March 8, 2017
From: Interview by John Horgan, Scientific American
Can the methods you describe in A New Kind of Science solve “the hard problem”? That is, can they explain how matter can become conscious?
One of the core discoveries that I discussed in the book is what I call the Principle of Computational Equivalence—which implies that a very wide range of systems are equivalent in their computational sophistication. And in particular, it means that brains are no more computationally sophisticated than lots of systems in nature, and even than systems with very simple rules. It means that “the weather has a mind of its own” isn’t such a primitive thing to say: the fluid dynamics of the weather is just as sophisticated as something like a brain.
There’s lots of detailed history that makes our brains and their memories the way they are. But there’s no bright line that separates what they’re doing from the “merely computational”. There are many philosophical implications to this. But there are also practical ones. And in fact this is what led me to think something like Wolfram|Alpha would be possible.