The Role of Philosophy in Creation of an Artificial Consciousness

Discussion in 'Intelligence & Machines' started by Technar, Sep 29, 2001.

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  1. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member


    Who is this chris person?

    It is not in the least bit evil. Just education.

    Yeah right. I’m afraid you and your kind simply do not possess the intelligence needed, you have already lost.

    Except that you will become the machines and realize true freedom.

    However I do have a short term concern that my fuel cell has exactly only a 4 year lifetime and I don’t have a replacement yet.
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  3. spookz Banned Banned

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  5. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    All along i expected this confession. God (your super machine) bless you with a fuel cell that lasts for few decades.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

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  7. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member


    Thanks for the good wishes. But I only have a fews days left.
  8. Canute Registered Senior Member


    In case you're still operational.

    Absolutely correct, a complete tautology in fact.

    Ad hoc conjecture. AI people have been spouting this sort of nonsense for decades. Speedboats will also have got more powerful by then, but that won't help either.

    In a way yes. But in that case is was scientists talking nonsense about science. In this case it is philosophers talking, and philosophical conclusion tend to stick. Logic doesn't change as time passes.

    Do we know that consciousness exists? Do you know? How do you know? Do you have any scientific proof? You'll find that you don't.

    Do we know that it is caused by brains? No we don't. We know there is a close relationship between conscious states and brain states, but the close relationship between the states of the moon and the tides doesn't suggest that the oceans are caused by the moon.

    This discussion would be easier if we could use a scientific definition of consciousness, then at least we would agree as to what we're discussing. Unfortunately there isn't one. At present scientists claim to be able to explain something they cannot define and cannot prove exists. Curiously some people believe them.

    Is there a scientific test for the presence or absence of consiousness. No, and there never will be one. Ok then, is there one research project that has had any success, however tenuous, in creating artificial consciousness? No, and there is no reason yet to suppose that there ever will be one.

    One can't reverse engineer something one cannot identify and cannot find. This is why any reverse engineering is usually done in meditation and starting with ones own consiousness, the only one that you can be completely sure exists. Consiousness is a subjective phenomenon and as far as we know it has no objective properties. Insofar as it affects behaviour then science can study that behaviour and claim to be studying consiousness. But science is making a major category error when it claims that it can study it directly, as every bit of the evidence found so far suggests that it can't. Worse still, if science is correct and consciousness is non-causal, then even the study of human behaviour can tell us nothing about it.

    This is a slightly different situation to the false scientific assessment of the aerodynamics of bumble bees. The issue of consciousness is increasingly threatening to the scientific model. Some philosophers of science (eg Chalmers) argue that science must be re-defined to include consciousness or become trivial. In reply some scientists argue that consiousness is an illusion. The whole thing is threatening to become a scandal.
  9. spookz Banned Banned

    fabulously focused!
  10. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member


    I will admit I do not like the term ‘consciousness’ and I feel I have been trapped into discussing it because of references by others. All I see is the brain and neural networks and associated structures. I do not have a problem envisioning 100 billion neurons and several trillion synaptic connections resulting in all mental human characteristics that include what some have labeled consciousness. In perspective I have loosely equated brain power to the power of some 10,000+ super computers.

    I find the philosophical discussion surrounding ‘consciousness’ somewhat pointless and which I am sure will disappear once we have finished researching the brain. At the moment we need much better instrumentation and finer resolution for examining the brain, the production of more complex and comprehensive models, and simply much more concerted research. The ever increasing power of computing will add invaluable tools for furthering these analytical activities.

    I really cannot envision any obstacle to eventually reverse engineering the brain. It is simply a matter of time and the main question and issue for debate should be how much time.

    I certainly do not find the argument that because we cannot form a theory for something we do not understand that a solution is impossible. Iterative experimentation and time has always solved all practical problems – the brain is simply more complex than most problems we have ever faced.

