Can machines be conscious?

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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Olympos » 01 Mar 2010 17:37

Well, to be clear, I don't believe in a 'magic spark'. I think we are very complex, adaptable primates ... the best around ... but in the grand scheme of things not *that* different from the other intelligent species on the planet.

If there is a single adaptation separating us from chimps, orcas, dolphins, etc., to me it is the ability of our brains to ask "what if," to think on a level of abstraction. Although we may ask a computer to consider a billion different scenarios in reaching a calculation, that is not really the "what if" I'm referring to. We cannot tell a computer, today, "well, use your imagination."

"What if" has been a good and bad adaptation for humans. It lets us build tools, adapt to any environment, solve complex problems. It also occasionally makes us psychotic: "what if my wife is sleeping with the mailman ..." or "what if [insert deity] wants me to kill infidels."

But I don't think anything magical brought us to that place. It is a function of our brain's complexity and the survival problems we were faced with. The ability to ask "what if" was a huge adaptive advantage over creatures that couldn't ask it, but it may be just as much of a freak in nature as a giraffe's neck. Ultimately I think a deeper understanding of what it is about our brain, structurally, that lets us both accurately perceive the world around us (important to avoid being eaten by predators) and yet consider completely imaginary scenarios (dangerous if you did nothing but live in that imaginary world) will lead us to the ability to 'virtualize' this process and create a machine with similar capabilities.

But as I said earlier, I think we won't understand it as nearly well as we expected once we achieve that.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby SadisticCynic » 01 Mar 2010 17:44

A Thing of Eternity wrote:I can't remember the author, but he wrote all those Berserker stories (giant AI spaceships programmed to kill everything everywhere), he came up with essentially the same concept. Every AI had at a radioactive core, and the random decay of the particles was what causes the machine to be conscious, by adding some randomization.


That is actually a very cool idea.

MrFlibble: Yeah I read the article today and realised that he did in fact answer it. What's more impressive is that his article was written in 1980 yet Dennett's book was written in 1991 (or thereabouts), so I may have misremembered Dennett's point. It's a good article though so thanks for the link. :)
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 01 Mar 2010 17:46

Okay, now I understand where you're coming from, and I agree - aside from that I do think a machine/artifical contruct could do everything we can (though as I mentioned earlier it might have to be radically different than the tech we're using now). Everything that is "us" has to have some source, an effect must have a cause (unless our conciousness ends up relying on quantum weirdness... then I concede defeat on that point... but still it could be something we might be able to recreate).

It might remain out of our reach though to truly understand how we are conscious, I agree with that point. But even if we don't understand what causes consciousness, we might well get close enough and then just run enough evolution programs that we stumble upon creating consciousness semi-accidentally.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Serkanner » 01 Mar 2010 17:54

A Thing of Eternity wrote:I can't remember the author, but he wrote all those Berserker stories (giant AI spaceships programmed to kill everything everywhere), he came up with essentially the same concept. Every AI had at a radioactive core, and the random decay of the particles was what causes the machine to be conscious, by adding some randomization.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berserker_%28Saberhagen%29
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 01 Mar 2010 18:01

Serkanner wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:I can't remember the author, but he wrote all those Berserker stories (giant AI spaceships programmed to kill everything everywhere), he came up with essentially the same concept. Every AI had at a radioactive core, and the random decay of the particles was what causes the machine to be conscious, by adding some randomization.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berserker_%28Saberhagen%29


Thanks Serkanner! That's the guy.

I think he hit on an important point that we're likely going to have to get creative to get a machine to be like us.

I think too many people think in terms of "how do we get a computer UP to our level"? The first part of that is easy, we eventually build a computer that can process as much information as fast as we can. But that's not what people really mean of course. I think we should be looking not at how to get a machine UP to our level, but how to break it in exactly the right way to bring it DOWN to our level. Our flaws are as much human as our strengths (some might argue they're more of what makes us human), so no one would ever accept a conscious machine as conscious unless it was conscious like us - broken consciousness.

