Towards Artificial Consciousness Riccardo Manzotti Vincenzo Tagliasco Genova – September 26th 2006
“Emotions and consciousness in human beings and machines” Academic years 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 Sometimes emotions are related to consciousness Experience is related to (phenomenal) consciousness Emotions and experience are two intertwined aspects of human beings
Our students think that it is the brain, and not the human being as a whole, that sees, perceives odors and tastes. They are sure that the brain represents the outside world inside their skull, and that the perception is based on mental images.
They know perfectly the advances of neuroscience and are sure that, sooner or later, neuroscience will explain how the wetware of our brain is transformed in percption and thoughts.
On the contrary, according to our theory, the physical portion of the world (which is responsible for the mind) is not just the brain, but is the collection of the processes starting from the environment and endind in the brain. We are not internalists, but externalists. For us the mind does not coincides with the brain, but it is the collection of a large number of processes.
Our students don’t like too much the consciousness issue. There are no clear and assessed definitions of consciousness; too dominant is the role of philosophy. There are many theories which cannot be validated with the classical instruments of engineering and science.
Ray Kurzweil wrote (The singularity is near, 2005) We assume that other humans are conscious, but even that is an assumption. There is no consensus among humans about the consciousness of non-human entities, such as higher animals. […] The issue will be even more contentious with regard to future non-biological entities that exhibit behavior and intelligence even more human-like than those of animals. […] So how will we come to terms with the consciousness that will be claimed by non-biological intelligence?
From a practical perspective such claims will be accepted. […] These non-biological entities will be extremely intelligent, so they’ll be able to convince other humans (biological, non-biological, or somewhere in between) that they are conscious. They’ll have all the delicate emotional cues that convince us today that humans are conscious. They will be able to make other humans laugh and cry. And they’ll get mad if others don’t accept their claims.
Do engineers dream of conscious androids? Do androids dream of electric sheep? Philip K. Dick, 1968
The engineer is the one who builds objects Time has come to build an artificial mind: a subject An artificial mind has not yet been built For the first time in the history of engineering, engineers try to build a subject, not an object It is necessary a new paradigm
Why building an artificial mind? To understand the mental we may have to invent further ways of looking at brains. We may even have to synthesize artifacts resembling brains connected to bodily functions in order fully to understand those processes. Although the day when we shall be able to create a such conscious artifacts is far off we may have to make them before we deeply understand the processes of thought itself. G. Edelman, G. Tononi, 2000
From the editorial of Nature Neuroscience, volume 3 number 8 August 2000: In search of consciousness • The philosopher John Searle once remarked: “Studying the brain without studying consciousness would be like studying the stomach without studying digestion.”Ten years ago, few researchers would have taken him seriously, but times are changing.
It is too early to say whether studying perception will eventually lead to a unifying theory of consciousness. But considering that the topic was hardly on the scientific agenda a decade ago, it is impressive that so much agreement has been reached on how to proceed. It is no longer considered professional suicide for young experimentalists to study consciousness, and for a field that is itself so young, that represents progress.
Definition of artificial consciousness If a humanoid develops its own unique sensory and motor repertoire on the basis of its personal history and its own choices (experience shaped) or if a humanoid allows a unified set of counterfactual representations to occur we claim that the humanoid will be equipped with artificial consciousness
In order to build a subject, engineers have to think about what is a subject, an object and why a subject is different from an object. Just because philosophers have coped with these topics for three thousands years, engineers need to get inspiration from them.
Implicit in most theories of conscious perception is the supposition that, although an external event and its representation in the brain are causally connected, they are nevertheless separate. As against this, I outline a process oriented framework applicable to perception which is a foundation for the proposal that there is a unity between the “external world” and the “perceived world”.
The proposal is that the classic separation between subject and object must be reconceived so that the two, while maintaining their identities as different perspectives on a process, actually occur as a unity during perception.
This leads me to sketch out a new view of consciousness, which can be summarised by saying that consciousness consists in the occurrence of a unity between the brain and the part of the world that is being attended. Here, I use the word ‘unity’ in the same sense in which we say that a magnetic field is a unity that can be described in terms of the different categories of a south and a north pole.
