The Engineering of Consciousness with Michael Levin and Donald Hoffman

Two leading pioneers in the field of cognition discuss the sea change that is underway in consciousness and evolution:

Michael Levin is 10 years ahead of multiple fields in biology, producing extraordinary breakthroughs in limb regeneration, cancer, and bioengineering.

Donald Hoffman is a champion of a new model that says the cosmos is consciousness first and matter second, not the other way around. The intersection of their ideas promises a universe of new possibilities grounded in testable hypotheses and solid engineering.

Podcast link:

The Engineering of Consciousness with Michael Levin and Donald Hoffman

Download The First 3 Chapters of Evolution 2.0 For Free, Here –

Where Did Life And The Genetic Code Come From? Can The Answer Build Superior AI? The #1 Mystery In Science Now Has A $10 Million Prize. Learn More About It, Here –

11 Responses

  1. Paul Beauchemin says:

    Awesome discussion about evolutionary framework underpinning reality.
    If cells can change their “stories” based on new realities (as the Xenobots seem to do) then the possibility exists that consciousness can direct healing.
    There is also the real possibility that we are on the verge of directing evolution with the merging of AI and network effects to create a higher order species

  2. Michael Bellamy says:

    There are no evolutionary algorithms that demonstrate evolution. The only ones that attempt it in a serious way demonstrate that it does not work. So I challenge any of your speakers to name one that supposedly works.

    The biggest problem you have is the failure to define what you mean by consciousness. I can tell you what it is, consciousness = awareness and that is all. It involves sensory receptors to read data from its environment and it includes all life and your AI programmed vacuum cleaner. They all exhibit consciousness to some degree.

    What you are missing is the definition of mind of which consciousness is only one faculty. I can tell you what mind is also but let me see if you are interested.

  3. Actin cytoskeleton is the answer with monumental potential. Summarised in the cover story ‘Epigenetics Key to Love Life on p.20

  4. Daniel Labbé says:

    Don’t know where to put this, but here are my thoughts:

    –The Origin of Information is not Intelligence, but Affect

    The basic behavior of primitive organisms such as the amoeba includes avoidance and approach. Approach and avoidance are fundamental correlates in cognitive biology and in humans underpin the foundations of higher-order emotions. Approach is to signal what avoidance is to noise.

    In the early stages of earth, the shoreline provides a barrier of life with waves giving rise to noise, while the sun provides the signal as a source of energy. Survival emerges through a basic memory function that provides the code to remember and discriminate what is signal and what is noise. Organisms with a basic memory function will survive no longer by random as do plankton, which lack the ability to significantly propel themselves. To answer the question on the origin of survival and thus life as we know it, we must answer “What is the original basic memory function?”

  5. Glen Reuschling says:

    As I understand the challenge, I see it as the following sequence of steps: chemistry => code => cognition/life. That pathway is patently undoable. There is an alternate pathway which is potentially do-able and that is, chemistry => computation => code/life.

    The question I have is whether or not this alternate solution pathway, if demonstrated, would still qualify as a solution for the purposes of the challenge?

    As Michael Levin alluded to in this YouTube conversation, computation, as in the Theory of Computation, is not the same as computers and programming. And taking computation as fundamental rather than information, opens doors to new solution pathways. Note, this approach places information as something downstream from and secondary to computation. Something quite out of place in the current consensus of opinions.

    • Yes, we would be extremely interested in chemistry -> computation.

      I don’t know how you can obtain computation without code, however. If you read the prize specification carefully, we don’t consider ordinary interactions between physical / chemical objects to be symbolic computation. If you have something we would be interested to see it.

