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Maybe consciousness will figure itself out someday.

The human brain is very good at figuring things out, except about itself.

Think about it. A brain capable of sophisticated reasoning has to be very complicated--so complicated that it would take an even more sophisticated brain to figure out how it works. But an even more sophisticated brain would be even harder to figure out. As the brain gets smarter and smarter, and thus more and more complex, it becomes ever more difficult to explain how it works. The brain can never catch up. Human brains are amazing a·maze  
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.

2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.

 devices, just not amazing enough to explain all of their amazing abilities.

In truth, the human brain has figured out a lot about how it works. Much of the molecular and cellular machinery underlying thinking and learning and memory, and even emotion, has been outlined in elaborate detail. But dissecting dis·sect  
tr.v. dis·sect·ed, dis·sect·ing, dis·sects
1. To cut apart or separate (tissue), especially for anatomical study.

 the machinery has not enabled scientists to say why the machine has a persistent sense of itself, how it generates the feeling of self-awareness (and even the awareness of that self-awareness) that people generally refer to as consciousness.

For millennia, philosophers have grappled with consciousness, trying to discern the distinction between mind and body or to show that such a distinction is illusory. But only in the present millennium have scientists engaged these arguments in a serious way, equipped with substantial scientific data.

Starting in this issue (Page 22), Laura Sanders explores consciousness research in a three-part series describing the latest efforts to demystify de·mys·ti·fy  
tr.v. de·mys·ti·fied, de·mys·ti·fy·ing, de·mys·ti·fies
To make less mysterious; clarify: an autobiography that demystified the career of an eminent physician.
 the mind. Long regarded by neuroscientists as a taboo topic, consciousness has finally emerged as a legitimate realm of scientific inquiry. Research results have begun accumulating, and theorists have begun transforming explanations of consciousness from philosophical speculations into quantitative concepts and equations.

A common thread connecting much consciousness theorizing is the role of information. Using the mathematics of information theory, scientists have begun to get a grip on possible ways of measuring consciousness, making it easier to identify and perhaps, someday, easier to create in a nonbiological information-processing system. The prospect of a conscious computer may be terrifying ter·ri·fy  
tr.v. ter·ri·fied, ter·ri·fy·ing, ter·ri·fies
1. To fill with terror; make deeply afraid. See Synonyms at frighten.

2. To menace or threaten; intimidate.
 to fans of the Terminator films (or, for older people, Colossus Colossus - (A huge and ancient statue on the Greek island of Rhodes).

1. The Colossus and Colossus Mark II computers used by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park, UK during the Second World War to crack the "Tunny" cipher produced by the Lorenz SZ 40 and SZ 42 machines.
: The Forbin Project). But it would nevertheless be interesting to see if a conscious machine would be sufficiently sophisticated to figure out for itself how it works.--Tom Siegfried, Editor in Chief
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Title Annotation:FROM THE EDITOR
Author:Siegfried, Tom
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 11, 2012
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