Abstract for Vincent Müller’s talk, 9th May

Vincent C. Müller

Anatolia College/ACT & University of Oxford www.sophia.de

“If the human brain is a computer, does it follow that we can reproduce human cognition on different hardware?”

Neuroscientists say they have maps of the nervous systems of the nematode worm C. elegans and the drosophila fly, maps of the brain of the honeybee and the embryo zebrafish … and governments in the US and EU are now spending over 100mil€ each, per year, to generate a complete map of the human brain in all the necessary detail to explain its functioning at the neural and synaptic level, including the connections between neurons (the “connectome”). The obstacles before this project are surely formidable, but the main problems seem to be feasible, rather than requiring deep new insights.

At the same time, much of current neuroscience is based on the assumption that the human nervous system is a computational system at its basic level of function. And finally, there are good reasons to assume that computing is ‘multiply realizable’: Strictly the same computing procedure can be realized on different hardware. So, if the whole brain could scanned and its computation run on different hardware, what would happen, and what would that show for the theory of cognition?

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