Eric Baum

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Eric B. Baum is an American computer scientist, artificial intelligence researcher and author. He is known for his materialist and evolutionist theories of intelligence and consciousness, set forth in his 2004 book What is Thought? (ISBN 0262524570).

In his book, Baum claims that intelligence, consciousness, qualia and free will are fully explained by evolution's mandate to "exploit the compact structure of the world." He argues that meaning and semantics arise whenever a compact description or program correctly captures a large amount of data. He sees the mind as composed of computational modules that are "meaningful" in this sense, found and improved by evolution over large time spans and largely encoded in the genome. The genome, in his view, also provides guidance ("inductive bias") to the very fast learning processes that occur during an organism's lifetime. Further the genome provides a complex of evaluation functions to guide the organism's decision processes, with the ultimate goal of maximizing propagation of the genes. The illusion of free will is seen as arising from the necessity to model future decisions of oneself and other actors, decisions that are guided by wants and desires but cannot be fully predicted. He has also developed software inspired by his theories, including Hayek, an evolutionary system that can solve large blocks world problems (named for economist Friedrich Hayek due to a bidding mechanism used by the program).

Baum was awarded undergraduate and graduate degrees by Harvard University and a Ph.D. in physics by Princeton University. He worked at the NEC Research Institute from 1989 - 2003.

He is the son of Leonard Baum, co-creator of the Baum–Welch algorithm.[citation needed]

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