Now I'm starting to let out my inner thoughts... probably not looking entirely sane now... :)
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby MrFlibble » 01 Mar 2010 19:00

A Thing of Eternity wrote:That argument relies on proving that we are in fact actually conscious and have freewill, something that to my knowledge we have not yet done. For all we know we could simply be very good imitations of consciousness and freewill. For all intents and purposes I live my life as if I have free will, and I think I do, in fact I'm sure I do - but wouldn't a machine programmed to simulate free will and consciousness think that?

The fun thing is that "free will" or "consciousness" are more of our theories (and I mean not only scientific theories, but also naive, "folk" theories as well) about certain parts of our experience, about ourselves, than anything else. In fact, there might be no "real" free will or consciousness "out there" to emulate.

A Thing of Eternity wrote:That's why I mentioned the idea that flaws might be necessary to create freewill and consciousness, a randomization that simulates/creates original thought. Maybe the limitations and miss-firings in our brain are part of what makes us conscious, and as such a machine would have to be built where the hardware itself was flawed in just the right way.

I can't remember the author, but he wrote all those Berserker stories (giant AI spaceships programmed to kill everything everywhere), he came up with essentially the same concept. Every AI had at a radioactive core, and the random decay of the particles was what causes the machine to be conscious, by adding some randomization.

Randomizations and flaws can be programmed as well. It's an interesting concept, actually, and, on a somewhat related note, I remember from my neurobiology lectures (just an introductory course) that when, for example, the motion of a limb is "calculated" by the neurons in the motor cortex, each of the participating neurons gives only an approximate result, and all those approximates are then "summed up" to give a fairly accurate movement trajectory. Sorry I can't be more specific on this right now, and have no sources to point to for further information.

Olympos wrote:If there is a single adaptation separating us from chimps, orcas, dolphins, etc., to me it is the ability of our brains to ask "what if," to think on a level of abstraction.

I'm certain that this feature, and some rudimentary abstract thinking is present in other mammals, or, at least, in other primates.

Olympos wrote:It also occasionally makes us psychotic: "what if my wife is sleeping with the mailman ..." or "what if [insert deity] wants me to kill infidels."

I can't remember where I heard or read this, but there's that theory that our intellectual capabilities and their importance to adaptation put humans under huge mental stress and place them in a greater risk of all sorts of mental disorders. It seems that every advantageous adaptive feature comes with a price, like bipedal locomotion increases the pressure on the spine, or the configuration of our speech organs is such that a baby cannot breathe and suck simultaneously during breastfeeding, and is put at risk of choking.

Olympos wrote:But I don't think anything magical brought us to that place. It is a function of our brain's complexity and the survival problems we were faced with. The ability to ask "what if" was a huge adaptive advantage over creatures that couldn't ask it, but it may be just as much of a freak in nature as a giraffe's neck. Ultimately I think a deeper understanding of what it is about our brain, structurally, that lets us both accurately perceive the world around us (important to avoid being eaten by predators) and yet consider completely imaginary scenarios (dangerous if you did nothing but live in that imaginary world) will lead us to the ability to 'virtualize' this process and create a machine with similar capabilities.

And of course, a huge adaptive advantage was the development of our language, which further helped abstract thinking, as well as increased and more effective cooperation between the individuals.

A Thing of Eternity wrote:I think too many people think in terms of "how do we get a computer UP to our level"? The first part of that is easy, we eventually build a computer that can process as much information as fast as we can.

Or, rather, as little information as slow as we can ;)

I think there's an ethical edge to the question as well. Do we really want machines that are conscious like us? There's the uncanny valley effect, and I think it's rather telling. After all, even the most sophisticated computer is merely a tool. A true artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is not, and will probably be treated differently if ever created (I hope not if you ask me). BTW, there's an interesting story by Stanislaw Lem from his Tales of Pirx the Pilot concerning this issue, which was made into a film in 1978. Interestingly, the similar theme of androids disguised as humans is explored in Alien, produced only a year later.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 01 Mar 2010 19:17

MrFlibble wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:That argument relies on proving that we are in fact actually conscious and have freewill, something that to my knowledge we have not yet done. For all we know we could simply be very good imitations of consciousness and freewill. For all intents and purposes I live my life as if I have free will, and I think I do, in fact I'm sure I do - but wouldn't a machine programmed to simulate free will and consciousness think that?

