“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” A statement made by Prof. Stephen Hawking in an exclusive interview with the Guardian on 15/05/2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/may/15/stephen-hawking-interview-there-is-no-heaven
I would like to consider the first part of this statement in two parts.
“I regard the brain as a computer”
Brain as a computer; an over simplification… regarding the brain as a computer would be like saying you have a resistor before the processor that would actually reduce information! (since the likening of the brain to a computer is a theoretical one I have other theories related to biology and psychology in mind, ref.1 ) reduction of data for focus is about the situation, consciousness and thinking of the individual, and it works within the variables presented by the atomic composition, chemical balance, the memory and the actual position in the universe of each individual and not about a self-aware brain that this statement suggests. And since biologically speaking “where thinking occurs/arises” cannot be located in the brain (ref.2) a computer as a brain would actually mean one which is aware of itself, and as of today there’s no such thing as a self-aware computer let alone a fully functional AI.
“as a computer which will stop working when its components fail”
And what are the components of the computer; the software, cd drive, the memory, the read only memory, the processor? Is the body and the world and the universe components or perhaps periphery drives of this computer? What is the difference between the stopping of working of a computer due to the failure components and the biological death of a human being?
Firstly, the stopping of working of a computer due to the failure components is about the life span of components and Entropy and secondly the biological death of a human being is primarily due to internal reasons (ref.3) and not an allotted life span that they are “produced for” or entropy. To consider what Life span and Entropy means for human beings one would need to look at what our current means of production are, how we recreate our standard of life and ourselves among with it as well as the toxic entropy engulfing us since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
As for the second part of the statement, I would like to refer you to the following as a believer in heaven on earth; http://episteme-spacecraft.blogspot.com/ (Please scroll down for English content)
(1.1) The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley
“Reflecting on my experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad, "that we should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which Bergson put forward in connection with memory and sense perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful."
(1.2) Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Sigmund Freud, 1922 ( pages 49-50)
“The dominating tendency of mental life and perhaps nervous life in general, is the effort to reduce, to keep constant or to remove internal tension due to stimuli…”
(2) the results for a google search for “where does thinking occur in the brain” included the following on 26/08/2012;
(2.1) “Brain Basics: Know Your Brain” The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
“Brain Basics: Know Your Brain
The Geography of Thought
Each cerebral hemisphere can be divided into sections, or lobes, each of which specializes in different functions. To understand each lobe and its specialty we will take a tour of the cerebral hemispheres, starting with the two frontal lobes (3), which lie directly behind the forehead. When you plan a schedule, imagine the future, or use reasoned arguments, these two lobes do much of the work. One of the ways the frontal lobes seem to do these things is by acting as short-term storage sites, allowing one idea to be kept in mind while other ideas are considered. In the rearmost portion of each frontal lobe is a motor area (4), which helps control voluntary movement. A nearby place on the left frontal lobe called Broca’s area (5) allows thoughts to be transformed into words.
When you enjoy a good meal—the taste, aroma, and texture of the food—two sections behind the frontal lobes called the parietal lobes (6) are at work. The forward parts of these lobes, just behind the motor areas, are the primary sensory areas (7). These areas receive information about temperature, taste, touch, and movement from the rest of the body. Reading and arithmetic are also functions in the repertoire of each parietal lobe.
As you look at the words and pictures on this page, two areas at the back of the brain are at work. These lobes, called the occipital lobes (8), process images from the eyes and link that information with images stored in memory. Damage to the occipital lobes can cause blindness.
The last lobes on our tour of the cerebral hemispheres are the temporal lobes (9), which lie in front of the visual areas and nest under the parietal and frontal lobes. Whether you appreciate symphonies or rock music, your brain responds through the activity of these lobes. At the top of each temporal lobe is an area responsible for receiving information from the ears. The underside of each temporal lobe plays a crucial role in forming and retrieving memories, including those associated with music. Other parts of this lobe seem to integrate memories and sensations of taste, sound, sight, and touch.”
