A double lesson by two masters of thought to understand future scenarios: philosophical, but also practical. Some A.I. scientists believe that one day machines will have consciousness, but Roger Penrose said that would never happen as a machine, no matter how bright it was, would never be aware. A computer can take in data and give out information or new data. It can record light, heat, colour, and can detect taste. It could become so sophisticated that it might even look a human and have thoughts, ideas, emotions, be emphatic, but it would still not be conscious, says Roger Penrose.
Artificial intelligence hasn't taken over the world ... yet. But while humans can still outperform computers on most high-level intelligence tasks, at this point most people would concede the game of chess to the machines. The best chess-playing computer programs can already school just about any average human player, and they've proven capable of beating our grandmasters too. But maybe there's still some hope for us, even when it comes to chess. Scientists with the Penrose Institute have devised a unique chess problem that's fairly simple for humans to solve, but which seems to irreparably stump even the most sophisticated of chess programs.
Once you start poking around in the muck of consciousness studies, you will soon encounter the specter of Sir Roger Penrose, the renowned Oxford physicist with an audacious--and quite possibly crackpot--theory about the quantum origins of consciousness. He believes we must go beyond neuroscience and into the mysterious world of quantum mechanics to explain our rich mental life. No one quite knows what to make of this theory, developed with the American anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, but conventional wisdom goes something like this: Their theory is almost certainly wrong, but since Penrose is so brilliant ("One of the very few people I've met in my life who, without reservation, I call a genius," physicist Lee Smolin has said), we'd be foolish to dismiss their theory out of hand. Penrose, 85, is a mathematical physicist who made his name decades ago with groundbreaking work in general relativity and then, working with Stephen Hawking, helped conceptualize black holes and gravitational singularities, a point of infinite density out of which the universe may have formed. He also invented "twistor theory," a new way to connect quantum mechanics with the structure of spacetime. His discovery of certain geometric forms known as "Penrose tiles"--an ingenious design of non-repeating patterns--led to new directions of study in mathematics and crystallography. The breadth of Penrose's interests is extraordinary, which is evident in his recent book Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe--a dense 500-page tome that challenges some of the trendiest but still unproven theories in physics, from the multiple dimensions of string theory to cosmic inflation in the first moment of the Big Bang.
Regardless of training, most people who come in contact with the field of AI are at least partially motivated by the glimmer of hope that they will get a better understanding of the mind. This quest, of course, is a rich and complex one. It is easy to get mired in minutiae along the way, be they the optimization of an algorithm, the details of a mental model, or the intricacies of a logical argument. Thagard's book attempts to call us back to the larger picture and to draw in new devotees--and, in general, he succeeds. This book begins, "Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence..." (p.