On Friday, January 10, 2014 8:17:13 PM UTC-6, Brent wrote:
>
>  On 1/10/2014 10:49 AM, Gabriel Bodeen wrote:
>  
> On Tuesday, December 31, 2013 4:25:04 PM UTC-6, Brent wrote: 
>>
>> As you've explained it above your theory makes a rock just as conscious 
>> as a brain.  I'm 
>> sure you must have a more subtle theory than that, so I'll ask you the 
>> same thing I asked 
>> Bruno, if I make a robot what do I have to do make it conscious or not 
>> conscious? 
>>
>> Brent 
>>
>
> Did you receive any interesting answers? 
>
> Hm, should I take that as a negative answer, or merely as a skipped 
question? 

> I have adequate background in neuroscience but I'm mostly ignorant of AI 
> math, robotics work, and philosophy of mind, so excuse my rampant 
> speculation.  This is what I'd try in design of a robotic brain to switch 
> on and off consciousness and test for its presence:  First, I'd give the 
> robot brain modules to interpret its sensory inputs in an associative 
> manner analogous to human sensory associative regions.  All these sensory 
> inputs would feed into the decision-making module (DMM).  One of the first 
> steps taken by the DMM is determining how important each sensory signal is 
> for its current objectives.  It decides to pay attention to a subset of 
> those signals.  
>  
> So is it conscious of those signals?  How does it decide?
>
 
1: As described in the next two sentences of the original paragraph, no.
2: The choice of function used to select the subset is unimportant to the 
experiment, but if we were aiming for biomimicry then each sensory module 
would report a degree of stimulation, and attention function would block 
all signals but the most stimulated 1 to 7.

>  Second, I'd put a switch on another input to make it part of the 
> attention subset or not:  
>  
> What other input would you put a switch on?  What inputs are there besides 
> sensory?  I think you've assumed "conscious" = "self aware".  Is one 
> conscious when one is "lost in thought"?
>

1: The switch would go on the signals described in the second half of the 
sentence that you hastily cut in half. :D
2: Inputs besides sensory associations are important to a functioning robot 
but not, I predict, to a robot designed only to test for consciousness. 
3: I chose to address the specific matter of qualia rather than all of what 
people mean by "conscious", as described in the "I predict this because..." 
sentence of the original paragraph. :D
4: I suspect that the human experience of being lost in thought differs 
between specific cases.  Most times for me that I'd call "lost in thought" 
I can still operate (drive, walk, eat) on "auto-pilot" which undoubtedly 
requires my senses to be engaged, but afterwards the only things I can 
recall experiencing are the thoughts I was lost in.  Introspective evidence 
and memory being as bad as they are, that shouldn't be taken as a 
necessarily correct description.  But if it is a correct description, then 
by my definitions in the original paragraph, I'd say that I was conscious.  
But if what you mean by "conscious" includes awareness of surroundings, 
then no, I was not conscious under that definition.

>  the attention's choice of signals would also an input to the DMM, and I 
> could turn on or off whether that attentional choice was itself let pass 
> through to the next processing stages.  I would predict that, with the 
> switch turned off, the robot would be not conscious (i.e. it would have no 
> experience of qualia), but that with the switch turned on, the robot would 
> be conscious (i.e. it would experience qualia corresponding to the signals 
> it is paying attention to).  I predict this because it seems to me that the 
> experience of qualia can be described as being simultaneously aware of a 
> sensory datum and (recursively) aware of being aware of it.  If the robot 
> AI was sufficiently advanced that we could program it to talk about its 
> experiences, the test of my prediction would be that, with the switch off, 
> the robot would talk about what it sees and hears, and that with the switch 
> on, the robot would also talk about fact that it knew it was seeing and 
> hearing things.
>  
>
> So is a Mars Rover conscious because it processes video from it's camera 
> to send to JPL, AND it senses that its camera is powered and working and 
> that its transmitter is working AND it reports those internal status 
> variables to JPL too.
>

If there are two separate inputs to the transmitter, "the video feed" and 
"the camera is functional", then this does not satisfy the relationship I 
described and consequently I would predict no consciousness (of the video 
feed by the Mars Rover).  However, that should be possible to change.  The 
Mars Rover is, I think, semi-autonomous, meaning it is programmed to make 
certain decisions on its own.  I'll suppose a scenario in which JPL 
instructs the Rover to advance toward a nifty-looking rock, but leaves the 
details of that operation to the Rover's programming.  Then the Rover 
examines the video feed, identifies the pertinent rock in the video feed, 
and advances toward it.  As it does so, it uses the video feed and the part 
of the video image identified as rock to continually recalculate and adjust 
which part of the video feed it is identifying as the rock.  That scenario 
matches the one I described previously so I would predict that the Rover 
would then be conscious (of the rock).  

The Rover would still not be self-conscious (i.e. conscious of its self) in 
that scenario.  If we wanted to build that kind of consciousness, then I 
predict we'd need a different set-up.  A robot programmed to move so as to 
prevent anything from touching its robot body would need to be given a 
definition of what counts as its body.  Then I think it would count as 
self-conscious.  However, if you want something still deeper, like 
psychological self-consciousness (i.e. consciousness of its own 
psychological state), then you might have to build a robot and program it 
using quining or something like that -- I'm not sure, as this ventures far 
enough into AI math that I know my intuitions are a very bad guide.

-Gabe

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