Disclaimer: I am just an undergraduate student so my exposure to a lot of things is certainly limited.

I am not sure about the actual popularity of the idea that consciousness is a computation but my impression is that it is very widespread. I lost count to how many times I saw, sometimes very serious scientists, claim that we are just decades away from an actually intelligent AI (or AGI).

I also noticed a similar underlying premise with Machine Learning's "Neural Network" which is more or less exactly an implementation of the computational model of consciousness (which as far as I understand it [the model in the next sentence], assumes the Hodgkin-Huxley model to be true even though we don't actually really know that).

Am I wrong? Is it actually not as widely accepted and popular as I think it is? If not, then why is it this widely accepted as fact?

  • $\begingroup$ This question lies on the intersection of artificial intelligence and philosophy, so you may get a better response if you ask this question on Artificial Intelligence or Philosophy, instead. However, please be careful not to post the same question on multiple sites. $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard
    Jun 25, 2020 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Discretelizard so should I delete this question and repost it somewhere else after the fact? $\endgroup$
    – Eyad H.
    Jun 25, 2020 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ If you think it would fit better on the other sites, you can do that, yes. You could also wait a bit whether you get useful response here and decide later, if you prefer. $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard
    Jun 25, 2020 at 10:58
  • $\begingroup$ I wondered about these same sorts of questions when I was a CS student in college back in the 1980s. I have not studied AI since then and I am curious how things have evolved but it sounds like some questions remain unanswered. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2020 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


Consciousness as a computation is not by any means a scientific fact. Firstly because there's no universally accepted definition of consciousness.

General AI does not have either a widely accepted definition. There are two hypothesis in relation to consciousness: Weak AI states that you can achieve AGI with the computational models that we know e.g. without "consciousness." Strong AI, on the other hand states that there's something beyond our known computational models that is needed to achieve AGI.

Neural networks as used in machine learning are modeled in biological nervous systems but I don't think anyone has claimed that consciousness or even AGI can be expected from their implementation.

Some proposed consciousness theories worth mentioning are:

Daniel Benett's: Consciousness is nothing special. It's an illusion that you have control of your own decisions. He backs it up with some experiments that have been done where subjects think they have reached a given decision. In the experimental setup, however, it's demonstrated that before the subjects confirm that they've taken their decision an external observer can already determine the decision that the subject will take.

Douglas Hofstadter's theory of consciousness is based on the idea that consciousness is an effect achieved through computational deep recursion.

However, as I mentioned in my first point, consciousness is not scientifically defined to be even possible to set up a proper experiment that could determine wether consciousness can be achieved through computation or not.


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