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

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2007 12:52:17 -0700 (PDT)

Part of what I wanted to get at in my thought experiment is the
bafflement and confusion an AI should feel when exposed to human ideas
about consciousness. Various people here have proffered their own
ideas, and we might assume that the AI would read these suggestions,
along with many other ideas that contradict the ones offered here.
It seems hard to escape the conclusion that the only logical response
is for the AI to figuratively throw up its hands and say that it is
impossible to know if it is conscious, because even humans cannot agree
on what consciousness is.

In particular I don't think an AI could be expected to claim that it
knows that it is conscious, that consciousness is a deep and intrinsic
part of itself, that whatever else it might be mistaken about it could
not be mistaken about being conscious. I don't see any logical way it
could reach this conclusion by studying the corpus of writings on the
topic. If anyone disagrees, I'd like to hear how it could happen.

And the corollary to this is that perhaps humans also cannot legitimately
make such claims, since logically their position is not so different
from that of the AI. In that case the seemingly axiomatic question of
whether we are conscious may after all be something that we could be
mistaken about.


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Received on Sun Jun 03 2007 - 17:05:04 PDT

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