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2. The Source of Intelligence
In this section, we explore the different possible explanations for the existence of intelligence. Intelligence and understanding are deeply related with consciousness. In other words, the presence of intelligence and understanding implies the existence of consciousness, and without consciousness the notion of having intelligence and understanding does not exist.We classify different possible explanations for intelligence under four broad categories, as follows:
1.Intelligence is a result of complex molecular interactions in the brain. Machines cannot be intelligent, because they lack the brain.
2.Computations can evoke intelligence and consciousness. In particular, machines can be intelligent.
3.Intelligence is non-computational in nature. This non-computational ingredient must be present in existing physical laws.
4.Intelligence is mystical, or non-material, in nature, and current scientific theories cannot adequately explain consciousness. We need a new science to explain consciousness.
In this article, we want to make a case for the explanation 4. In particular, our opinion is that science can benefit from the explanation of consciousness provided by the Vedanta. This mystical conception is not unscientific, although beyond the boundaries of current scientific theories.
A synthesis of the bottom-up and top-down approaches can open new directions for science to expand and progress even further.
It is important to note that the point of view expressed in explanation 4 does not negate the bottom-up process of current science. On the contrary, it augments the current scientific theories, which are based on a materialistic conception of the world, with a spiritual, top-down component from the revealed knowledge of the Vedanta. A synthesis of the bottom-up and topdown approaches can open new directions for science to expand and progress even further.In contrast with the fourth explanation, the first three explanations try to provide a materialistic theory of intelligence. Roger Penrose, the well-known mathematical physicist from Oxford University, discusses, in depth, the plausibility of these explanations in his book, "Shadows of the Mind."[l]
...the laws of chemistry and biology that govern the complex molecular interactions within the brain are completely deterministic in nature.
According to Penrose, the laws of chemistry and biology that govern the complex molecularinteractions within the brain are completely deterministic in nature. This means that, in
principle, these molecular interactions can be simulated by a computer, even though it may not be possibletoday due to the insufficient computational speed and storage capacity of existing computers. Therefore, a biological explanation for the existence of intelligence is actually subsumed by a computational explanation of intelligence.There are several computational explanations of intelligence, like hard AI, soft AI, and their different gradations. In this article, we will not address each one of them separately. For our purpose, all these theories share the underlying assumption that computations can evoke intelligence. While this may be a serious explanation, we do not believe that this is true, and later in the article we will present arguments against a computational viewpoint of intelligence.The third explanation is particularly interesting, because it admits that intelligence is essentially non-computational—computers will never be able to simulate intelligence or thinking. After all, computations are precisely deterministic in nature, so how can they account for intelligence, which is highly unpredictable and a property of conscious beings that possess free will. If intelligence were completely deterministic, then free will would have no existence, contrary to our actual experience.Even though all physical laws known to us are deterministic, still there is one area of physics that appears to be probabilistic in nature. This is Quantum Mechanics. We will explore how far it is truly non-deterministic. Sir Roger Penrose's opinion in this regard is that Quantum Mechanics is incapable of explaining consciousness. The existing laws of physics must be extended in order to fully explain intelligence and consciousness.
...consciousness and intelligence are non-material phenomena.
This is where the explanation 4 comes in. We will be arguing for this explanation in this article. This explanation asserts that consciousness and intelligence are non-material phenomena. Therefore, existing scientific procedures that only deal with material, or physical phenomena, cannot offer a complete explanation for their existence.However, this does not mean that these are unscientific concepts. These concepts have been well defined in the Vedanta as being spiritual in nature. At the same time, these spiritual concepts are not completely beyond scientific study, because they exert direct influence on matter, which science can observe. Therefore, science can constructively benefit from considering the study of spiritual reality in a synthesis of the materialistic, bottom-up approach, and the spiritual, top-down approach.In the following sections, we will explore each of these four approaches more deeply, and demonstrate how the first three explanations do not hold the answer to intelligence and consciousness. Finally, we will introduce the reader to the view of ancient Indian system of knowledge in the Vedanta on consciousness. This novel approach can help solve some of the deepest mysteries of present-day science.