The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
Peter Tse: The Neuroscience of Consciousness and Free Will

Peter Tse: The Neuroscience of Consciousness and Free Will

On neuroscience's commitments, information and meaning, determinism and free will, and a perspective on AI from neuroscience.

In episode 102 of The Gradient Podcast, Daniel Bashir speaks to Peter Tse.

Professor Tse is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and chair of the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on using brain and behavioral data to constrain models of the neural bases of attention and consciousness, unconscious processing that precedes and constructs consciousness, mental causation, and human capacities for imagination and creativity. He is especially interested in the processing that goes into the construction of conscious experience between retinal activation at time 0 and seeing an event about a third of a second later.

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  • (00:00) Intro

  • (01:45) Prof. Tse’s background

    • (03:25) Early experiences in physics/math and philosophy of physics

    • (06:10) Choosing to study neuroscience

  • (07:15) Prof Tse’s commitments about determinism

    • (10:00) Quantum theory and determinism

  • (13:45) Biases/preferences in choosing theories

  • (20:41) Falsifiability and scientific questions, transition from physics to neuroscience

  • (30:50) How neuroscience is unusual among the sciences

    • (33:20) Neuroscience and subjectivity

    • (34:30) Reductionism

    • (37:30) Gestalt psychology

  • (41:30) Introspection in neuroscience

  • (45:30) The preconscious buffer and construction of conscious experience, color constancy

  • (53:00) Perceptual and cognitive inference

  • (55:00) AI systems and intrinsic meaning

    • (57:15) Information vs. meaning

    • (1:01:45) Consciousness and representation of bodily states

    • (1:05:10) Our second-order free will

  • (1:07:20) Jaegwon Kim’s exclusion argument

    • (1:11:45) Why Kim thought his own argument was wrong

  • (1:15:00) Resistance and counterarguments to Kim

  • (1:19:45) Criterial causation

    • (1:23:00) How neurons evaluate inputs criterially

    • (1:24:00) Concept neurons in the hippocampus

  • (1:31:57) Criterial causation and physicalism, mental causation

  • (1:40:10) Daniel makes another attempt to push back 🤡

  • (1:45:47) More on AI

    • (1:47:05) Prof Tse’s perspective on modern AI systems, differences with human cognition

    • (2:17:25) Consciousness, attention, spirituality

    • (2:20:10) Prof Tse’s hopes for AI

  • (2:23:30) Outro


The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
Deeply researched, technical interviews with experts thinking about AI and technology. Hosted, recorded, researched, and produced by Daniel Bashir.