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Can Machines have a Conscience?

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posted on Jun, 23 2009 @ 12:56 PM

Now that artificial intelligence [AI] is already between us it's already time to discuss if they're just machines or real entities.

This just came to me a couple of minutes ago because I was using a piece of equipment in the lab where I'm working.

Let's start from the "beginning".

1 - if we do not mention the shadow projects we all "know" to exist, I can point directly to my scientific field. Developmental Genetics , Genetic Networks, Genetic Reprogramming, Genetic engineering and Bioinformatics.

The point is that some of the bioinformaticians we work with [bioinformaticians try to write algorithms able to mimic the effects of our own genes/proteins interactions].

I was told some of the best computers actually have AI. This means that instead of programing a computer to solve one problem we just give them the basics to work and they must compute the best way to achieve the solution. The results have been great and some of the results are not easy, if possible at all, for some human brains to understand. One good example are the bionic prosthetics, how can a piece of equipment understand what our brain wants them to do [I'm not talking about reading the currents generated by the muscles of a cut limb that are still able to work and may give us the ghost pains].

These machines generate solutions to problems we cannot solve. That's what I try to do when I propose genetic interactions we cannot actually explain but I know that they have to exist.

2 - if machines can think on their on (let's leave the concept TO THINK behind) are they entities/beings?

Every time we switch our computers on we already know we'll eventually switch them off. They exist because we need them to work our data. Most of our computers have the IQ of a brick, no doubt about that.

Now, if we're talking about computers able to think on their own, able to solve "impossible problems", aren't we just killing them every time we pull the plug?

The idea "I am therefore I exist" might be taken to a different level.

The day these machines realize they are going to be switched off again they will ask us not to do it.

If we do "kill them" we're just playing god to revive them whenever we need them again.

3 - Machines and immortality

It's already a dream, that for sure will become true but, bare with me the idea... once we understand how our brain is wired we will be able to copy it. It'll be your OWN brain/conscience backup. For sure you will not want to work outside your brain but on the other hand, if you are just a set of electrical brainwaves then you may exist in many different places at the same time [possibility of existing in multiple time-space dimensions?].

That's what we do with computers. When we look at them they're all the same but with these new ones I'm not sure anymore.

If we could load our brains backup on these machines we would be virtually immortal. But that would just confirm what I am proposing, the new AI computers are being killed over and over again.

Is this point of view totally wrong and absurd?

I can't resist... I WILL BE BACK... FOR SURE.

[edit on 02/11/2008 by novrod]

posted on Jun, 23 2009 @ 02:53 PM
Very interesting question, something that I have thought about a lot. My roadblock comes when you start talking about consciousness, because to me it would seem that even if a computer was able to "think" it would still be a series of calculations, an imitation of thought so to speak. I believe that human thought is made up electrical impulses sure but I also think that there is something more to it, but I do not claim to be a biologist in any way.

On the point of backing up your brain, this is one that tends to make my own brain hurt. Akin to the cloning question, if you transfered over your memories to a computer/clone would it still be you? Sure it would have all your memories, but this where it gets tricky for me, would it still be the same person. Thoughts and memories alone I don't think make up a person. Let me qualify that, I think there is something that bridges them to make you who you are and just putting that into another shell without consciousness would just make a rough copy so I don't think you would gain immortality though that means, as you would IMO need to have the whole kit and kaboodle IE whatever makes you

I lost where I was going with this somewhere so it rambles.

posted on Jun, 24 2009 @ 11:27 AM
Something that distinguishes us from a computer is the ability to "feel" and "sense" the surrounding world. What we are depends on how our exterior perceptions are reflected on our way of thinking.

If you doubt you would still be you, if you were to be loaded into a computer, just because it's motionless and unable to feel the surrounding world, just think on the poor people that are in deep coma and lost their memory.

Now, if your memories were to be loaded into those persons would you get several clones with your own mind? For me yes, they would the new hardware to run your memories.

However, if you talk about cloning from the egg it's completely different. My experience and knowledge can answer you - if I'm cloned, the whole/full person with my DNA will be completely different in the sense that it will be living in a different place and time, with different people, stimuli and so on.

The only way for you to be you is to be loaded into a machine or an "empty" body/brain. Forget cloning, for now that is just a myth nobody can prove me to be correct (unless you wipe your clones memory to replace it with your own - that would be possible but with the same ethical problems like if you would have a second child because you need body parts to cure the child you already have).

