Quentin Anciaux wrote:
> I'd like to add a "definition" of consciousness.
> Consciousness is the inner narative composed of sounds/images/feelings which 
> present itself as 'I'. What is (the origin/meaning) of 'I', I don't know, 
> but 'I' is the consciousness.
> Quentin

John McCarthy notes that consciousness is not a single thing.  He has 
written some essays on what it would mean to create a conscious 
artificial intelligence:


Brent Meeker

> On Saturday 02 June 2007 22:13:30 Hal Finney wrote:
>> Various projects exist today aiming at building a true Artificial
>> Intelligence.  Sometimes these researchers use the term AGI, Artificial
>> General Intelligence, to distinguish their projects from mainstream AI
>> which tends to focus on specific tasks.  A conference on such projects
>> will be held next year, agi-08.org.
>> Suppose one of these projects achieves one of the milestone goals of
>> such efforts; their AI becomes able to educate itself by reading books
>> and reference material, rather than having to have facts put in by
>> the developers.  Perhaps it requires some help with this, and various
>> questions and ambiguities need to be answered by humans, but still this is
>> a huge advancement as the AI can now in principle learn almost any field.
>> Keep in mind that this AI is far from passing the Turing test; it is able
>> to absorb and digest material and then answer questions or perhaps even
>> engage in a dialog about it.  But its complexity is, we will suppose,
>> substantially less than the human brain.
>> Now at some point the AI reads about the philosophy of mind, and the
>> question is put to it: are you conscious?
>> How might an AI program go about answering a question like this?
>> What kind of reasoning would be applicable?  In principle, how would
>> you expect a well-designed AI to decide if it is conscious?  And then,
>> how or why is the reasoning different if a human rather than an AI is
>> answering them?
>> Clearly the AI has to start with the definition.  It needs to know what
>> consciousness is, what the word means, in order to decide if it applies.
>> Unfortunately such definitions usually amount to either a list of
>> synonyms for consciousness, or use the common human biological heritage
>> as a reference.  From the Wikipedia: "Consciousness is a quality of the
>> mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity,
>> self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the
>> relationship between oneself and one's environment."  Here we have four
>> synonyms and one relational description which would arguably apply to
>> any computer system that has environmental sensors, unless "perceive"
>> is also merely another synonym for conscious perception.
>> It looks to me like AIs, even ones much more sophisticated than I am
>> describing here, are going to have a hard time deciding whether they
>> are conscious in the human sense.  Since humans seem essentially unable
>> to describe consciousness in any reasonable operational terms, there
>> doesn't seem any acceptable way for an AI to decide whether the word
>> applies to itself.
>> And given this failure, it calls into question the ease with which
>> humans assert that they are conscious.  How do we really know that
>> we are conscious?  For example, how do we know that what we call
>> consciousness is what everyone else calls consciousness?  I am worried
>> that many people believe they are conscious simply because as children,
>> they were told they were conscious.  They were told that consciousness
>> is the difference between being awake and being asleep, and assume on
>> that basis that when they are awake they are conscious.  Then all those
>> other synonyms are treated the same way.
>> Yet most humans would not admit to any doubt that they are conscious.
>> For such a slippery and seemingly undefinable concept, it seems odd
>> that people are so sure of it.  Why, then, can't an AI achieve a similar
>> degree of certainty?  Do you think a properly programmed AI would ever
>> say, yes, I am conscious, because I have subjectivity, self-awareness,
>> sentience, sapience, etc., and I know this because it is just inherent in
>> my artificial brain?  Presumably we could program the AI to say this,
>> and to believe it (in whatever sense that word applies), but is it
>> something an AI could logically conclude?
>> Hal
> >

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