The fun thing is that "free will" or "consciousness" are more of our theories (and I mean not only scientific theories, but also naive, "folk" theories as well) about certain parts of our experience, about ourselves, than anything else. In fact, there might be no "real" free will or consciousness "out there" to emulate.


Thanks Flibble, that is actually what I was trying to say, but was unable to articulate it.

MrFlibble wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:I think too many people think in terms of "how do we get a computer UP to our level"? The first part of that is easy, we eventually build a computer that can process as much information as fast as we can.

Or, rather, as little information as slow as we can ;)
I think there's an ethical edge to the question as well. Do we really want machines that are conscious like us? There's the uncanny valley effect, and I think it's rather telling. After all, even the most sophisticated computer is merely a tool. A true artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is not, and will probably be treated differently if ever created (I hope not if you ask me). BTW, there's an interesting story by Stanislaw Lem from his Tales of Pirx the Pilot concerning this issue, which was made into a film in 1978. Interestingly, the similar theme of androids disguised as humans is explored in Alien, produced only a year later.


Well, our conscious minds process very slowly, but I was under the impression that our subconscious/brain on a whole is estimated to process several times more information per second than the fastest supercomputers today. Maybe I am incorrect? Not really important though.

I get what you're saying about people's revulsion, and the ethics of creating something beyond a tool. I would hope for AIs that do not walk around in bodies, but live "in the box", and are very little like ourselves. I would hope that they would be treated as sentients should be treated.

Do we really want machines that are conscious like us? Not really, other than for the sheer challenge of pulling it off. What we (I...) would really want is to create machines that are far beyond our consciousness. Why? Why not? Think about how limited we are in science because of our lack of total recall, our inability to figure out what lead up to our "hunches" (not that hunches are bad, but it would be nice if we had a least a little more access to our subconscious to see where the hunch came from). What kind of advances could be made by a machine with all the speed and accuracy of a computer, but with a little imagination thrown in for good measure? The implications are staggering, and frankly frightening - as are most scenarios that could lead to the so-called Singularity.

But DAMN wouldn't it be interesting!
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby MrFlibble » 01 Mar 2010 19:32

A Thing of Eternity wrote:Do we really want machines that are conscious like us? Not really, other than for the sheer challenge of pulling it off. What we (I...) would really want is to create machines that are far beyond our consciousness. Why? Why not? Think about how limited we are in science because of our lack of total recall, our inability to figure out what lead up to our "hunches" (not that hunches are bad, but it would be nice if we had a least a little more access to our subconscious to see where the hunch came from). What kind of advances could be made by a machine with all the speed and accuracy of a computer, but with a little imagination thrown in for good measure? The implications are staggering, and frankly frightening - as are most scenarios that could lead to the so-called Singularity.

Hm, I'd rather look forward to augmenting our own brains/minds with computer components, some sort of machine/mind interface (also a dubious ground for speculation, though). What's the fun in creating a machine that would have a much richer intellectual experience, knowing that your own mind is not advanced enough to take part in it?
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 01 Mar 2010 23:01

MrFlibble wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:Do we really want machines that are conscious like us? Not really, other than for the sheer challenge of pulling it off. What we (I...) would really want is to create machines that are far beyond our consciousness. Why? Why not? Think about how limited we are in science because of our lack of total recall, our inability to figure out what lead up to our "hunches" (not that hunches are bad, but it would be nice if we had a least a little more access to our subconscious to see where the hunch came from). What kind of advances could be made by a machine with all the speed and accuracy of a computer, but with a little imagination thrown in for good measure? The implications are staggering, and frankly frightening - as are most scenarios that could lead to the so-called Singularity.

Hm, I'd rather look forward to augmenting our own brains/minds with computer components, some sort of machine/mind interface (also a dubious ground for speculation, though). What's the fun in creating a machine that would have a much richer intellectual experience, knowing that your own mind is not advanced enough to take part in it?




