Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Can Physics Answer the Hardest Questions of the Universe?

At some point during an intro to philosophy class in college, I was first exposed to the classic "Brain in a vat" thought experiment: how do I know I'm not just a brain in a vat of goo with a bunch of wires and probes poking out, being measured and controlled by some mad scientist?  That was a few years before The Matrix came out, which asked essentially the same question.

So -- are you a brain in a vat?  And how could you know?

This is just the tip of the iceberg; once we start down this path, we come face-to-face with more difficult questions.  "What creates consciousness?"  "Can consciousness be simulated?"  "If I copy my brain, will it create another me, and what would that feel like?"  And once we've fallen down the rabbit hole, we see that there are a thousand other seemingly unanswerable questions... questions about free will, the arrow of time, the nature of reality, and so forth.

I think physics can help answer these questions, and in fact I think I have answered a couple of them to some degree.  For example, I don't know (yet) whether I'm in a simulation, but I think I do know whether or not I am a simulation.  Here is my first YouTube talk in which I explain why consciousness cannot be algorithmic, conscious states cannot be copied or repeated, and computers will never be conscious:

If you prefer a written explanation, here is a preprint of my article, "Refuting Strong AI: Why Consciousness Cannot Be Algorithmic."

I am also working on another proof of the same conclusions from a different angle.  Here is a preprint of my article, "Killing Science Fiction: Why Conscious States Cannot Be Copied or Repeated."  I'll post a link to a YouTube talk on this paper as soon as it's available.

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