The Inner Brain
Deep within the brain, hidden from view, lie structures that are the gatekeepers between the spinal cord and the cerebral hemispheres. These structures not only determine our emotional state, they also modify our perceptions and responses depending on that state, and allow us to initiate movements that you make without thinking about them. Like the lobes in the cerebral hemispheres, the structures described below come in pairs: each is duplicated in the opposite half of the brain.”
(Writers note; I would like to consider this link as a small example of a general scientific bias. The “Brain Basics: Know Your Brain” link that is present in The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke site, has a section that is called “The Geography of Thought” where there is no mention of the actual word “thinking”. Actually the only time that “thinking” is mentioned in the entire text is with the “The Inner Brain” section but only as “not thinking”; “initiate movements that you make without thinking about them”. Coming back to the “The Geography of Thought” when one considers the language used and the adjective attributes for the different parts of the brain, confusion is apparent. Mind you, I am only considering the language used here that result in a scientific bias and not the “validity” of the scientific facts or the research; for not only that I think that these scientific facts are valid, I also think that they are not taken to their full dimensions, and that when they are not related to more fundamental scientific facts such as the laws of Thermodynamics (defining the fundamentals at work at the uniqueness of each process and at the same time creating the possibility of the uniqueness through relating each element to the unique conditions around ) then we have a half-truth as well as un-scientific claims.
Cherry picking “The Geography of Thought”
· Each cerebral hemisphere can be divided into sections, or lobes, each of which specializes in different functions
· these two lobes do much of the work
· helps control voluntary movement
· allows thoughts to be transformed into words
· the parietal lobes (6) are at work
· Reading and arithmetic are also functions in the repertoire of each parietal lobe
· are at work
· process images from the eyes and link that information with images stored in memory
· are at work
· process images
· your brain responds through the activity of these lobes
· each temporal lobe is an area responsible for receiving information from the ears
· plays a crucial role in forming and retrieving memories
· seem to integrate memories and sensations of taste, sound, sight, and touch
It is one thing to talk about the functions, work, control, transformative function, processing area, the chain of responsibility, the position of the role in the hierarchy of the functions and the integrative functions of the parts of the brain; but how these attributes are observed is more definitive of the importance of the relation of these attributes have to the overall process and the location of “thinking”. So the phrase “your brain responds through the activity of these lobes” is very significant as all of the above attributes are observed as “responses of the brain through observable activity”. If these attributes are taken independent of this context, they become causa sui facts independent of the way that they are observed. The reason that the way that they are observed is important is that even if we could account for the entire chemical and electrical relations of the brain with the rest of the body, although we could say something about the system we would still not be able to say anything about the “thinking” as the atomic composition, chemical balance (free radicals or toxins anyone?), the memory and the actual position in the universe of each individual is unique that results in a unique interaction or rather a unique understanding/comprehension/comment of the “individual person” from the interaction of the brain with the body and the world at large. So you could have a better understanding of the responses of the brain by enlarging the area of observable activity through technical advances, but where thinking occurs, arises and expressed cannot be understood independent of the unique body and the world of the individual as well as the individually and scientifically observed world.)
(2.2) Does Thinking Happen In The Brain? by ALVA NOË (at NPR, formerly National Public Radio)
“Despite having learned so much about the anatomy and physiology of the human brain in the last century, we don’t actually have a better account of how consciousness and cognition arise in the brain than it arises out of immaterial soul-stuff.
A human being, like every living being, is a locus of densely interwoven coupling with the world around us. We make consciousness dynamically, in our exchange with the world around us. Ultimately, if we want to understand consciousness, we need to go out of our heads and look at the way we are embodied and also bound to and embedded in the world around us.”
(3) Freud, S. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. New York: Bantam Books, 1959. p. 70
"If we are to take it as truth that knows no exception that everything living dies for internal reasons - becomes inorganic once again - then we shall be compelled to say that 'the aim of life is death' and, looking backward, that 'inanimate things existed before living ones.'"