I don't know that we would enjoy that kind of augmentation past a certain degree though. Look at people, everyone you've ever met. How conscious do they choose to be vs how conscious they are capable of being? People deliberately take the path of least resistance, they don't want to know their clothing is made by child slaves, they don't want to think about the ramifications of their diet, they don't want to question their religion, even if they secretly know they're wrong. They'd rather bury emotions than work through them. People want to know less, want to think less. We even have a phrase "ignorance is bliss".



Obviously that's not all people, just the vast majority - but maybe we all have a bit of that. Consciousness is difficult and painful, running on auto pilot is easier. I'd love to have total recall, but even if I had to actively select total recall rather than have it function like normal memory, might it not consume me? Might I get trapped reliving the best day of my life, or even if not trapped, not be able to forget it enough to pretend to myself that I might have another day like that one again? Same goes for negative memories.



Being more conscious - what if you simply could not turn off the logic in your brain like we can now, or turn off sympathy? It'd be a better world, but a painful one.



Hey - I'd personally go for it, assuming it was reversable in case it turned out to be a mistake - but I don't think it'd be a good idea for most people. Most people would rather have the consciousness taken care of by the machines so they can relax while someone else finds cures for deseases and figures out how to fix crumbling economies. It's kinda like our current political systems "I elect you to think and decide for me, because it's easier than referendum after referendum".
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby reverendmotherQ. » 02 Mar 2010 10:43

Crysknife wrote:It took nature 4 billion years through evolution to create a structure complex enough to become self aware. Just as we have a hard time creating an artificial muscle, which took much less time for nature to produce, we will have a hard time creating something that is conscious.

We've only had about 50 good years dealing with mechanical brains of any sort, but to say we will never make something that can be self aware and intelligent goes against our one example that nature has already produced. There is no magic or spirits needed to explain complexity. If you pump in enough energy into something, it will have every opportunity to generate enough complexity to even surpass us. It's a large universe, to say that we are the pinnacle of consciousness is a gross misconception.

Aye, that I agree with. We just havent given enough time for the technology to advance and our understanding of how consciousness works to be implemented.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Olympos » 02 Mar 2010 10:47

MrFlibble wrote:
Olympos wrote:It also occasionally makes us psychotic: "what if my wife is sleeping with the mailman ..." or "what if [insert deity] wants me to kill infidels."

I can't remember where I heard or read this, but there's that theory that our intellectual capabilities and their importance to adaptation put humans under huge mental stress and place them in a greater risk of all sorts of mental disorders. It seems that every advantageous adaptive feature comes with a price, like bipedal locomotion increases the pressure on the spine, or the configuration of our speech organs is such that a baby cannot breathe and suck simultaneously during breastfeeding, and is put at risk of choking.

Oh, I've believed this for a long time. I think we are relatively poorly adapted to our intelligence, and that this is very much an ongoing process in our species. Cognition puts us under enormous stress. We go crazy. We become self-destructive. We make irrational choices. The extreme evolution of our brain, the giraffe's neck aspect of intelligence, had some great advantages that helped us spread far & wide across the planet, but I don't think we're done adapting to it by any means.

And of course, the jury is still out on whether it's an adaptation that ultimately is going to kill us all anyway.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby MrFlibble » 02 Mar 2010 15:20

A Thing of Eternity wrote:Being more conscious - what if you simply could not turn off the logic in your brain like we can now, or turn off sympathy? It'd be a better world, but a painful one.

Hey - I'd personally go for it, assuming it was reversable in case it turned out to be a mistake - but I don't think it'd be a good idea for most people. Most people would rather have the consciousness taken care of by the machines so they can relax while someone else finds cures for deseases and figures out how to fix crumbling economies. It's kinda like our current political systems "I elect you to think and decide for me, because it's easier than referendum after referendum".