Unity • Conscious activity is the physical process between the brain and the external world
The mind is different from the matter René Descartes XVII century
Since O≠Eneural scholars supposed that there must have been another Ephenomenal to make things even. However it was even worse since O is inaccessible, O≠Eneural, O≠Eneural and, of course, Eneural≠Ephenomenal Cartesian Materialism
When a subject sees a rose, in her brain there is nothing with the property of that rose. On the contrary there are neural patterns with completely different properties. Why should the latter be experienced as the former? Nobody knows. Furthermore, nobody knows how phenomenal experience, supposedly emergent from neural patterns functionally linked with external objects, is related with the physical properties of the rose.
The “hard problem” is the result of the separation between perceiver and perceived or between subject and object. If the perceiver is physically separate from the external world, what is perceived must be something else – that is, a representation of the external object. This view, attributed to René Descartes but actually formulated by Galileo Galilei (Galilei 1623), posits a separation between the “external world” and the “mental world”.
Does a falling tree in the forest make a sound if no one is near enough to hear it? We can say with certainty that while the fall creates pressure waves in the air, it does not create a sound. Sound occurs only when pressure waves from the falling tree reach and are perceived by a living being. Thus, our perceptions are not direct records of the world around us but are constructed internally according to innate rules and constraints imposed by the capabilities of the nervous system. From: E.R. Kandel, J.H. Schwartz and T.M. Jessel, Essentials of Neural Science and Behaviour, 1995
Therefore, I am inclined to think that these tastes, smells, colours, etc., with regard to the object in which they appear to reside, are nothing more than mere names, and exist only in the sensitive body; insomuch that when the living creature is removed all these qualities are carried off and annihilated; Galileo Galilei, “The Essayer”, 1623
Galileo, when for the first time set up his theory about primary and secondary properties did not know anything about electromagnetic waves and fundamental forces.
The bunch of fundamental forces and elementary particles that constitute what a human being - by using his limited sensorial capacities, is able to isolate from other parts of physical reality and can define as “a tree” - establish a sort of bargain, a sort of agreement with a human being. This bunch say <Hey woman/man, if you give us the statute of a definite object, let’s say “a tree”, we enrich your statute of subject, or better, we cooperate to build you as “a subject”>.
Why bother with objects? Because objects as wholes are fundamental facts of everyday life. We continuously and effortlessly deal with them, were they chairs, tables, buildings, cars, computers, trees, clouds, hands, bodies. There seems to be an unavoidable tendency to perceive the world as made of objects.
There is not a rock inside the box: there is only a myriad of occurrences without unification
A human being is able to give meaning to the rock; but this is too obvious. Let’s go back to the example.
Even in presence of an egg, the rock continues to have no meaning and no existence as a unity
The rock_object springs up. The first semantic content of the chick_subject springs up. Something like the first stone of the Great Wall of China: The stone didn’t know it was going to be part of the future Great Wall
The rock_object has caused the birth of a relation between the rock_event and the chick_event. rock_event(rock_eventchick_event)
The chick, as a subject, does not happen if the rock had not happened as an object. We cannot talk about them separately. We have to look at the relation rock_event(rock_eventchick_event) from two different point of view. The constitutive element of reality is the relation.
The presence of the hen increases the number of relations inside the box. Another relation occurs: hen_event(hen_eventchick_event) chick_event(chick_eventhen_event) rock_event(rock _eventchick_event) rock _event(rock _eventhen_event)
Internalism vs Externalism • Internalism: the brain is necessary and sufficient for the occurrence of the mind • Externalism: not all mental things are exclusively located inside the head [or mind] of the persona or creature that has these things
Cristoph Koch, The Quest for Consciousness, Roberts & Company, 2004
A (radical) externalist approach subject and object are not two separate entities: they are two ways of describing the same physical process
When the sun is sufficienttly low on the horizon and projects its rays at an appropriate angle against a cloud, all the drops reflect the sunlight.
If there were no observers, the rays would not produce an effect as a whole because they would continue their travel in space without interacting.
Only those rays which have a particular geometrical relation to the observer are seen as a part of the rainbow
A given rainbow exists only when the observer is in a given position with respect to the external stimuli
If there were no observers, the rays will lose their opportunity to produce a joint effect. Therefore their cause (the supposed rainbow) would not have produced any effect and would not have existed as a cause. It could only have a theoretical existence. We assumed that there must have been a rainbow, but there wasn’t one.
If an observer were there, the rays would have hit her/his photoreceptors and a complex chain of physical processes would have continued from the retina to the cortical areas up to a point where the recognition of the rainbow as a whole would have taken place. Thanks to the existence of the physical structure of the observer, the drops of water of the rainbow have been able to produce a joint effect.