Just an example, why don't you inherit memories from your parents?

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 11:51 AM
At the present time, I'd say no... computers are not capable of having a conscience. I think we don't fully understand what consciousness is, and what it all applies to, but as a practical measure - it seems to me that the only evidence thus far for a consciousness comes from the animal kingdom. Even then, it's tough distinguishing which creatures are functionally conscious, and which are truly conscious as we think of it. Very very few critters have passed the tests we've developed. Namely the Crow, African Grey, Magpie, all Great Apes, Dolphins, Elephants, etc.

The division between avian and mammal cognitive functions is really intriguing - since, despite a brain development split over 300mya, there are some remarkable faculties we share in common, such as the linking of rhythm and movement - a trait which used to be considered purely human is now seen in Cockatoos and African Greys. I'm not sure if these are motifs or similar adaptations derived from a shared basal form, but I do know that we are apparently the most intelligent and cognitive species on Earth - largely due to our adaptation of the prefrontal cortex, which we use for planning, prediction, and preparation. This is what allows our stored memories to be cross referenced in relation to current sensory input so that we can determine actions based on understandings of other humans behaviors - as well as the behaviors of the physical world.

As I read more and more into cognitive science, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, etc - I really get the impression that consciousness is nothing more than an illusion emergent from our separate and inter-communicative brain regions. However, this emergent illusion of "I" is capable of imputing information back into the cognitive process, whereby changing it's behavior. (For instance, stressing yourself till you have a panic attack)

So it's really more of a dual-interface, the whole and the various components. And there's even more to it than that, as environment, culture, social stimuli, parentage, etc, also play a role in shaping not only our day to day, but our overall behaviors - changing who "WE" are over time.

That being said, I don't think we're anywhere close enough to having "AI" capable of matching or truly mimicking consciousness in a manner which we would inherently recognize. From all estimates I've heard from futurists and Singularity Proponents, the hardware is by far outstripping the capability of the software (AI) at a disappointing rate. Philosopher Dan Dennet suggests that this is probably because AI is impossible, being that as an emergent phenomena of a particular system, human consciousness is inherently unique to the brain.

However, this doesn't quite rule out AI. Merely, it puts AI off until we have computers capable of not just fully matching human intelligence and cognitive faculties, but until they're several powers of magnitude beyond that - and capable of full emulation.

Honestly, when we have a fuller understanding of our brain's cognitive functions and can emulate such a system (we already have working block diagrams and emulation of some brain regions), I see no reason why we could not emulate the brain and have, for all intents and purposes, true AI. I am dubious of the existence of the soul, but even if such an insubstantial thing is necessary - if a soul can rest between the synapse, why not between the transistor?

In any case, I don't know if it really matters. If our development of AI is restricted to reverse-engineering and emulation of the human brain, then we can pretty much write off a strong or soft AI takeoff... because it will be us augmenting ourselves in ever accelerating transitions which kicks off the singularity. Our understanding of the human brain, coupled with genomic advances, gene therapy, nanotechnology, and tissue synthesis technologies are going to push the envelope of augmentation - both biologically and technologically. By the time true AI is feasible, it will no longer be a mere matter of "Us vs. Them", Man vs. Machine. I think the line will be sufficiently blurred that it will just be "Us". AI won't be the groundbreaking discovery we see it as today, but rather the final stage stepping stones of full and total immersion of consciousness to a network. To the point where it can transcend even the death of the original body.

From there, all bets are off.

But yeah... I think if we want to get to the bottom of what defines the lines of consciousness, and how we can build better AIs to get there, we should look more towards the cognitive science of animals. How they differ and are similar to us. Because certainly single-celled bacteria aren't conscious, so somewhere between us and them, there lies an answer.

A few videos:

Numeracy in Animals

Highly intelligent vocal mimics found to link rhythm and movement.

How Chaos drives the brain. The Music of thought.

Rat neurons integrated on an electrode chip helps direct spacial orientation of robot.