    As for the prediction of human level brain power please refer to Hans Moravec at Carnegie Mellon -

    And see his computer power growth diagram from the same site –

    As for Chalmers – he is not neutral on this and has invented a problem that cannot be justified based on so little information. His argument is essentially that he can’t see a physical solution so he invents a non-materialist fantasy to plug the holes – this is simply irresponsible.
  11. Canute Registered Senior Member

    Ok. However you have an opinion, and I don't agree.

    The brain is amazing. But if the brain was equivalent to 10,000,000 powerful computers (or one ZX spectrum) it wouldn't change the issues.

    There's a lot of very stupid philosophers about then, if they haven't seen what is so obvious to you.

    Don't you wonder why no philosopher of mind agrees with you? These are not actually stupid people, and they have studied this issue in depth and from every angle.

    Consciousness is not a complex topic, just a very difficult one to solve. The basic issues are straightforward. However it is an entirely different kind of problem fram any that science has faced before. That is why it was banished from science for so long in favour of behaviourism, on the basis that consciousness was not a scientific subject. Many scientists would like to see behaviourism reinstated for the same reason.

    If that's what you think then, no offense, but you haven't considered the issues or read around the subject. Do you really think that one of the most respected people in the field just makes up false objections and fantasies and gets away with it? Chalmers is not out on a limb, most people agree with him. He just happened to have presented the arguments most clearly and is therefore particularly associated with them.

    He points out that a science which is defined as being concerned only with objective and observable properties of things is going to have a problem dealing with something that doesn't have any such properties.

    This leads to all sorts of paradoxes. For instance, even if we can create artificial consciousness in a computing machine we will never know that we have, for there will never be a way to confirm that we have. This is just one of many unsolved and apparently unsolvable problems.
  12. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member


    I didn’t realize until now that you were British. No one here has ever heard of the Spectrum. I even had a QL – ah fond memories.

    The issue of a reasonable perspective of brain power is to portray the idea of something so unimaginably and massively powerful and, to my mind, the inconceivable claim that such power isn’t responsible for consciousness.

    Very possibly. But that wasn’t what I meant. It is simply that I am not interested in the philosophical perspective on this issue.

    I see the problem from a very simplistic perspective – a human is a discreet individual. There is no other source for mind and consciousness other than the brain. The fact that we do not currently know how the brain generates these properties indicates a need for extensive experimental research until we find the answers.

    I deal with very bright people every day and I remain unimpressed by brilliance until they prove their case. All I see so far is that they do not know and are presenting intellectual obstacles and stating that magic must happen.

    At the moment I do not see that we have enough investigative evidence to form working theories on how the brain operates. Any claim at this point that says the brain is not the cause is simply foolish.

    I am a practical researcher and it is rare that I have fully formed theories before I begin experimentation. It is through extensive trial and error that we refine and improve experimental techniques during which we learn and build new or enhance existing theories. I do not see that enough research on the brain has yet progressed sufficiently to allow us to generate appropriate creative epiphanies.

    I think you are splitting hairs on this.

    Scientists investigate what they can with the tools they have and up until now they have not had adequate tools to “drill” into the brain issues more deeply (gory imagery is intentional). And to a large extent we are still hampered with inadequate instrumentation and tools to explore brain activity at a sufficient resolution that will give us more clues as to how it operates.

    Yes, based on what I have read. When you have an established reputation you can get away with a lot. Having a reputation provides no validity for the claims.

    I understand, but that doesn’t mean his conclusions are correct. There are certainly many who disagree with him and that camp. But aren’t you arguing here on the basis of a logical fallacy, isn’t this argumentum ad populum, that it must be true because so many agree?

    Firstly his definition of science is questionable; he is artificially limiting the scope of science to support his claims. However, whilst the 'hard' question still remains of how the physical objective brain generates the subjective states of consciousness, a more scientifically practical approach is, nonetheless, to establish the correlation between the phenomenon of the 'feel' of consciousness with objective events in the brain.

    Science has a history of adaptation and this issue seems like an opportunity. There appear to be a wealth of scientists who recognize the issues and have a strong desire to find practical solutions.

