Where Are You on the Spectrum?
By Amy Willis
Why do we tend to think of the mind as static–whether throughout our lives or even throughout the day? What do our brains have in common with computers? David Gelernter, Yale professor of computer science and author of The Tides of Mind, joined EconTalk host Russ Roberts this week to explore the nature of consciousness.
So brush the dust off your Up spectrum (or is it your Down spectrum?) and share your thoughts with us. Or share your vacuum cleaner’s thoughts.* As always, we love to hear from you.
1. How does Gelernter describe the journey our mind makes between its Up and Down spectrums over the course of the day? Does this affect your experience? If yes, and how do these changes affect the way you think and the actions you take at different points throughout the day?
2. How similar are Roberts’s and Gelernter’s conceptions of “the hard problem of consciousness?” Specifically, how does each see the future of artificial intelligence? To what extent are emotions programmable, or able to be understood in a physiological manner?
3. Gelernter says, “toying with human life is fundamentally fascist.” What does he mean by this, and why does he find the singularity to be such a dangerous idea? How does his conception of “the rapture of the nerds” compare to that of Richard Jones? (Recall Roberts’s conversation with Jones in this April episode.) What’s your take–is the singularity akin to the rapture, an immoral objectification of human life, or something else entirely? (And to what extent should the singularity be on our near-term radar?)
4. How does Gelernter’s illustration of the “tides of mind” explain why analytical thought seems to be preferred over story-telling in our age? Roberts and Gelernter disagree on how challenging mixing Up and Down spectrum modes of communication is for people…What do you think?
* Related to Question 2…Roberts asks both on Medium and in this week’s conversation, “Could a smart vacuum cleaner feel sadness at not having a chance at being a driverless car?” What does he mean by that, and just how outlandish is this question?