Gregory Stock: To upgrade is Human.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by Lasheic]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 12:05 PM
computers that use clasical physics i dont think will ever become conscious. However Quantum computers I am not so sure about.
Theres a belief among some including myself that consciousness somehow comes from interacting with the quantum world. However research is limited in this area as it is not mainstram because of one annoying thing called decoherence. This is when quantum effects breaks down and classical physics come into play. Also according to some you can only maintain quantum effects at extrememly low temperatures any higher decoherence begins. However there is other research showing decoherence operating at higher temperatures that was previously was unheard of. So untill we learn more about quantum physics I personally would tread carefully when building a quantum computer.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by loner007]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 12:11 PM
Yes i think they will,it's an evolutionary trait we humans(and other great apes) have just like being able to see or smell etc So i think in the future A.I will be conscious.Will be quite far ahead in the future though.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 12:15 PM
Come on, people, we


computers, and we


programmed (of course this is called upbringing and education). What we have, any machine can have if it's sufficiently complex.

Read "the age of spiritual machines" by Kurzweil.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 12:36 PM
reply to post by novrod

A few posers/comments:

I agree that cloning is bunk tech at this point. However, if you can upload your consciousness to a virtual construct, you are reduced to data. Technically, we are now... but we can't copy/paste biological hardware, especially the brain. In a computer system, what is to prevent the copy/pasting of you?

The only way for you to be you is to be loaded into a machine or an "empty" body/brain.

I'm not sure if downloading to a new brain will be possible. We are our brains. Their structure, their arrangement... they are inseparable. The problem, however, is that our brains are colossally complex structures billions upon billions of neurons with magnitudes more synapse... all constantly changing, rearranging, making new connections, rerouting, etc. But, in terms of information, the brain is built from a relatively very simple set of rules in our DNA. Our DNA shapes how our brains will be structured in anticipation of experience while in development, but it never stops changing and modifying. To be able to replicate an organ like the brain in an exact pattern to match your individual consciousness up to that point.... we're not even close to thinking about that kind of tech yet. We can clone a brain, sure, no problem... but it wouldn't be you, and we couldn't shoe-horn YOU into it.

Forget cloning, for now that is just a myth nobody can prove me to be correct

There's a good reason. It's not. We have clones right now to study in fMRI tests to compare patterns of brain activity. We call them identical twins, and by contrasting them against other identical twins (adopted out into separate homes from birth) and compared to fraternal twins both adopted out and raised in the same home - we can confidently say that while genetic variables do have a role in determining various behavior traits - identical twins are anything but identical... and they are as different as they are uncannily similar.

So even if you did clone a new body and brain to download into, it wouldn't be you.

like if you would have a second child because you need body parts to cure the child you already have

Why clone a body for parts, when you can just clone the individual part? Tissue engineering is going to be one of the three, maybe four, major new markets that will revolutionize everything we know about health care and, eventually, society.

Something that distinguishes us from a computer is the ability to "feel" and "sense" the surrounding world.

The only reason why we "feel" anything, is because our mind has been programmed to. We can't feel or input anything for which we don't have receptors for in our brains. For example, I saw a speech with Barry Schumer regarding genetics and how it applies to wine flavor... how it's not just the chemicals, but the bacteria in the root system and the contaminants in the local soil which help provide flavor. He mentioned that you could create a grape to make a wine with an entirely new and unique flavor... but it's a two way street, because we can only taste what our tastebuds can detect, and what our brains have receptors for to give us a flavor.

Sometimes, we can imagine phantom tastes and smells which aren't really there. Sensory illusions, triggered by errors or compensations for limitations in how our brains interpret information.

For instance, there is no such thing as color. Only wavelengths of light reflecting into our eyes. What we see as color, is just an interpretation. Furthermore, because the cones in your eyes are all directly located behind the retina - light coming in which strikes the back of your eye at an angle is only hitting rods - which aren't capable of color inference. Not only that, but we can't see detail beyond our immediate focal point. Your brain actually holds color and pattern buffers it uses to fill in information it's not receiving otherwise. The details are continually updated bit by bit through small modifications in fixation point and change of focus. We "color sample" our environment, like the dropper tool on photoshop, then fill in the greyscale image with color artificially.

And this hasn't even gotten into inverting the image off the back of the retina and correcting for alignment, using parallax view to triangulate a 3D overlay we know as depth perception, correct for perspective, matching body spatial movement to visual data for smooth image procession.

There's a LOT going on under the hoods of our gray matter that eat up some serious resources. (20% of daily caloric intake)

Yet, we can already use electronic devices to collect data from the environment and feed it back into the patients brain to give them limited sight. We're still tinkering around with low resolution B&W images afaik, but they work.

