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I am a former middle and high school science teacher pursuing a doctorate in Science Ed. at George Mason University, with a concentration in cognitive science and the evolution of cognition and learning. Postings on this blog represent my own views, not those of my employer or school. All writing displayed on this page is original work unless otherwise noted, and thus copyrighted.

04 December 2009

Discussion of "Signatures of Consciousness", Stanislaus Dehaene

Edge discussion and original talk here.

Stan Dehaene always deals with interesting, deep problems in a novel and efficient manner. His last two publications deal with the evolution of a number sense in primates and the evolution of reading ability (a proposed volutionary change based on a cultural phenomenon), and now Dehaene attacks the problem of consciousness in terms of a global neuronal workspace. The quick and dirty version of his argument is that, based on fMRI and temporal EEG measures, it seems the consciousness exists as a kind of neural workspace in the mind; consciousness is something that parallels (or is?) our working memory and exists independently of neural processes and responses, following behind the initial response to stimuli by an average of a quarter second.
I have great respect and admiration for Dehaene, but there's a major flaw in his discussion (and since his talk is speculative, that's acceptable): He explains well the purpose of consciousness, and perhaps even what we might define as conscious, but he fails in any meaningful manner to demonstrate what causes it.
Sam Harris has a critique of Dehaene's points in terms quantum computers, which I won't even attempt to address.

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