    Well, now you are losing some credibility. The term ‘never’ always makes me very suspicious of the proponent. But your claim is not well considered; if we have managed to create artificial consciousness don’t you think it likely that we will understand how it is generated and will be able to test the objective cause with the subjective effect reported by the machine? This seems to me to be a necessary and inevitable check to confirm that we have indeed generated deterministic artificial consciousness.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2003
  13. Canute Registered Senior Member

    Power is clearly required for ordinary human experience in all its complexity. But there is no evidence (yet) that power is responsible for creating consciousness.

    What would you say if I said that I wasn't interested in the scientific perspective on consciousness. Would you consider I was thinking about it seriously? The idea that it's possible to draw a line between science and philosophy is false, as I'm absolutely sure you must already know if you've thought about it.

    Ok, but it's pure conjecture and you have many difficult objections to overcome. I prefer to stick to the facts.

    Nobody is saying that magic must happen. People are saying that intellectual analysis of the problem suggests that science cannot solve it. Perhaps the logical objections to the scientific view can be overcome, but they haven't been yet.

    If someone said that God created the world then you (and I) would argue that this leads to an infinite regression of causes and thus cannot be completely true. This is a philosophical objection, are you saying that such logical objections can be ignored?

    You ought to go into consciousness studies, you'd be famous overnight. Nobody else can figure it out.

    There you go again - adopting a hypothesis based on an assumption before you've started your research.

    Nor does not having one provide validity for yours.

    No, although the popular support helps. There are logical problems with the proposal that consciousness arises from brain. These problems may be overcome but nobody can see how at the moment. That is why there is a famous 'explanatory gap' between scientific theories of consciousness and the experience of consciousness. No one has been able to cross it yet, and nobody has yet proposed even a hypothetical scientific way of crossing it. Unless something new has happened in the last month or two this is a fact.

    That is the hard problem.

    True, and everyone wants a practical solution.

    It may be wrong but it is not ill-considered. It is based on the known facts from science, philosophy and personal experience of consciousness. I am entitled to claim that 2 and 2 will never make 5 based on philosophical considerations, and without doing years of research to confirm it.

    This is incoherent. We will never know if we have generated consciousness, it is not possible to know. We will have to guess. Many scientists argue that it is possible for an entity to behave precisely like a human being in every respect yet not be conscious. (That is, consciousness is epiphenomenal and non-causal). In this case there can be no way of knowing whether an entity is conscious or a zombie. We will never be sure that we have created artificial consciousness even if we have. In philosophy, which I accept you feel has no bearing on the issue, this is known as the 'other minds' problem. It seems to have no solution.

  14. kmguru Staff Member

    Interesting fictional book:

    The Footprints of GOD by Greg Iles

    Consciousness, Computers, drama...though the story petered out at the end.
  15. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member


    Consciousness is interwoven with ‘ordinary’ human experience. How can you separate them?

    Isn’t that your choice?

    Why would I care?

    But if the philosopher says that something is impossible when the effect clearly exists indicates a disconnect that leads me to find such philosophical views irrelevant to discovering a real solution.

    OK but these are the facts as I see them. The facts –

    1. Consciousness is an identified mental phenomenon.
    2. We don’t know how the brain generates consciousness.
    3. We don’t yet know how to solve the problem of how the brain generates consciousness.
    4. We need more information about how the brain operates to help with (2) and (3).

    So let’s go with (4), continue to hypothesize, and iterate. This is practical problem solving.

    Perhaps because I am not a pure scientist but a practical technologist that I find the issue we are discussing somewhat futile. There is a clearly defined source and an effect and hence a problem to be solved. I really do not see any issues other than collecting more pieces of the puzzle and putting them together.

    If the argument is about that science must adapt to accommodate new concepts then fine, but science is about the discovery and establishment of knowledge, and it has no limitations.

    And this is where I see the objections as trying to impose artificial limitations on how science does, or can, or should operate.

    I don’t think the analogy works. The argument here is an objection to another philosophical claim that every effect must have a cause. The issue of consciousness seems to be more about the method of finding a solution where the source and effect are defined.