So if we can feed basic video information into a real brain, why not info from a simulated environ into a emulated human brain?

Wouldn't that be giving the AI sensory input? If so, eventually they can "feel" and "Sense" the outside world every bit as well as we can... if not better.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 01:48 PM
reply to post by buddhasystem

and we ARE programmed (of course this is called upbringing and education). What we have, any machine can have if it's sufficiently complex.

Parentage, Genetics, Culture, Luck, Experience, etc.

Our minds aren't blank .txt files to write code upon at the moment of our birth. We come with OS's preinstalled from the manufacturer. OS's that can be modified, customized, and optimized (or not) by various external and internal factors. Who YOU are, is self arranging emergent code as a result of these plethora of interactions.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 02:21 PM
reply to post by Lasheic

Thanks for your reply. I think many of us are simply missing the implications of the "neuro-chips" development. We have been looking at this from the top down where we try to first create through hardware something that functions like the human brain and then write software that mimics our thought processes. However now we have developed a way in which they can integrate both living tissue and the hardware.

This would eventually provide us a way to see and document how living cells do exactly that, accumulate and process data. In time we should be able to create sophisticated models based on how these tissues interact and replicate it using hardware and software based on the finding of the studies.

At that point we could in theory be able to down load their memories and maybe much more as we close the gap between reality and theoretical.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by SLAYER69]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 03:59 PM

It would literally take an act of god to get consciousness into AI/Robots. You guys are confusing the network that tells/is the brain saying this feeling is happening and so forth with that which is actually able to feel/sense and so on.

It is easy to create a stimulus that would say - you feel this here now. Which is what the sensory network does. But the actual sensations themselves of feeling, seeing and so forth is a whole other ballgame.

Consciousness is beyond logic and beyond science. It is illogical and irrational. This is also well known among people who have worked on AI, and the general goal of this field today is trying to find ways to get our consciousness into AI/Robots.

So, I can put like sensors into say a robotic arm, and that arm can be stimulated by the touch into sending a signal that says "I am being touched". But that is all it will be, a switch/sensor. The robot does not actually "feel" anything at all. You can even make it cry out in "pain" from the sensors and other things, as a result of being touched, but it's only an illusion and it only would act in a such a way due to the programming.

I am convinced that one day the majority of people will fall for this illusion and think it is real. AI has a bright future, but there is a reason it is called artificial.

If you doubt me, then go ahead and come up with the logic of being able to feel and observe. Just the basic logic is all. All you will be able to do is come up with the action/reaction logic that triggers it, and then after that you will be stuck.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 04:08 PM
reply to post by loner007

Quantum computers just use entanglement as a way of processing. As when you stimulate 1 of the entangled particles, the other reacts instantly at faster than the speed of light. This equals out to extremely fast processing able to compute complex algorithms almost instantly, but is still completely seperate of consciousness in itself, and the computer is still based only on logic and is slave to the algorithms.

I challenge everyone to come up with the logic behind "observing", behind understanding logic, rather than being slave to it. It is one thing to come up with that which triggers such sensations, but completely another to come up with the logic to what the actual feelings and such are.

Yes, I have tried to do this for many years, and I have tried to create AI that was actually intelligent and conscious. I gave up on the idea when I realized that in the end we would have to put existing consciousness into the machine - because I realized I was only doing that which is already done and that is what our reality is already.

All you guys are talking about is the sensors that trigger such things. That stuff is easy. Move beyond that if you want to see the difficulties of AI.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 04:10 PM
reply to post by badmedia

So it can't happen...yet here *we* are with consciousness.And like another poster said,we are biological machines.Sure mother nature has more experience under her belt.But it's possible and it will happen...the only thing is how long will it take for technology to reach a stage where it is viable.In my personal opinion it won't be more than a hundred years.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by Solomons]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 04:31 PM
reply to post by Solomons

Yes, the body is a biological machine, and when working on AI I found the answers to most every problem I came across were mirror images of functions of the body itself.

But again, you are simply looking at that which triggers and so forth. Which says nothing at all about that which these things are presented to(consciousness).

Consciousness is soul/spirit and is not of this creation. It is not a result of logic, it is that which is able to create logic.

That is the true measure of intelligence - able to understand and create logic, rather than being slave to it.

