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

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2007 15:50:09 +1000 (EST)

Hi Russel,

> I don't see that you've made your point.
> If you achieve this, you have created an artificial
> creative process, a sort of holy grail of AI/ALife.

Well? So what? Somebody has to do it. :-)

The 'holy grail' terminology implies (subtext) that the creative process
is some sort of magical unapproachable topic or is the exclusive domain of
discipline X and that is not me.... beliefs I can't really buy into. I
don't need anyone's permission to do what I do.

Creativity in humans is perfectly natural, evolved in the brutal and
inefficient experimental lab of evolution and survives because it was
necessary for a _scientist_ (not cognitive agents of any other kind - I do
not claim that) -to come into existence. A scientist is a specific, highly
specialised, very highly defined behavioural subset of the biological
world with reproducible outputs that relate directly to consciousness that
can be verified. It is the ONLY example to use for in respect of any
claims of consciousness in an artifact.

I suppose I have made a judgement call - a design choice- as an engineer
doing AGI - which I am perfectly entitled to do. It uses the only real
benchmark we have for the processes involved. As an empirical proposition
it is better placed than anything else I have ever heard from anyone
anywhere, ever....why?....It has measurable outcomes using the _one and
only_ definitive, verified and repeatable provider of 3rd person evidence
of the creative process and its intimate relationship to
consciousness - scientists themselves.

> However, it seems far from obvious that consciousness should
> be necessary.

It is perfectly obvious! Do a scientific experiment on yourself. Close
your eyes and then tell me you can do science as well. Qualia gone =
Science GONE. For crying out loud - am I the only only that gets
this?......Any other position that purports to be able to deliver anything
like the functionality of a scientist without involving ALL the
functionality (especially qualia) of a scientist must be based on
assumptions - assumptions I do not make.

It's not that all AI is necessarily conscious. It is not that all
conscious entities are scientists. The position is designed to be able to
make one single, very specific, cogent conclusive verifiable position
_once_. Having scientifically reached that point other positions on the
role/necessity/presence of consciousness in biology and machine can follow.

> Biological evolution is widely considered to be creative
> (even exponentially so), but few would argue that the
> biosphere is conscious (and has been for ca 4E10 years).

The second law of thermodynamics is the driver. I know that!.....and who
is arguing that the biosphere is conscious? It has nothing to do with my
engineering position/design/benchmarking choice. The creative act is, in
the case of scientists - being "verfiably and serendipitously not-wrong"
in respect of propositions about the natural world = empirical method.
This, in a human, including all the relevant cognitive processes - and
_especially_ the physics of qualia - is a perfectly valid benchmark.

If a human must have consciousness to do science (the physics that exposes
a scientist/agent appropriately to the real novelty around them, external
to the scientist) and a machine can do science as well then that machine
is conscious. QED. If you know what qualia are (have a proposition for
them)and you switch them off (which I am proposing) and the ability to do
science fails.... QED...and your proposition in respect of qualia has
reach a level of empirical validity. This method has empirical teeth.
Indeed I would defy _anyone_ to undermine it without making unfounded
a-priori assumptions as to nature and role of the physics of
qualia....that is, unscientific or quasi-religious adherence to axioms
that were defined by the observation process in the first place.

I believe this kind of discussion in this thread to be flawed because time
and time again it fails to make use of the simplest of questions. Read it
very carefully:

"What is the underlying universe in which those things we observe in brain
material (atoms, molecules, cells doing their dance), all defined _using_
observation would be/could be responsible _for
observation itself_ AND make it look like it does (atoms, molecules, cells
doing their dance)"

For _that_ universe is the one we inhabit. This is an empirically
testable, validly explored area. That universe - whatever it is- is not
that universe defined by/within observation atoms, molcules, cells etc).
It is the universe that LOOKS LIKE atoms, molcules, cells when you use the
observation faculty provided by it because whatever it is those things are
made of, WE _ARE_ IT.

If you can't see this....let's see.... defines the
f(t) = sin(t)
we observe a sine wave, we characterise it as appearing within our
consciousness as shown. Now ask "what is it that is behaving
sine-wave-ly". Whatever that is, it is NOT a sine wave. Another question
to ask "What is it like to BE a sine wave?". These are all aspects of the
same thing.

Now consider one of the models (sine waves) -
computationalism/functionalism - defined through an observation. What is
the observation? .....That universe seems to be performing computation or
information do we do with that observation?....
We jump to the unfounded conclusion that any form of computation in some
undefined way leads to consciousness (= all siine waves are

This is as flawed as any similar explanation as it is logically
indistiguishable and as empirically useless as the equivalent belief: "I
believe observation (consiousness) is invoked by the tooth fairy on

The only real, verifiable evidence of consciousness we have is the
existence of scientists and their output. It may seem a hard task to set
yourself as an AI worker... but TOUGH - nobody said it had to be easy -
and it is no reason to set it aside in favour of an empirically useless
"tooth fairy hypothesis for consciousness".

At least I have a plan.

so in relation to....

> I don't see that you've made your point.

I'd like to think that I have. My AI/Human scientist face-off stands as is
and I defy anyone to come up with something practical/better that isn't
axiomatically flawed. Everything is scientific evidence of something.
Scientists are no exception.

colin hales

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Received on Tue Jun 05 2007 - 01:50:24 PDT

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