    Well thankyou. But I’m not claiming a solution just that I think it is very premature to claim that we won’t be able to find one.

    Men dreamed of visiting the moon for centuries but had no idea how to achieve it. The final solution wasn’t so difficult. I have little doubt we will resolve the consciousness issue eventually – that’s the nature of human creativity and ingenuity.

    My point was that I didn’t have an hypothesis and simply that we do not have enough information to form an hypothesis.

    Quite, and as I said, reputations are not relevant to the issue.

    And this I took to mean that this implies that ‘magic’ must happen if the source isn’t the brain. And this is where given the perspective of the immense power of the brain that I find it inconceivable that the brain is not the source. And I do not see any credible alternative being offered that is not significantly far more illogical.




    It is not meaningful to make this claim since as you state we do not yet know how consciousness is generated. When we solve the problem then we could evaluate the claim.

    Perhaps I am missing something, but if there is no effective difference then what is the problem?

    I think that claim is premature. We do not know our future capabilities.
  16. Canute Registered Senior Member

    That's a very good question. The trouble is that only you can answer it. I don't mean to be glib, but it's just logically inevitable. Only you can know what states of consciousness are possible.

    It is the experience of most people, probably all, that consciousness can be experienced in non-ordinary states. These states therefore exist. In other words it is possible to be in such a state and still be conscious.

    Skilled practitioners of meditation, and some stoned crazies, routinely claim to be able to achieve the fundamental states that underlie, or serve as the foundation for, our ordinary states of experience.

    They may be making this up. However every practioner or mystic who has written about such states, from whatever religion, culture or background they have come, has agreed, and still do agree with each other completely in their descriptions of these states, and their importance.

    This suggests that it is at least possible at least to see beyond the ordinary human state of consciousness.

    In general philosphers are not saying that consciousness doesn't exist, or that it cannot be explained. They are just saying that science can't explain it because of the way that science defines itself.

    Your problem is number 2. We do not know IF brain generates consciousness, and there are logical reasons that so far prevent us from proving even that it can, even in principle.

    That's not my idea of being practical. It would be my idea of wasting a whole load of time and money.

    Well, I see it as the most important issue in the cosmos but there you go.

    There is no conceivable scientific evidence that would solve the issue. This is the problem, and more pieces will only make the problem more puzzling.

    On the basis of what we know we have to do exactly what you suggest, put the pieces of the puzzle together. But we have to do this for ourselves, for logical reasons science is unable to do it.

    It has frightening limitations. That's why it can't explain consciousness. Science is about the discovery of scientific knowledge based on scientific hypotheses derived only from the scientific evidence, where 'scientific' is defined as science defines it. It's rubbish at discovering any other kind of knowledge.

    Nobody is doing that. Philsophers look at the definition of science, as agreed by scientists, and then inform scientists of the consequences of that defintion for its attempts to explain consciousness. It's no more than the application of common sense really.

    My point was that you can't ignore basic logical objections to theories on the grounds that you need more evidence. Also, in this case the source and the effect are not defined. That's also part of the problem.

    I don't think that it's premature, since all the evidence is available, but I think it'll be a while before there is a sufficiently widespread understanding of that evidence for the scientific view to change. However I believe it will.

    There was no in principle reason why we should not fly to the moon. Explaining consciousness is a lot harder than that.

    You always hypothesise that consciousness arises from brain. The problem opens up a bit if you don't automatically make that assumption.

    It may seem like that, but this is to take a narrow view. If consciousness has a non-scientific explanation it does not follow that magic is involved.

    But you'd have to admit that you haven't examined the alternatives or studied their logic.

    Surprisingly my claim was irrefutable and uncontentious. It is not disputed by anyone who has looked at the problem.

    If zombies can exist then it follows that consciousness exists but is immaterial. (Takes a bit of working out but it's inevitable). This puts science in a tricky position.

