Monday, October 24, 2005

Tidbits from Ars Mathematica

This past week my favorite math blog, Ars Mathematica, has had two posts that relate to the seminar (Nature & Origins of Consciousness) I'm taking this semester. I doubt the mathematician intended this, but stuff happens. So now I can entertain you with information you never wanted to know about.

On October 19th, this notice appeared: Week 222 of This Week’s Finds in Mathematical Physics is up. If you go to this link, #2 - #5, talk about the idea of singularity - not the black hole math singularity thing, but a point where technological development goes beyond us.
2) Charles Stross, Accelerando, Ace Books, New York. Also available at

This is one of the few tales I've read that does a good job of fleshing out Verner Vinge's "Singularity" scenario, where the accelerating development of technology soars past human comprehension and undergoes a phase transition to a thoroughly different world. This is a real possibility, and it's been discussed a lot:

One of the things we've discussed fairly extensively in class is what constitutes consciousness and whether an AI machine or a robot is truly conscious. Since I'd never read about this particular idea (singularity), I followed the links to learn some more. Kind of scary when I'm reading that this point in technology is predicted to occur by 2030.

October 23rd's post says "According to a new paper on Arxiv, Goedel’s theorem is false. There you have it." I haven't read the paper, but I'm assuming that it refers to Goedel's incompleteness theorem. One of the more interesting books I've read on consciousness was written by a mathematician (Shadows of the Mind by Roger Penrose, 1994). In the book, Penrose uses Goedel's incompleteness theorem to refute the possibility of creating a conscious machine. Does this mean Penrose isn't buying the singularity idea?

Math and psychology meet on the horizon of physics.


Teresa said...

First I have to find time to read them... then I'll have to decide if I think they're right. ;-)

MathCogIdiocy said...

My actual first reaction was that a sort of Chicken Little mentality was at work. My second reaction was to look around and listen for Arnold saying, "I'll be back." *snork*