Blum made a strong point that his theory of consciousness is just being developed and emphasizing the word "towards" in the title. Roughly his theory has an environment (representing the world at a certain time) modeled as a universal Turing machine that interacts with several entities (representing organisms or organizations) each modeled as a (possibly weak) computational device. An entity has CONSCSness (CONceptualizing Strategizing Control System) if it fulfills certain axioms.
- The entity has a model of its environment and a model of itself.
- The entity is motivated towards a goal. Blum modeled the goal as a difference between a pleasure and a pain function which looked to me like utility functions used by economists.
- The entity provides a strategy to head towards the goal.
- The entity has a simple serial interface with the environment.
Blum called on complexity theorists to take on the cause of consciousness. He pointed to an extensive bibliography on the general topic maintained by David Chalmers.
My take on the talk: Much of theoretical computer science did get its start from thinking about how the brain works but as computers evolved so has our field and theory has since the 70's focused on understanding efficient computation in its many forms. It's perfectly fine to model humans as efficient computers to understand their interactions in areas like cryptography and economics. But we should leave issues like consciousness, self-awareness and free will to the philosophers since any "theorems" we may prove will have to depend on some highly controversial assumptions.