The thermodynamic cost of fast thought

Alexandre de Castro

After more than sixty years, Shannon's research [1-3] continues to raise fundamental questions, such as the one formulated by Luce [4,5], which is still unanswered: "Why is information theory not very applicable to psychological problems, despite apparent similarities of concepts?" On this topic, Pinker [6], one of the foremost defenders of the computational theory of mind [6], has argued that thought is simply a type of computation, and that the gap between human cognition and computational models may be illusory. In this context, in his latest book, titled Thinking Fast and Slow [8], Kahneman [7,8] provides further theoretical interpretation by differentiating the two assumed systems of the cognitive functioning of the human mind. He calls them intuition (system 1) determined to be an associative (automatic, fast and perceptual) machine, and reasoning (system 2) required to be voluntary and to operate logical- deductively. In this paper, we propose an ansatz inspired by Ausubel's learning theory for investigating, from the constructivist perspective [9-12], information processing in the working memory of cognizers. Specifically, a thought experiment is performed utilizing the mind of a dual-natured creature known as Maxwell's demon: a tiny "man-machine" solely equipped with the characteristics of system 1, which prevents it from reasoning. The calculation presented here shows that [...]. This result indicates that when the system 2 is shut down, both an intelligent being, as well as a binary machine, incur the same energy cost per unit of information processed, which mathematically proves the computational attribute of the system 1, as Kahneman [7,8] theorized. This finding links information theory to human psychological features and opens a new path toward the conception of a multi-bit reasoning machine.

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