Bernard Baars

  • 1. How is Baars attempting to explain consciousness? What is his approach with the global workspace model? Where does the model come from? Could it help us solve the problem of consciousness?
  • 2. How does Baars’s idea of contrastive analysis relate to research on the neural correlates of consciousness? Does Baars go beyond this research by offering novel ideas? Could contrastive analysis be used to prove or falsify his global workspace model?
  • 3. Baars suggests that consciousness evolved to serve functions of integration and control of nonconscious information-processing mechanisms. Chalmers suggests that functional explanations of consciousness will not explain experience, because experience is not essential to the performance of any function. Who is right on this matter? Is it possible to give a sound functional analysis of experience?
  • 4. Baars outlines how human cognition and consciousness work in terms of a blackboard model. Although there has been prior research on trying to build artificially intelligent systems, using blackboard models, no one—so far—has convincingly explicated how such systems could have understanding, intelligence, and consciousness. Is this a problem for Baars’s account of consciousness? How might Baars respond?
  • 5. What role does Baars assign to neurobiology in explaining consciousness? Baars presents a model of the human mind as an information-processing system and attempts to ground it in functional mapping of neuroanatomy—mapping of information-processing functions to different parts of the brain. However, it is unclear how such mapping of information processing to biology would explain consciousness. Is this a problem? How might someone argue that it is? How might someone argue that it isn’t?
  • 6. In Baars’s model of consciousness, there is a link between global availability to the cognitive system as a whole and consciousness. But global availability alone does not explain consciousness. We can understand the idea of something being globally available, and we can understand what consciousness is from our first- person experience, but how are these things connected? Is there something within the concept of global availability that makes us see that when something is globally available, it must be conscious? What would that be? In Baars’s model, we are given three concepts: functionalism, parallel processing, and global availability. How do we get consciousness when we put these things together? My computer is a parallel-processing machine that globally processes information through programmed functions, but I would be surprised if it turned out to be conscious. What do I have that my computer doesn’t have?
  • 7. How would Baars’s theater model of consciousness work in the case of split- brain patients? Would they have two theaters: one for each hemisphere? In that case, how would the operators and performers interact with these stages?
 
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