Sunday, May 14, 2017

GANs, arms races, and self-consciousness

in evolution, there are always arms races between competing organisms. each organism has to form a model of the other one, in order to somehow outsmart it. that forces you to keep coming up with novel, creative solutions, because you have to do something that the other guy currently doesn't have a model of. this is similar to the idea of generative adversarial networks.

i wonder if what happened that made humans special, is that that process got condensed to happen inside a single organism. at some point, like ~70,000 years ago maybe, social interactions became the dominant factor in our fitness. so we developed the ability to model other people's minds incredibly well (people have argued this is why we have big brains).

but the unforeseen consequence was that you effectively have multiple minds running inside a single brain, and they're evaluating each other. maybe this sometimes feels like self-consciousness, although i think the feeling we usually call "self-consciousness" is just a subset of this.

that's like a high-bandwidth (since it's inside a single brain) version of the GANs or arms-race phenomenon that's happened throughout evolution. these models of other people's minds are constantly providing error signals (probably all the time, including during sleep) that are updating your "own" mind. that could be what drives us to have such rich minds.