I want to point to a paper in the current PNAS by Blum and Blum, "A theory of consciousness from a theoretical computer science perspective: Insights from the Conscious Turing Machine," as well as a copmmentary on it by Oliveira. I do this before diving in to read it and hopefully understand it myself, to alert consciousness mavens of its appearance. A first glance through it makes me think that getting a grip on understanding the model will take considerable effort on my part. Perhaps I will emerge with some commentary, perhaps not.... I pass on the Blum and Blum opening statements:
This paper provides evidence that a theoretical computer science (TCS) perspective can add to our understanding of consciousness by providing a simple framework for employing tools from computational complexity theory and machine learning. Just as the Turing machine is a simple model to define and explore computation, the Conscious Turing Machine (CTM) is a simple model to define and explore consciousness (and related concepts). The CTM is not a model of the brain or cognition, nor is it intended to be, but a simple substrate-independent computational model of (the admittedly complex concept of) consciousness. This paper is intended to introduce this approach, show its possibilities, and stimulate research in consciousness from a TCS perspective.Abstract
This paper examines consciousness from the perspective of theoretical computer science (TCS), a branch of mathematics concerned with understanding the underlying principles of computation and complexity, including the implications and surprising consequences of resource limitations. We propose a formal TCS model, the Conscious Turing Machine (CTM). The CTM is influenced by Alan Turing's simple yet powerful model of computation, the Turing machine (TM), and by the global workspace theory (GWT) of consciousness originated by cognitive neuroscientist Bernard Baars and further developed by him, Stanislas Dehaene, Jean-Pierre Changeux, George Mashour, and others. Phenomena generally associated with consciousness, such as blindsight, inattentional blindness, change blindness, dream creation, and free will, are considered. Explanations derived from the model draw confirmation from consistencies at a high level, well above the level of neurons, with the cognitive neuroscience literature.