCIOUSCONVERSATION:COMPUTATION

Dr. William Rapaport

This interview is part of a series exploring what different people think about consciousness. The plan is to pose the same basic question to people of different backgrounds (philosophers, religious figures, scientists, politicians, down to my sister), and learn how this affects their view of the world and themselves.

Dr. Rapaport is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo with research interests in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Logic and Mathematics.

Models of Natural Numbers
This is a graphical rendition of the different models of natural numbers Dr. Rapaport diagramed during the interview.

Dr. Rapaport gives a great breakdown of the difference between psychological and phenomenological views of consciousness and helps clarify the core of the problem of consciousness. We also talked about computational theories of mind and artificial intelligence.

Up next will be my sister, Laila, and I’m working on finding more interesting people to talk to.

  1. Can’t wait to listen. I might have to bug you for some expertise along these routes, probably not before the summer, in much the same context: consciousness, decision structures, “morality” if you prefer, that sort of thing.

    Good project idea.

    Daniel Black

    Feb 9, 04:42 PM #

  2. Hi, Thame,

    Finally listening to most of this, and I’m enjoying as I expected. I particularly like Dr. Rapaport’s recollection, of other analytical thinkers’ notion that it’s “…pattern all the way down.” This touches on your post “Identity and Time,” in which we evaluate the following problem:

    Imagine a ship, oddly enough captained by a man named Theseus, that was being preserved for historical reasons. Over the course of many years, every piece of the ship was replaced, from the main mast and Theseus’s own cabin to the tiniest bolt, such that no part of the original ship remained. Is the ship then still the Ship of Theseus?

    Here, the ship as crafted by Theseus originally was just an “implementation,” to use Dr. Rappaport’s language, of the pattern of the Ship of Theseus. This requires, at least on the surface of things, that we ignore the likelihood that each part was replaced imperfectly, such that in the end the Ship was different not only in its implementation of a pattern, but in the pattern itself. We could rebutt that by discussing, not Theseus’ original pattern only, but the metapattern or whatever that describes the entire history of implementation. More “less than or equal” than “equivalent,” you could say.

    P.S. (Oh…and then you reference this a few minutes later. Nice.)

    Daniel Black

    Mar 1, 05:46 PM #

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