Re: How would a computer know if it were conscious?

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2007 21:11:23 +1000

On 03/06/07, <> wrote:

> How do you derive (a) ethics and (b) human-friendly ethics from reflective
> > intelligence? I don't see why an AI should decide to destroy the world,
> > save the world, or do anything at all to the world, unless it started
> off
> > with axioms and goals which pushed it in a particular direction.
> When reflective intelligence is applied to cognitive systems which
> reason about teleological concepts (which include values, motivations
> etc) the result is conscious 'feelings'. Reflective intelligence,
> recall, is the ability to correctly reason about cognitive systems.
> When applied to cognitive systems reasoning about teleological
> concepts this means the ability to correctly determine the
> motivational 'states' of self and others - as mentioned - doing this
> rapidly and accuracy generates 'feelings'. Since, as has been known
> since Hume, feelings are what ground ethics, the generation of
> feelings which represent accurate tokens about motivational
> automatically leads to ethical behaviour.

Determining the motivational states of others does not necessarily involve
feelings or empathy. It has been historically very easy to assume that other
species or certain members of our own species either lack feelings or, if
they have them, it doesn't matter. Moreover, this hasn't prevented people
from determining the motivations of inferior beings in order to exploit
them. So although having feelings may be necessary for ethical behaviour, it
is not sufficient.

Bad behaviour in humans is due to a deficit in reflective
> intelligence. It is known for instance, that psychopaths have great
> difficulty perceiving fear and sadness and negative motivational
> states in general. Correct representation of motivational states is
> correlated with ethical behaviour.

Psychopaths are often very good at understanding other peoples' feelings, as
evidenced by their ability to manipulate them. The main problem is that they
don't *care* about other people; they seem to lack the ability to be moved
by other peoples' emotions and lack the ability to experience emotions such
as guilt. But this isn't part of a general inability to feel emotion, as
they often present as enraged, entitled, depressed, suicidal, etc., and
these emotions are certainly enough to motivate them. Psychopaths have a
slightly different set of emotions, regulated in a different way compared to
the rest of us, but are otherwise cognitively intact.

Thus it appears that reflective
> intelligence is automatically correlated with ethical behaviour. Bear
> in mind, as I mentioned that: (1) There are in fact three kinds of
> general intelligence, and only one of them ('reflective intelligence')
> is correlated with ethics. The other two are not. A deficit in
> reflective intelligence does not affect the other two types of general
> intelligence (which is why for instance psychopaths could still score
> highly in IQ tests). And (2) Reflective intelligence in human beings
> is quite weak. This is the reason why intelligence does not appear to
> be much correlated with ethics in humans. But this fact in no way
> refutes the idea that a system with full and strong reflective
> intelligence would automatically be ethical.

Perhaps I haven't quite understood your definition of reflective
intelligence. It seems to me quite possible to "correctly reason about
cognitive systems", at least well enough to predict their behaviour to a
useful degree, and yet not care at all about what happens to them.
Furthermore, it seems possible to me to do this without even suspecting that
the cognitive system is conscious, or at least without being sure that it is

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sun Jun 03 2007 - 07:11:29 PDT

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