Despite previously making positive reference to Max Tegmark – holding a position seemingly close to mine – on consciousness – information and information patterns at root, I have been sceptical about his book “Life 3.0 – Being Human in the Age of AI“. Too hyped a topic and too breathless the reviews by association with Elon Musk.
But I watched this 15 minute 2014 TED talk …. and it’s very good. Very, very good.
It’s about information patterns – physical substrate-independent patterns – which have emergent properties above and beyond the physics of the fundamental articles. The whole story in a nutshell. He uses the expression “we call it” – when talking about different types of “stuff” – not so arrogant as to call these definitions. We call stuff Solid, Fluid Liquid, Gas, Plasma so why not also Memory, Computronium and Perceptronium – our abilities to remember, process and perceive. Oh, look, we already use the words. (Aha! and it’s IIT after Giulio Tononi – we’re already there.)
A man after my own – also reacts to the adjective “just” – as in we are “just” a bunch of quarks and photons. We are food rearranged. We are a bunch of physics with a particular history of dynamic patterns of information. Seems like the same old dualist question, but not a question what we need to “add” to physics – but what what are the physical properties of the patterns in the physics? It’s the (information) patterns that matter. “Matter” – think on.
So that’s Dan Dennett, Anil Seth and Max Tegmark talking sense. Will have to watch that again, and get Tegmark’s book after all. There really is no mystery of consciousness. Onward and upward.
Also published on Medium.