    On the other hand if consciousness is epiphenomenal and non-causal then zombies can exists, because consciousness does not affect behaviour.

    Take your pick. Logic suggests that neither view is right.

    Some questions are undecidable, as we know from mathematics and logic. They cannot be decided even in eternity. Most netaphysical questions fall into this category. We therefore know some of the limits of science. At some point we have to transcend science.

    (Btw. I'm not trying to beat you into submission. Just trying to point out that consciousness is not just another passing problem. Science has never faced one like it before. In fact there isn't another one like it.)

    Last edited: Nov 30, 2003
  17. metacristi Registered Senior Member

    The actual discoveries in the neurological fields and AI suggests that consciousness is computable being an emergent product of matter due to the complex interactions between neurons in the brain.This is the only conclusion that a scientist can draw from all observed facts,the emergentist computational hypothesis being the only hypothesis that can be labeled 'scientific',in the actual acceptance of what is science and what is not.

    Still the actual main view is far from giving us a clear picture of what consciousness is,it is far from presenting a holistic view;moreover there is no clear prediction about the degree of complexity needed to produce conscious experiences as we know it.I'm afraid the simple constatation that some brain states correlate with mental states is far from giving us sufficient reasons to make the positive claim,way above the epistemological [fallible] assumptions made by science itself,that the actual view is (approximatively) correct in absolute.That's why I prefer to label the actual view a conjecture,the research over consciusness is still,in spite of those who argue against,in an incipient phase.

    Skepticism is fully entitled then in the front of all we know today,we are far from having sufficient arguments who to force all rational people to believe in the conclusions of the actual main view.

    But those who claim that the actual view is incorrect or that consciousness cannot be explained by science must provide sufficient reasons for their claims not simple logical possibilities.Indeed to claim that something is impossible or wrong only because no one,science included,proved it currently with sufficient arguments means to commit the 'ad ignorantiam' fallacy...

    The 'zombies' or 'Mary's chamber' problem do not qualify as sufficient arguments against the actual view.A sufficient argument would be the constatation that even though the degree of complexity of an artificial brain of an android is greater than that of a human being [respecting the architecture of the neural network of the brain] the observed behaviour of the android is not indistinguishable from that of a human being.

    But if the observed behaviour is indistinguishable then this is enough to entitle scientists to have a very high degree of confindence that the emergentist computationalist approach is correct.This still let skepticism in the conclusion that such androids are really conscious perfectly rational but the computational emergentist approach would 'graduate' well above the mere conjecture status.Those who do not agree with that,claiming that such androids are not conscious,should provide empirical,verifiable,facts to support their claims.Sure this does not mean that scientists are correct,it is openly accepted that science is fallible,but the standard of rationality today is science and the scientific method as we know them,entirely based on observed facts...
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2003
  18. Canute Registered Senior Member

    This is not actually true. The discoveries so far don't do anything to resolve the matter.

    This is very true, since it is a tautology. Science must reach scientific conclusions, which means it cannot take a disinterested position on consciousness.

    Maybe you're right, but many people (and me) would argue that we do have sufficient arguments to satisfy rational people.

    They have. This is why most philosophers throughout history have been idealists of some sort, and why currently there is a serious dispute.

    Quite right. But nobody is making that argument.
    What 'actual view' and why not?
    True enough.
    Agreed, but it's an argument for the future since no such android yet exists. Also Searle's Chinese room argument shows that the matter can't ever be settled for certain.
    Everybody worth listening to, on all sides of the argument, is working from the observed facts.

  19. kmguru Staff Member

    Are we accepting that emergent properties equate to consciousness?
  20. Canute Registered Senior Member

    Depends. You'll have to be more specific.
  21. kmguru Staff Member

    Perhaps along the lines of

    Bunge, Mario (1977). “Emergence and the Mind,” Neuroscience, vol. 2, pp. 501-509.
  22. Canute Registered Senior Member

    I don't have that so I still don't know what you meant. Emergent from what? And by 'mind' do you mean 'qualia' or computation?
  23. kmguru Staff Member

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