Consciousness is a Big Suitcase

Marvin Minsky, John Brockman, Edge, Jul 19, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Words like like 'intuition' or 'consciousness' are "suitcase words", says Marvin Minsky in this interview from 1998, "that all of us use to encapsulate our jumbled ideas about our minds. We use those words as suitcases in which to contain all sorts of mysteries that we can't yet explain." And in turn, he says, we start to think of these as entities in their own right, as things with no structures we can analyze. But consciousness, he says, "contains perhaps 40 or 50 different mechanisms that are involved in a huge network of intricate interactions... human brain contains several hundred different sub-organs, each of which does somewhat different things." Or, for example, "A 'meaning' is not a simple thing. It is a complex collection of structures and processes, embedded in a huge network of other such structures and processes." Or memory: "we use... hundreds of different brain centers that use different schemes to represent things in different ways. Learning is no simple thing."

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