[Image from here]
Deep Thought took millions of years to boil down life, the universe and everything into 42 - a wonderful feat of reductionism.
Thinking is one of the great frontiers of modern science. Marvin Minsky, the father of modern AI, proposed his Society of Mind theory in the 80s, which suggests that a mind is not a single thing but rather an emergent property of lots of dumb modules.
This led to Pinker [whose hair I admire greatly] and the evolutionary psychologists that attempt to explain different higher cognitive functions in terms of the evolutionary role of different modules.
The early benchmark of thinking was of course the Turing test - if a program can have a conversation with a person and fools them into thinking it is another person, it should be considered intelligent.
This is essentially the same argument as "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck - it's a duck", which on the surface seems sensible but falls down when looking at the concept of consciousness, because it is by definition a subjective property.
The Chinese Room Argument is one attempt to refute this definition of strong AI - just because software can answer questions in Chinese it doesn't mean it can understand Chinese - understanding requires a grasp of both syntax and semantics - software need only grapple with a massive set of symbol strings to answers questions without understanding.
So instead of trying to replicate behaviours at the emergent level, science is now trying to replicate the functions of the brain down to the lowest level. IBM's Blue Brain project is exactly that - an attempt to simulate a human brain down to the molecular level using a 23 teraflop super computer.
The model of brains that this uses is that of parallel processors, themselves essentially dumb binary logic gates, that, when sufficiently numerous, interconnected and able to dynamically reroute themselves to form fixed pathways, somehow achieve an emergent property we consider consciousness that allows self awareness and the ability to ratiocinate.
Of course, there is another network system made up of billions of interconnected nodes being dynamically routed. Your connected to it right now and its growing in complexity at an exponential rate.
Just a thought.
All of which thinking about thinking leads me to the Thinking Blogger Awards meme, which I've been very kindly tagged with again. It suggests I tag five other bloggers that juice my grey matter and then link it all back to the beginning.
So here are five digital neurons to boost your brain:
Tantramar: the thoughts of freelance digital creative and all round excellent bloke Charlie Gower.
Digital Prolixity: passionate bites of brilliance from digital native and my very own brother Ramzi.
From the Mind of Zeus Jones: an agency looking to make marketing a service.
Life moves pretty fast: Amelia heads up digital at VCCP and is worth listening to. Plus it's a quote from Ferris Bueller.
And finally Iain's Crackunit: you won't find a better blog read.