I think we should distinguish between "being conscious" and "being conscious about something", the latter obviously only possible if there is consciousness/awareness present. I don't think artificial augmentation could help people become more conscious about the world and its issues - rather, I thought of some kind of general improvements to our cognitive abilities.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Xenu » 03 Mar 2010 05:22

MrFlibble wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:Do we really want machines that are conscious like us? Not really, other than for the sheer challenge of pulling it off. What we (I...) would really want is to create machines that are far beyond our consciousness. Why? Why not? Think about how limited we are in science because of our lack of total recall, our inability to figure out what lead up to our "hunches" (not that hunches are bad, but it would be nice if we had a least a little more access to our subconscious to see where the hunch came from). What kind of advances could be made by a machine with all the speed and accuracy of a computer, but with a little imagination thrown in for good measure? The implications are staggering, and frankly frightening - as are most scenarios that could lead to the so-called Singularity.

Hm, I'd rather look forward to augmenting our own brains/minds with computer components, some sort of machine/mind interface (also a dubious ground for speculation, though). What's the fun in creating a machine that would have a much richer intellectual experience, knowing that your own mind is not advanced enough to take part in it?

Ah, you're a fellow transhumanist!

I too have the outlook on life that mankind should focus on improving it's mental and physical abilities by the usage of technology. Though it should naturally do so carefully.

Speaking of what lends us what we perceive as 'consciousness' etc, I in a way hope we never find out. Why? Because to me, mysticism adds an extra spice to life that makes it more interesting.

I personally would find life far interesting if we were to understand everything about the world, how everything worked etc.

Also, I tried reading all of this thread but it gave me too much of a headache and made me feel like a damned dirty ape when it comes to my intellectual capabilities. Which I guess I do, since I dropped out of secondary education.*Hides from mockery*

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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby reverendmotherQ. » 04 Mar 2010 09:38

Xenu wrote:Speaking of what lends us what we perceive as 'consciousness' etc, I in a way hope we never find out. Why? Because to me, mysticism adds an extra spice to life that makes it more interesting.


I find it more beautiful when I understand how things work. That's the "mysticism" of knowing. And I don't think it's possible to know everything in a universe like ours. So no worries, mate.

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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Harq al Ada » 04 Mar 2010 13:32

haven't had a chance to read much of this thread yet.

here's a bit from Mark Twain
http://www.readbookonline.net/read/402/9682/
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Xenu » 04 Mar 2010 15:42

reverendmotherQ. wrote:
Xenu wrote:Speaking of what lends us what we perceive as 'consciousness' etc, I in a way hope we never find out. Why? Because to me, mysticism adds an extra spice to life that makes it more interesting.


I find it more beautiful when I understand how things work. That's the "mysticism" of knowing. And I don't think it's possible to know everything in a universe like ours. So no worries, mate.

True, sometimes I just take my hand when I'm in bed and move it around and try to visualize all the 'interactions' involved in something as "simple" as moving around my fingers.. If you understand what I mean.

And I agree, I doubt we'll ever fully understand/know everything there is to know about our universe.

Also, I feel compelled to ask, is "mate" a form of friendly way to refer to someone these days or is it used in a bit of a mocking way/condescending way? Weird question I know but I've been on some forums where they choose to specifically use words like "mate" and "dude" when they're making fun of an individual.

And I realize I'm probably coming off as annoying now, damnit.

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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 04 Mar 2010 17:17

I think mate is just something we North Americans stole from the Aussies, it's totally friendly.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Leto Atreides II » 04 Mar 2010 21:55

A Thing of Eternity wrote:
Leto Atreides II wrote:Supernatural? Magic? I'm talking about energy. This is no more magical or supernatural than electrons, protons, quarks, microwaves or radio waves. Even our fleshly bodies ultimately reduce to charges of energy; why should the consciousness principle be any different?


Yeah... when you start adding words like "soul" it 99.999999999% of the time means that a person is thinking of "extra" energy that can't be measured and some how isn't caused or sorted by our physical brain. Obviously "consciousness" is energy - but it's not just energy, it's patterned energy.