      • Glen Reuschling says:

        Perry Marshall, thanks for your reply. In its most abstract definition, a computation is simply a sequence of choices guided by a set of rules. The simplest physical structures capable of computation are finite state automata/machines; sometimes referred to as computers without memory. A Turing machine’s tape is a form of read/write memory, but the read/write head of a Turing machine is still nothing more than a finite state machine. If computation is to evolve organically out of chemistry, then one would expect its evolution to follow the same staircase of increasingly complex computational structures as delineated in the Theory of Computation. By the above definition of computation, the protein that does DNA transcription, DNA polymerase, by the way it folds and unfolds in the presence of other chemistry, is functioning as a simple state machine. Here it becomes important to distinguish between code and rules. DNA might constitute a form of code, but the shape shifting of the DNA polymerase protein is determined by a set of rules which are built into its very chemistry. In the same way our computers work, there is code which is stored in program/data memory, but there is also the rule set instantiated in the processor’s machine code. It is the “rule set”, then, that turns code into the corresponding sequence of choices characteristic of computation. There are many computational structures possible besides just state machines and Turing machines. The one I’m exploring myself is a system of nested pushdown automata with corresponding context-free nested grammars. The main interest currently for such structures is in the arena of natural language processing. But I’m becoming suspicious that such structures might also allow for the creation of new code starting only from an appropriate hierarchy of rule sets with corresponding grammars. In other words, chemistry => rule sets => computation => code might be a doable pathway. Anyway, just some thoughts on the matter.

        • “There are many computational structures possible besides just state machines and Turing machines. The one I’m exploring myself is a system of nested pushdown automata with corresponding context-free nested grammars.”

          All computational structures still require symbolic relationships, because Turing machines and Shannon communication systems (which are Turing machines) require symbols. Which to my knowledge do not exist in chemistry.

          I avoid the term “rules” because its meaning can be ambiguous. Rules of physics? Or rules of Microsoft Windows or MacOS? What kind of rules?

          I use the word code and I define it as symbols passed between an encoder and decoder, so that it is crystal clear that the relationship is a set of symbols that relates one set to another.

          As soon as you get to the “rule sets” step above, you are, so far as I know and by definition, stepping outside of the laws of physics and chemistry. At that point the system requires agency which I believe to be a completely different animal than any known physico-chemical laws.

      • Glen Reuschling says:

        Perry Marshall, I’ve taken the opportunity while my last comment awaits your moderation to read, then reread several times, your recent paper “Biology transcends the limits of computation” (2021). I’m confused. Wouldn’t a working solution to your prize challenge effectively disprove the assertion of the paper’s title? So, inquiring minds want to know, are you offering the prize challenge because you don’t believe a solution is possible? In which case it represents a sort of put-up-or-shut-up challenge to your Neo-Darwinists critics. Or do you in fact believe a solution is possible? In which case the prize should be taken as incentive for someone to commit their own creative energy working actively for a solution. Or is there third possibility I’m missing?

        • Glen,

          A working solution would disprove the paper IF the working solution only uses known properties of physics and chemistry.

          I don’t believe the current, conventional understanding of physics and chemistry will EVER solve origin of life or even account for the “aliveness” of life. We are missing something and whatever that is, it is VERY fundamental. More fundamental than gravity.

          If there are “undiscovered laws of physics” ie let’s say that consciousness really is an emergent property of the matter that we don’t understand (NOW). Or maybe consciousness is a foundational entity that the cosmos itself is grounded in. And this, once understood, enables us to build systems that exhibit negentropy, that would both validate the paper AND solve the prize.

          That is where I think the truth lies.

          There are two ways to speak about emergent properties: One is when you actually understand and observe them regularly (like cold air + water = snowflakes) and the other is when you don’t so you just mouth the words “emergent property” as a fill-in for something you’ve never directly observed and don’t understand, i.e. “Life emerged from hot vents in the ocean.”

          I do believe a solution is possible. And as the paper suggests, science has gotten cause and effect entirely backwards, so you have to take a very different, non-reductionist view of science in order to solve any of this. I propose several fruitful avenues of exploration here:

          Meanwhile the prize underscores the fact that we don’t have a clue where the genetic code came from; 95% of the literature is just-so stories.

          Your other comment is in moderation because it will take time to respond properly and I’m slammed at the moment. Thanks for your patience.


  6. Mazen Afif says:

    What if consciousness is the results of auditory perception, which is the basic basis for perceptual processes derived from it, such as sight, as well as knowledge of the purpose of life and death, that is, it is the individual’s ability to perceive results and deduce them from the information available in the universe over time. For this, it is the product of several areas, including the heart, hearing, vision and brain.

Leave a Reply

You must use your real first and last name. Anonymity is not allowed.
Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *