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科学如何试图理解意识

How Science Is Trying to Understand Consciousness

Thanks to LastPass for sponsoring this episode.
感谢LastPass赞助本期节目
LastPass relieves the burden of remembering passwords.
LastPass减轻了记住密码的负担
Click the link in the description or stay to the end of the video to learn more.
点击详情中的链接或在视频最后了解更多
《科学秀》
If you’ve ever had a conversation with Siri or Alexa or your Google Home,
如果你曾经和Siri或Alexa或者谷歌家庭对话过
it might seem like machines are just a couple of steps away from being fully conscious beings;
似乎会觉得 机器离具有意识 离能够真正体验世界
things that actually experience the world.
只有几步之遥
But since we only have insight into our own experiences,
但由于我们只能洞察自己的经历
humans are the only things we know are conscious.
人类是我们所知道的唯一有意识的生物
And the fact that we are is one of the most obvious things about us.
我们有意识是很明显的事实之一
It’s part of what makes us human.
这是我们人类的一部分
Even so, figuring out exactly what consciousness is
即便如此 要弄清楚意识到底是什么
and whether or not it could emerge in non-human things
以及它是否会出现在非人类中
has stumped us for centuries.
这一问题已经困扰了我们几个世纪
Scientists can’t even agree on whether or not it’s possible
科学家们甚至无法就此问题达成一致:
to study something that’s so personal using the scientific method.
可否用科学方法来研究如此个性化的体验
But some say that it’s not just possible, it’s necessary.
但有人说 这不仅是可能的 而且是必要的
A theory of consciousness could help us figure out
意识理论有助于我们弄清楚
if a given coma patient is likely to recover.
一个昏迷的病人是否有可能恢复
It could influence the way we treat animals.
意识理论也会影响我们对待动物的方式
And it could even help us navigate our relationship with technology.
甚至可以帮助我们处理人与技术的关系
So, since the 1980s,
因此 自20世纪80年代以来
researchers have been taking a crack at figuring out consciousness from a scientific perspective.
研究人员一直在尝试 从科学的角度研究意识
For now, we’re still nowhere near solving it,
目前 我们离解决这个问题还很遥远
but we have learned some things
但我们已经了解了一些
about what a theory of consciousness might eventually look like.
意识理论最终可能会是什么样子
Except, first things first. We have a problem with figuring out consciousness:
不过 要理解意识 首要问题是:
it’s that we have to define what it is.
我们必须定义它是什么
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it means.
很难说它到底是什么意思
For most purposes,
在大多数情况下
you can think of consciousness as the name for what it feels like to experience the world,
你可以把意识 看作是体验世界的感觉
rather than just interact with it through inputs and outputs.
而不仅仅是通过输入和输出与世界交流
And, yes, every interaction starts with an input.
是的 每次交流都从输入开始
The things we see and smell and hear in our environment
由于带电原子在神经元中进出
turn into electric signals that travel through our brain,
我们在环境中看到 闻到和听到的东西变成了电信号
thanks to charged atoms moving in and out of neurons.
传递到大脑
But somehow, the movement of those atoms
但不知为何 这些原子的运动
can create the experience of hearing music or smelling a rose.
可以创造出听音乐或闻玫瑰的体验
And that experience? That is consciousness.
这个体验 就是意识
If you don’t see how that’s different from
如果你看不出
a robot responding to an input with an output,
这和机器人以输出回应输入有什么不同
think about this:
想想这个:
Your body responds to lots of stimuli without your conscious involvement.
无需意识参与 身体会对很多刺激做出反应
For example, food makes your mouth water, and cold makes your hair stand up,
例如 食物会让你流口水 寒冷会让你毛发竖起
but you don’t have to be conscious of those things for them to happen.
这些事情的发生 不需要意识的参与
They just happen. Like a robot.
就这么发生了 像机器似的
On the other hand, you’re conscious of the way things smell or feel.
另一方面 你能意识到事物的气味或感觉
You’re aware of what it feels like to be you.
你能意识到自己的体验
And while your subconscious brain has countless processes happening in parallel,
在大脑中 潜意识有无数的进程同时发生
your conscious experience is a single stream of events, almost like a story.
而意识的体验是一连串事件 几乎像一个故事
So you can think of consciousness as meaning “experience” or “awareness.”
所以你可以把意识理解为“体验”或“察觉”
And scientists more or less agree up to that point. The question is where to go from there.
科学家多少同意这一点 问题是接下来该怎么办
The study of consciousness as a scientific thing, as opposed to a philosophical one,
20世纪80年代 神经学家弗朗西斯·克里克开启了
took off in the 1980s with Francis Crick, a neuroscientist
对意识进行科学层面而非哲学层面的研究
and, yeah, you’ve probably heard this name,
是的 你们可能听说过这个名字
co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA.
他是DNA双螺旋结构的共同发现者
After he’d basically decoded life,
在他解密生命后
he was ready to take on what he saw as the next big scientific mystery: consciousness.
他准备着手研究下一个重大科学之谜:意识
And he recruited a bunch of young researchers to get involved.
他招募了一群年轻的研究人员参与其中
But Crick and his collaborators
但是克里克和他的合作者
didn’t set out looking for the ultimate explanation of consciousness.
并没有一上来就寻求意识的终极解释
Instead, as a starting point, their goal was to find the part of the brain that gave rise to it.
而是把目标定在寻找大脑中产生意识的部分 以此作为研究的起点
I mean, it wasn’t universally accepted that consciousness began and ended with the brain,
意识产生并消失于大脑并不是共识
and it still isn’t today, but that was most people’s starting assumption.
直到今天也不是 但那是大多数人最初的假设
This team called what they were looking for the neural correlates of consciousness.
这个团队称他们正在寻找的是意识的神经关联
And over the past few decades, they and other scientists have made some progress.
在过去的几十年里 他们和其他科学家取得了一些成果
For instance, some research suggests
例如 一些研究表明
that conscious experience is rooted in a part of the brain called the posterior cortex.
意识体验来源于大脑的后皮层
But again, this is still a correlate of consciousness,
但这仍然只能说明该区域与意识相关
not a cause.
而不是产生意识的原因
So even if they do manage to narrow down the thing that gives rise to consciousness,
所以即使科学家们成功地缩小了意识的来源范围
scientists still face the biggest question: how.
他们仍面临着最大的问题:如何产生意识
In an attempt to get to the bottom of that,
为了弄清问题的根源
two major ideas have emerged about how we might study consciousness in a scientific way;
人们提出了若想科学地研究意识 所需的重要两点
that is, with testable hypotheses and measurable results.
那就是 用可验证的假设和可衡量的结果
Neither one is an actual answer at this point,
这两点尚不能解答我们的问题
but their goal is just to find ways
但其目标只是找到方法
to study this subjective experience using rigorous science.
用严谨的科学来研究这种主观体验
So, they may be off-base,
所以 它们可能站不住脚
but at the very least,
但至少
they offer ways to approach the problem that are scientifically testable.
它们提供了科学的试验方法来解决这个问题
The older of those ideas is called the Global Workspace Theory.
其中较早的理论被称为全局工作空间理论
It was developed by the neuroscientist Bernard Baars,
它是由神经学家伯纳德·巴尔斯
and it’s been around in some form since 1982.
于1982年的时候提出的
It suggests that there’s a network of cells in your brain called a workspace
这个理论指出你大脑中有个叫工作空间的细胞网络
that’s at the root of your conscious experiences.
它是你意识体验的根源
At any given time, you’ve got all kinds of signals milling about in your brain,
在任何时候 大脑里都有各种各样的信号传递
but according to this theory, this workspace is kind of like the fan cam of your brain.
但是根据这个理论 这个工作空间有点像“全场焦点”
Any signal that happens to be processed by those cells
恰巧由这些细胞处理的任何信号
gets broadcast to the rest of your brain,
都会传播到大脑的其他部分
and you become conscious of it.
你就会意识到它
This workspace is really limited, though, and it can only hold so much information at once.
这个工作空间非常有限 一次只能容纳这么多信息
Which could explain why information and ideas
这就解释了为什么信息和想法
drift in and out of your consciousness so easily.
很容易在你的意识中进进出出
Like, you might be fixated on an annoying sound, and then forget all about it
比如 你可能会专注于一个恼人的声音
as soon as someone involves you in an interesting conversation.
一旦有人跟你聊有趣的话题 你就会忘记它
What we don’t have is any proof that this idea is correct,
我们没有任何证据证明这个观点是正确的
but there is some preliminary evidence for it.
但有一些初步的证据
For instance, in an experiment published in 2001,
例如 在2001年发表的一项实验中
a team of researchers had 15 participants look at words flashed on screens
研究人员让15名受试者观看屏幕上闪现的单词
for 29 milliseconds each.
每个单词显示29毫秒
That is long enough for a word to become readable,
这个时间足以辨认一个单词了
but in some cases, the experimenters used a technique called masking
但在某些情况下 实验者使用了一种叫做掩蔽的技术
to prevent the subjects from consciously registering the word.
来阻止受试者有意识地记住这个单词
They did that by flashing another image after the word,
他们在单词后面闪过另一幅图像
which interrupted their conscious processing.
来打断他们的意识处理
By imaging the participants’ brains, the researchers were able to see that
通过对受试者的大脑进行成像 研究人员能够看到
the words that remained subconscious only produced a small amount of activity in the brain,
那些潜意识的单词只在大脑中产生少量的活动
while the words that the participants became conscious of
而那些受试者有意识要记住的单词
triggered a whole flurry of activity in many different regions.
则在许多不同的区域引发了一系列的活动
This wasn’t necessarily proof of the Global Workspace Theory,
这并不是全局工作理论的必要证据
but it did give the experimenters a clear picture of the brain areas
但它确实让实验者清楚地了解到了
involved in subconscious and conscious processing of the same signal.
处理同一个信号时 潜意识和意识涉及到的大脑区域
And in later research, scientists have used that as a starting point
在后来的研究中 科学家们以此为起点
to try and figure out how messages that pass through this network
试图弄清楚通过这个网络传递的信息
might get broadcast to the rest of the brain.
是如何传播到大脑的其他部分的
It is still far from a solution to consciousness,
它离意识的解决方案还很远
but this theory does a few things well.
但这个理论在一些方面做得很好
For one, by suggesting that conscious processing is limited to a specific network,
首先 通过将意识局限于一个特定的网络的处理
it offers a possible explanation for why
它提供了一个可能的解释
our conscious brain is only capable of narrow streams of thought,
为什么大脑只能有意识地处理有限的想法
even though our brains can subconsciously process so many things in parallel.
尽管我们的大脑可以潜意识地同时处理许多事情
But more importantly, the fact that it involved questions that were testable
但更重要的是 这个理论中包含可被验证的问题
gives us a way to study consciousness using the scientific method!
这给我们提供了一种用科学方法来研究意识的思路
The theory still has its sticking points, though.
不过 这一理论仍存在问题
Like, it goes one step further than the neural correlates of consciousness,
例如 虽然它比意识的神经关联更进一步
but it still doesn’t provide the ultimate how.
但它仍未回答意识是怎么产生的这个终极问题
And then, there’s also some resistance to the idea that consciousness is computational;
然而 也有一些意见反对意识是计算机化的
that it just comes about because of the way the brain is hooked up.
反对意识仅为大脑连接的产物
Because if that’s true, it suggests that,
因为如果这是真的 那就意味着
in theory, there’s nothing keeping machines from gaining consciousness;
理论上 没有什么能阻止机器获得意识
that it’s all a question of having the right wiring.
这完全是正确连接的问题
And that would open up a whole different can of ethical worms.
这将会引发一场完全不同的伦理问题
But it is a testable hypothesis. And in science, that counts for a lot.
但这是一个可验证的假设 在科学领域这很重要
This isn’t the only hypothesis out there, though,
不过这并不是唯一的假设
and others take a totally different approach.
其他的假设则采用了完全不同的方法
For example, in 2004, the neuroscientist Giulio Tononi proposed
例如在2004年 神经学家朱利奥·托诺尼
what he called Integrated Information Theory, or IIT.
提出了他所谓的综合信息理论 简称IIT
Since it’s impossible to scientifically observe someone’s personal, conscious experience,
尽管我们可以看到大脑中的一些情况
even if we can see some of what it looks like in the brain,
但要科学地观察一个人的个人意识体验是不可能的
Tononi crafted his theory by working backwards from the few things
因此托诺尼通过回溯少数似乎是关于意识的普遍真理
that seem to be universally true about consciousness.
来构建他的理论
For one, we know that it’s subjective,
首先 我们知道这是主观的
meaning that you are the only person having your conscious experience.
这意味着你是唯一能拥有自己意识体验的人
No one else can step in and experience what the world is like for you.
没有人能进入你的世界 体验你的世界是什么样的
Second, we know that the experience of consciousness is “unified,”
第二 我们知道意识的体验是“统一”的
meaning it can’t be split into pieces.
这意味着它不能被分割成碎片
Like, you are one thing;
就像 你是完整的个体
you cannot willfully split your sense of self into two selves.
不能任意地把自我意识分裂成两个自我
You also can’t, say, decide to only process certain kinds of information.
你也不能决定只处理某些类型的信息
You can’t wake up tomorrow and decide you’re only gonna see the color blue,
不能明天醒来就决定你只会看到蓝色
or only smell nice things.
只闻到美好的东西
Although I think that would be a handy skill.
尽管我认为这项技能很方便
Tononi took these observations as starting points,
托诺尼以这些观察作为出发点
along with the assumption that consciousness somehow
同时假设意识在某种程度上
comes from our web of interconnected neurons.
来自于相互连接的神经元网络
Then he proposed that consciousness comes from
然后他提出意识来自于
the amount of interconnectedness in a system,
一个系统中相互联系的数量
or, in his words, the amount of integrated information.
或者用他的话说 是整合信息的数量
IIT suggests that, essentially,
IIT认为 从本质上讲
the whole of all your neurons working together amounts to more than the sum of its parts.
作为一个整体的神经元网络 大于其部分之和
So, connected neurons can create an experience that individual ones cannot.
因此 互相连接的神经元 能创造单个神经元所无法创造的体验
Again, not everyone is on board with this idea,
同样并不是每个人都赞同这个想法
and testing is still in an early stage.
试验仍处于早期阶段
But researchers have done some preliminary experiments that compare
但是研究人员已经做了一些初步的实验
the amount of connectivity in a brain to a person’s level of consciousness.
将大脑的连接程度与一个人的意识水平进行比较
For example, in one study,
例如 在一项研究中
Tononi and his collaborators rounded up 11 volunteers
托诺尼和他的合作者们招募了11名志愿者
and used a magnetic pulse to deliver a burst of stimulation to neurons in their brains.
用脉磁冲对他们大脑中的神经元进行刺激
Then, they used sensors on the scalp to measure the amount of activity that pulse produced.
然后 他们使用头皮上的传感器来测量脉冲产生的活动
Next, they sedated the subjects and performed the same experiment.
接下来 他们给受试者注射镇静剂并进行同样的实验
The second time around, the pulse produced much less activity,
第二次 脉冲产生的活动大大减少
suggesting that there were fewer connections between neurons,
这表明神经元之间的连接减少了
so that triggering one group of them
因此触发其中一组神经元
didn’t set off the same chain reaction that it had the first time around.
没有引起像第一次那样的连锁反应
It’s still not possible to directly measure the amount of connectivity in the human brain,
现在还不能直接测量人脑的神经连接度
but experiments like this can serve as a decent proxy;
但像这样的实验可以作为一个不错的指标
a way of figuring out if there really is a link between integration and consciousness.
可用于搞清楚 神经整合和意识之间是否真的有联系
If there is, that implies that consciousness exists on a spectrum.
如果有联系 那就意味着意识具有不同的程度范围
And when you play this theory out,
根据这个理论进一步推导
it implies that not only could machines become conscious,
就意味着不仅机器可以获得意识
but everything with any amount of interconnected information, from a wasp to the internet,
任何事物 从黄蜂到互联网 只要有交互信息
might already be a little bit conscious.
有可能已经有那么点意识了
Like the Global Workspace Theory,
就像全球工作理论一样
IIT doesn’t yet provide any kind of satisfying answer to the problem of consciousness,
IIT还没有为意识问题提供令人满意的答案
and the consequences also seriously challenge things
其结果也严重挑战了
we instinctively believe to be true about the world.
我们原本相信的世界真理
So if it’s true, we might have to think a little harder
如果这个理论是真的 我们可能要多想想
about how we interact with things.
我们是如何与事物互动的
Still, the idea of measuring interconnectedness
然而 测量神经连接度的想法
provides a path for exploring consciousness scientifically.
为科学地探索意识提供了一条道路
And, like with the Global Workspace Theory,
就像全局工作空间理论一样
that is what makes this idea stand out.
这也是这个想法脱颖而出的原因
These hypotheses are still works in progress, but if either one proves true,
这些假设仍在进行中 但如果其中一个被证明是正确的
it could help us figure what has consciousness and what does not.
它可以帮助我们弄清楚哪些事物有意识
Like, if IIT is right, measuring the amount of interconnectedness in a brain
比如 如果IIT是正确的 那么测量大脑的互联程度
could help doctors and scientists decide how conscious a coma patient is.
就可以帮助医生和科学家判断昏迷病人的意识情况
Or it could help future computer scientists answer those same questions
或者它也可以帮助未来的计算机科学家回答
about artificial intelligence programs.
关于人工智能程序的同样的问题
On the other hand, if the Global Workspace Theory ends up being right,
另一方面 如果全局工作空间理论最终是正确的
and if scientists can identify that workspace, the fancam of the brain,
如果科学家们能够识别出这个工作空间 这个大脑的“全场焦点”
doctors could look for activity in that region
那么医生就可以在这个区域寻找活动踪迹
to see if a patient has any signs of consciousness.
看看病人是否有任何意识的迹象
So far, neither one of those ideas is developed enough to be useful in any practical sense,
到目前为止 这些想法还没有发展到实际运用的阶段
so for now, there’s no foolproof way to identify consciousness.
所以暂时还没有极简单的方法来识别意识
And until we understand how it arises,
而且 在我们理解意识如何产生之前
we probably won’t be able to say what has it or not, either.
我们可能也无法判断什么事物有意识 什么没有
But the fact that we are conscious means we’re going to keep being curious,
但我们具有意识 这意味着我们要保持好奇心
and scientists are gonna keep looking, as long as the problem is unsolved.
只要问题没有解决 科学家们就会继续寻找
Thank you to LastPass for sponsoring this video.
感谢LastPass赞助这个视频
LastPass saves you from having to remember your dozens or hundreds of passwords.
LastPass让你不用记住几十个或数百个密码
If you’re consistently getting locked out of your accounts
如果你的账号一直被锁定
or resetting passwords, LastPass can help.
或者重置密码 LastPass可以提供帮助
With this app, you never have to write, remember, or reset your passwords.
有了这个应用程序 你永远不必写下 记住 或重置你的密码
You can store an unlimited number of them or share them with a trusted team member.
你可以无限制地储存或与值得信赖的团队成员共享密码
LastPass auto-fills your credentials in your browsers,
LastPass自动在浏览器里填写密码
making it fast and easy to log in.
使登录变得又快又简单
You can also find the app on iOS and Android and sync your passwords across devices.
你可以在iOS和安卓上找到这款应用 并在不同设备上同步你的密码
To start using LastPass today, check out the link in the description.
要想今天开始使用LastPass 请看详情里的链接

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