If you're talking about just regular old scientific energy, then what exactly is so special about our consciousness that you can't accept that it is caused by our brain?
Because it seems illogical to me that a lump of meat could generate consciousness. Surely the slightest chemical imbalance could disrupt it easily enough that people would be constantly falling dead, going insane, or variously otherwise suffering gross inconveniences triggered perhaps by chemicals in food or in the air. The human consciousness is too resilient, too enduring. The pounding that a brain can take without affecting the core of consciousness suggests that the consciousness principle, or soul as I refer to it, is something far more subtle and enduring than a chemical process in a lump of meat.
A Thing of Eternity wrote:I'm a bit lost on your stance now, maybe a little background on whether you're coming at this from a spiritual or atheist point of veiw might help me sort out what you mean by "soul".
I have certain spiritual beliefs, but my view of science is open-minded enough to accept that virtually anything is possible. I do tend to consider some things more possible than others, as with preferring to think of a subtle soul as the seat of consciousness rather than a lump of meat.

Since it isn't known for sure, one way or the other, I don't think it any more foolish to assume that a soul may exist, than to assume that the brain may generate awareness. Until scientific progress sheds some light on the subject one way or the other, I'll continue to gravitate towards which theory makes more sense in my own eyes.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby SandChigger » 05 Mar 2010 05:04

Your repeated reference to one of the most complex and evolved biological structures on this planet as a "lump of meat" kinda says it all, no?

My "lump of meat" finds that rather offensive.

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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Olympos » 05 Mar 2010 10:34

The human consciousness is too resilient, too enduring. The pounding that a brain can take without affecting the core of consciousness ...

Yet clearly, structural damage and chemical imbalance can and do affect personality and behavior in humans. What you associate with the concept of a 'soul' is no more resilient than our ability to walk or process math: if you damage the wrong parts of the brain change occurs.

It is an amazingly resilient structure and its redundancy is a great asset for us, you can lose some functionality through injury and regain it through retraining intact parts of the brain. You can lose memory from one area but still access it through redundant storage in other locations.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 05 Mar 2010 12:52

Yeah, that argument doesn't make sense, small chemical imbalances DO end consciousness all the time, as do small blows to the head, bullets, etc. The way you state your argument sounds exactly like what I would imagine someone from a thousand years ago saying about a computer "there's no way a hunk of metal does what a computer does - there must be something supernatural running it". Just because our brain can continue functioning when slightly effected by outside stimuli doesn't mean it has to have supernatural assistance to do so.

Also, it is not equally valid to assume there is a soul and to assume there isn't, just as it is not equally valid to assume the universe has a creator and that it doesn't - just because we don't know for sure. One of each of those assumptions assumes a vastly more complex and inexplicable answer to questions that have more reasonable answers.

Not that I'm saying there isn't a creator 100% or that there isn't a soul 100% (though I am dead sure of both myself) but those two things CERTAINLY are not 50/50 probability, that ratio is heavily weighted to one side in reality.

I'm sorry if this all comes off as rude, but it's not your position that bugs me, it's your lack of an ability to defend your position with any real evidence other than "this is too complicated for me (or anyone for that matter) to understand, therefor there is something supernatural going on". That's how we ended up with gods, and believing in creators and that the sun goes around the earth (the reality was much to complicated for people once upon a time, much ealiser to just believe that the sun goes around). Several other people in this thread have also dissagreed with me that the brain causes consciousness, and I respect their arguments because they actually made me think.

I hate getting into arguments like this because I really have no interest in bashing people's supernatural beliefs and making them feel bad - I just wish we'd hurry up and prove some of this stuff so that religious people would let it go. We did it with the Earth not being the center of the universe, we've essentially done it with evolution, pretty soon we should have proved that homosexuality isn't just a sinful choice... we've reasonably proven that the universe and life on this planet don't require a creator... once we can prove that consciousness doesn't require a soul we'll be one tiny step closer to everyone giving up this religion business and moving on with our history.
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Leto Atreides II
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Leto Atreides II » 07 Mar 2010 01:32

A Thing of Eternity wrote:I'm sorry if this all comes off as rude, but it's not your position that bugs me, it's your lack of an ability to defend your position with any real evidence other than "this is too complicated for me (or anyone for that matter) to understand, therefor there is something supernatural going on". That's how we ended up with gods, and believing in creators and that the sun goes around the earth (the reality was much to complicated for people once upon a time, much ealiser to just believe that the sun goes around). Several other people in this thread have also dissagreed with me that the brain causes consciousness, and I respect their arguments because they actually made me think.

