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(eBook - Science) Goertzel, Ben - The Structure of Intelligence

(eBook - Science) Goertzel, Ben - The Structure of Intelligence


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Dr. Ben Goertzel, a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, expounds on the nature and structure of AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence, as differentiated from so-called "expert systems" or "narrow AI," so common today (such as voice recognition software).
Dr. Ben Goertzel, a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, expounds on the nature and structure of AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence, as differentiated from so-called "expert systems" or "narrow AI," so common today (such as voice recognition software).

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Published by: Able Scribe on Jan 26, 2009
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The analysis of mind to be given in the following chapters is expressed in computational
language. It is therefore implicitly assumed that the mind can be understood, to within a high
degree of accuracy, as a system of interacting algorithms or automata. However, the concept of
"algorithm" need not be interpreted in a narrow sense. Penrose (1989), following Deutsch
(1985), has argued on strictly physical grounds that the standard digital computer is probably not
an adequate model for the brain. Deutsch (1985) has proposed the "quantum computer" as an
alternative, and he has proved that -- according to the known principles of quantum physics -- the
quantum computer is capable of simulating any finite physical system to within finite accuracy.
He has proved that while a quantum computer can do everything an ordinary computer can, it
cannot compute any functions besides those which an ordinary computer can compute (however,
quantum computers do have certain unique properties, such as the ability to generate "truly
random" numbers). Because of Deutsch's theorems, the assertion that brain function is
computation is not a psychological hypothesis but a physical, mathematical fact. It follows that
mind, insofar as it reduces to brain, is computational.

I suspect that most of the structures and processes of mind are indeed explicable in terms of
ordinary digital computation. However, I will suggest that the mind has at least one aspect which
cannot be explained in these terms. Chapter 11, which deals with consciousness, is the only
chapter which explicitly assumes that the mind has to do with quantum computation rather than
simply digital computation.

Many people are deeply skeptical of the idea that the mind can be understood in terms of
computation. And this is understandable. The brain is the only example of intelligence that we
know, and it doesn't look like it's executingalgorithms: it is a largely incomprehensible mass of
self-organizing electrochemical processes. However, assuming that these electrochemical
processes obey the laws of quantum physics, they can be explained in terms of a system of
differential equations derived from quantum theory. And any such system of differential
equations may be approximated, to within any desired degree of accuracy, by a function that is
computable on a quantum computer. Therefore, those who claim that the human mind cannot be


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understood in terms of computation are either 1) denying that the laws of quantum physics, or
any similar mathematical laws, apply to the brain; or 2) denying that any degree of understanding
of the brain will yield an understanding of the human mind. To me, neither of these alternatives
seems reasonable.

Actually, there is a little more to the matter than this simple analysis admits. Quantum physics
is not a comprehensive theory of the universe. It seems to be able to deal with everything except
gravitation, for which the General Theory of Relativity is required. In fact, quantum theory and
general relativity are in contradiction on several crucial points. The effect of gravity on processes
occurring within individual organisms is small and easily accounted for, so these contradictions
would seem to be irrelevant to the present considerations. But some scientists -- for instance,
Roger Penrose, in his The Emperor's New Mind (1989) -- believe that the combination of
quantum physics with general relativity will yield an entirely new understanding of the physics
of the brain.

It is worth asking: if Penrose were right, what effect would this have on the present
considerations? Quantum theory and general relativity would be superseded by a new Grand
Unified Theory, or GUT. But presumably it would then be possible to define a GUT computer,
which would be capable of approximating any system with arbitrary accuracy according to the
GUT. Logically, the GUT computer would have to reduce to a quantum computer in those
situations for which general relativistic and other non-quantum effects are negligible. It would
probably have all the capacities of the quantum computer, and then some. And in this case,
virtually none of the arguments given here would be affected by the replacement of quantum
physics with the GUT.

To repeat: the assumption that brain processes are computation, if interpreted correctly, is not
at all dubious. It is not a metaphor, an analogy, or a tentative hypothesis. It is a physical,
mathematical fact. If one assumes -- as will be done explicitly in Chapter 4 -- that each mind is
associated with the structure of a certain physical system, then the fact that a sufficiently
powerful computer can approximate any physical system with arbitrary precision guarantees that
any mind can be modeled by a computer with arbitrary precision. Whether this is a useful way to
look at the mind is another question; but the validity of the computational approach to mind is
not open to serious scientific dispute.

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