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Marissa Patterson's picture

Can a computer brain have consciousness

Thanks to Jessica, Gillian, and Tamara for such a relevant and interesting discussion topic.

I was fascinated by the idea of the "blue brain" and whether a completed human brain would have a consciousness. There is a part of me that just has to struggle with that idea, but perhaps that is simply because this is such a different thing than a real brain. Neurons that emit neurotransmitter molecules are not the same thing as computer microchips that simply link to another microchip in a pre-programmed way, and so I am not convinced that they would be able to ultimately function in the same way. I do not know if there would be a way to learn enough about all of the connections between all of the neurons in the brain and then input that into a computer and build the necessary connections.

However, another option is somehow using genetics. We mentioned in class that it would take far too long to build all of the necessary connections between microchips, but humans build a brain in 9 months. Yes, I realize connections continue to build after that, but it is a pretty impressive feat for less than a years time. I wonder if eventually it could be possible to take a genetic sequence for brain development, run THAT on a computer, somehow getting a human brain as an output. What would that look like? Would it have consciousness?

I also wonder how we would KNOW it had consciousness. Would it be necessary to hook it up to some kind of robotic body? They have been doing a lot of research recently into finding ways for brains to talk, for people who are paralyzed for whatever reason to communicate. They've even found a way to show that someone in a vegitative state can understand speech, and so could there eventually be a way for just a lone brain to communicate as well?



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