And yet, it hasn't been proven that the brain does generate awareness; so how would assuming that to be the case be any different than my assuming otherwise?

I can imagine the attempt to ape consciousness with machines. Give them sensory organs; camera eyes, microphone ears, chemical receptacle tastebuds and olfactories, pressure/temperature sensitive areas... give them a powerful central processing unit and data storage centers to compute all the sensory input... give them a program with a set of parameters for self-preservation, maintenance and reproduction. Give them all that and optical-fibre CPU and hard drives so they can compute at the speed of light and react to situations and make decisions faster than humans... and we still haven't given them awareness, though they might have the outward appearance of being aware to a casual anthropomorphizing observer. The ability to compute sensory input and react to it does not equate with awareness. So how do we go about awakening machines to consciousness?
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Leto Atreides II
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Leto Atreides II » 07 Mar 2010 01:34

SandChigger wrote:Your repeated reference to one of the most complex and evolved biological structures on this planet as a "lump of meat" kinda says it all, no?

My "lump of meat" finds that rather offensive.

Interesting. I could spew insults at the most advanced computers without their taking offense. What's driving that lump of meat that the most advanced machines cannot acquire?
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Leto Atreides II
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby Leto Atreides II » 07 Mar 2010 01:36

Olympos wrote:
The human consciousness is too resilient, too enduring. The pounding that a brain can take without affecting the core of consciousness ...

Yet clearly, structural damage and chemical imbalance can and do affect personality and behavior in humans. What you associate with the concept of a 'soul' is no more resilient than our ability to walk or process math: if you damage the wrong parts of the brain change occurs.

It is an amazingly resilient structure and its redundancy is a great asset for us, you can lose some functionality through injury and regain it through retraining intact parts of the brain. You can lose memory from one area but still access it through redundant storage in other locations.
Personality, behaviour, functionality, memory... all things we can achieve in machines.
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Re: Can machines be conscious?

Postby MrFlibble » 07 Mar 2010 09:03

Leto Atreides II wrote:And yet, it hasn't been proven that the brain does generate awareness; so how would assuming that to be the case be any different than my assuming otherwise?

Postulating an extra metaphysical entity is not a favourable decision, and Occam's Razor says no.

Leto Atreides II wrote:I can imagine the attempt to ape consciousness with machines. Give them sensory organs; camera eyes, microphone ears, chemical receptacle tastebuds and olfactories, pressure/temperature sensitive areas... give them a powerful central processing unit and data storage centers to compute all the sensory input... give them a program with a set of parameters for self-preservation, maintenance and reproduction. Give them all that and optical-fibre CPU and hard drives so they can compute at the speed of light and react to situations and make decisions faster than humans... and we still haven't given them awareness, though they might have the outward appearance of being aware to a casual anthropomorphizing observer. The ability to compute sensory input and react to it does not equate with awareness.

John Searle writes about that too, creating a machine "analog" of a living organism. The difference is that machines consist of machine parts, while organisms consist of living cells that work on a different principle.

Leto Atreides II wrote:Interesting. I could spew insults at the most advanced computers without their taking offense. What's driving that lump of meat that the most advanced machines cannot acquire?

Eh, computers are tools. You'd expect as much reaction to insults from a computer as from a screwdriver. Humans, on the other hand, have emotions, which are also a necessary part of the survival programme, and emotional states in fact result from a complex interaction of processes within the body and various parts of the brain (hormone expression, changes in blood pressure and pulse etc.).

Leto Atreides II wrote:Personality, behaviour, functionality, memory... all things we can achieve in machines.

I think you would like to elaborate a bit more on how the creation of personality within a machine is accomplished.
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