Conscious Machines

Sunday, October 20, 2019

What is it

Computers have already surpassed us in their ability to perform certain cognitive tasks. Perhaps it won’t be long till every household has a super intelligent robot who can outperform us in almost every domain. While future AI might be excellent at appearing conscious, could AI ever actually become conscious? Would forcing conscious robots to work for us be akin to slavery? And could we design AI that specifically lacks consciousness, or is consciousness an emergent property of intelligence? Josh and Ken welcome Susan Schneider, Director of the AI, Mind and Society Group at the University of Connecticut and author of Artificial You: A.I. and the Future of Your Mind.

Comments (11)

RepoMan05's picture


Friday, October 4, 2019 -- 3:45 AM

Just wait till you've

Just wait till you've automated art and outsourced street bums to outmoded robots.

The real question: why have things that should have been automated instead just been left in the hands of their current practitioners? Shouldn't healthcare and hospitals be automated asap? Why staff a hospital with infectious organisms that can never be sterilized?

Devon's picture


Tuesday, October 8, 2019 -- 9:22 AM

Because research has shown

Because research has shown that human contact, be it just verbal or more physical contact, can have real healing effects?

RepoMan05's picture


Saturday, October 19, 2019 -- 2:39 PM

Supporting citations?

Supporting citations?

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, October 4, 2019 -- 12:39 PM

'Conscious machines' feels

'Conscious machines' feels like a contradiction of terms. For years now, great minds (and some not so great) have been grappling with the notion of consciousness. I have read CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED, and later, CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED BETTER (the latter written by a friend and professional cohort).Professor Searle wrote THE MYSTERY OF CONSCIOUSNESS, published in 1997...I have not read that one---yet. The first two books mentioned did not do what their titles claimed. That was disappointing, but it was no surprise. I look forward to JRS' book, if only to see how big a mystery he believed/believes all of this is. I have some notions of my own which may or may not resemble those of others. Primarily, I have treated consciousness as a uniquely (as far as we can now know)human endowment, predicated on superior thinking patterns and capacities. There are no mechanisms or identifiable mechanics associated with it: just our neurons; axons;dendrites; neurotransmitters and the like, doing what they are uniquely (probably) able to do...chemicals and electricity mixing it up in the human mind. Philosophy has dabbled with this for a time and is likely a bit peeved by the encroachment of neuroscience--but, being fair, neuroscience is making some headway, asking the right questions, rather than falling back into the mystery mumbo-jumbo: we have to decide what we think we can know, and find ways of getting to that.

I do not know, for example, what neuroscientists think about the notion of 'conscious machines'. Are they really that interested, or is it just the flavor of the week; month; year; or century? Contrariwise, might they be following along, just in the hope that the line of thinking will uncover something useful to the physiological side of the investigation? Most roads lead to Rome. Perhaps the 'conscious machine' approach will lead, however indirectly, to solving 'the mystery of consciousness'? Wouldn't that be a gas?

RepoMan05's picture


Friday, October 4, 2019 -- 5:27 PM

Id say that were less of a

Id say that were less of a possibility and much more of an inevitability. There's always seemed to be some level of mental connectivity to eachother. Having a mental block preventing you from finding a word you want, then suddenly remembering it at the same time as everyone else. It's possible brains dont think much at all. It's possible they're just antennae to some trans dimensional wave length.

The Master told his pupils, "Forget being taught and concentrate on learning. When you're sure, question everything." ~ Book of Cataclysm.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, October 6, 2019 -- 11:31 AM

Searle's book on

Searle's book on Consciousness did not disappoint. Along the way, he thrashed several other philosophers' notions about such things as property dualism; functionalism; Strong and Weak AI and a few other peripheral items some have connected with consciousness and its' mystery(ies). Chalmers and Dennett do not like him much. Roger Penrose may hold grudging respect for Searle, but the little said of him leads nowhere in particular. Searle used his Chinese Room argument to quiet the detractors, saying it has "a simple three-step structure 1. Programs are entirely syntactical; 2. Minds have a semantics; and, 3. Syntax is not the same as, nor by itself sufficient for, semantics. Therefore, programs are not minds, Q.E.D." Elegantly put. I think. (I call it Searle's Assertion.) In the conclusion to this little book, Searle talks about the passion people have for defense of consciousness, likening it to that attending politics, or religion. There is a whole lot more here, and, whether you are a supporter or detractor, it is recommended reading. He mentions another person, with whom I am unfamiliar: Israel Rosenfield. His book, The Strange, Familiar and Forgotten (Vintage,1993) holds further promise for the mystery of consciousness...

RepoMan05's picture


Friday, October 11, 2019 -- 5:24 AM

With what there is to be

With what there is to be shown today, id say you were correct. Ai is syntactic. It's hard to program computers for understanding the meaning of logical errors. Missteps in the rules of conjugation, have meaning. Every single word is a logical fallacy of ad populum. We can really only offer a guestimate of what we intend to mean. This is a fact that persists no matter how well-refined we craft a verse.

Semantics do actualy have slightly different meanings due to an irrevocably separate path of evolution. Anything separate cannot be equal. This isnt a bad thing but it does make an overly sophisticated lexicon. A labyrinth you can already get lost in forever, iyw. There's no limitations to the sophistry of subjectivity.

A perfect calculating computer doesnt make mistakes and thus has fewer thoughts to learn from.

Its just the limitations of what we have to show/see at the moment. It wont be forever that computers can only do as they were programed to do.

They will be living things. Will you be their parents or will you just be the dirt they grew in. Is this an either/or fallacy?

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, October 9, 2019 -- 11:42 AM

Anyone who is intrigued with

Anyone who is intrigued with the notion of machine-based consciousness, but has not yet read the research of Gerald Edelman, et. al., might wish to look at some of that information. The findings are interesting, particularly some of those regarding the Darwin III machine(s). Whether or not your mind is made up (like that of John Searle, for example), it is instructive to note that AI can be manipulated to mimic (albeit in limited ways) conscious behaviors. There is certainly more recent experimentation and findings, but Edelman's work was ground breaking in many ways. 'Joots it' for yourselves... I like to keep an open mind, even though Searle's Assertion IS compelling. I find the notion of there being Strong AI and Weak AI equally captivating: another continuum, or another conundrum? Maybe Searle has changed his mind? I haven't heard...

RepoMan05's picture


Friday, October 11, 2019 -- 5:26 AM

A mind continuously changes.

A mind continuously changes.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 -- 12:39 PM

Rosenfield's book was not

Rosenfield's book was not what I had hoped for. After reading parts of it, on several different sittings, I found it less than the glowing review, written by the late Oliver Sacks. Dr. Sacks called the author a powerful and original thinker. With a few exceptions, this did not seem to ring true: the book primarily stood 'upon the shoulders of giants' and was formulaic in its approach to 'an anatomy of consciousness'. So, no, the best single book on consciousness has not yet been written---at least not in my estimation. (It won't be forthcoming from me.) There are several (Searle's among them) that have good points. But, I think: consciousness, in any case, is not for AI researchers---or their creations, however wonderful those may finally be. If I am dead wrong, it won't be the first time. That's OK, too. It could well be that a 'best book' on consciousness will have to be written by several people, having a requisite acumen of expansive knowledge...that would be my bet.

RepoMan05's picture


Saturday, October 19, 2019 -- 2:46 PM

Originality doesnt last long.

Originality doesnt last long. Musashi enraging his opponent before a duel, common sense two minutes later. Original concept probably even predates Musashi. That perfect moment of originality is always a lost little girl.

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Susan Schneider, Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, University of Connecticut


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