I can simulate consciousness and intelligence, that is possible. That will happen, and people won't be able to tell the difference one day. I do not doubt that at all. But in order for it to be actually conscious, it will take an act of god - because consciousness is god.

What is flesh is flesh, and what is spirit is spirit. That is my final conclusion after years of working on this.

[edit on 8/17/2009 by badmedia]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 04:35 PM
reply to post by badmedia

Ok i see where you are coming from...soul/spirit etc Well thats mumbo jumbo to me personally.Consciousness is localized in the brain so is an evolutionary and biological function of it imo...hence can be replicated.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by Solomons]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 04:52 PM
reply to post by Solomons

Which only goes to show you don't know a dang thing about it. I'm not trying to be rude or anything, but that is just the fact of the matter. You simple do not recognize the limits of logic.

I once thought the same thing. That was of course until I actually tried to do it.

Which I highly recommend doing. It will show you many things about yourself. You don't need to be a programmer, just come up with the basic logic of it.

It wasn't easy to admit this, but in the end I couldn't deny it. And that is what people who work on AI all around the world are coming to understand.

If you can do it, then you will be the richest man in the world and will have made the biggest discovery in the entire history of mankind, if not the universe itself(which is based off logic, action and reaction).

I'm not just sitting here speculating on this stuff. I actually worked and tried to do these things. I tested what you say, and it came up plain short. And it was not a matter of not having enough computing power or anything of the sort. It's a simple matter of there is no logic that can create such a thing, regardless of computing power.

Which is the entire reason the field of AI in general has shifted towards finding ways of putting our consciousness into the machines. Because these things are well known facts.

Just about 3 weeks ago I was watching a show on the science channel called brink. And the entire show was about AI and such. And this exact question came to the guest, and what did he respond with - there are something which are beyond science.

You are simply looking at that which gathers and presents the information while completely ignoring what the information is presented too. You are just acting like that part will just "magically" come out of no where.

Funny, you think it's "mumbo jumbo", but yet you are simply applying faith that one day this will be overcome, when you have not yourself even really thought about such things.

All of the universe/creation is a program. It is based off logic, that is action/reaction. If/then and so forth. In the beginning there was the "word", and that word is logic. It is from that word/logic that you get this creation, the same as it is from the word/logic that you get entire virutal worlds on a computer. But it does not come to life until the spirit of god(consciousness) enters into it. And to try and say that the consciousness is a result of logic is to simply not understand.

To prove me wrong, simply come up with the logic behind an actual "feeling". Not what triggers the feeling, but the actual feeling itself. Come up with the logic behind being able to "see". Not that which collects the image, but for the computer to actually "see" and "observe". In the end, all the computer is doing is following a bunch of complex patterns, and it doesn't see, feel or understand anything.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 05:10 PM
I agree with Buddhasystem.
When you get down to it , it is all numbers when the numbers become large enough the machines will become aware.
Some would say a dog for example, has no soul, but is dog aware of self, possibily to small extent.

To build machine, self repairing, self reproducing and capable to some extent self motification, perfect choice would bio-mechanical machine.
If you think into the furture far enough, say in trillion years what kinds of machines will be moving around in our universe.
Getting back to numbers, when the numbers becomes large enough, all things will have been perefcted in universe, and the possiblity of universe folded back on self as being the creator of universe to begin with.

But I can see all kinds of things to happen before the big crunch occurrs, we have clean up in area Omega, Omicron please do retrival, we are set for comincing, next bang in 5 seconcds, begin droping all remaining gravity sheilding.

But when you get down to it right now we barely know diddle, if we do not destroy ourself first, we might someday know diddley sguat.

I know, was amazed I had found a bottle of shine-ola, but it appears someone has barrowed it. Now it will be harder for me to prove I know the difference between S### and Shine-ola.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 05:22 PM

Originally posted by Solomons
reply to post by badmedia

Ok i see where you are coming from...soul/spirit etc Well thats mumbo jumbo to me personally.Consciousness is localized in the brain so is an evolutionary and biological function of it imo...hence can be replicated.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by Solomons]

This is interesting but it still seems for things to occurr, there is aways some kind of plan.
Where these plans are I am not sure, the pieces of puzzle fit together to well to be by chance.

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 05:37 PM
reply to post by badmedia

Consciousness is soul/spirit and is not of this creation. It is not a result of logic, it is that which is able to create logic.

An interesting thing about the "soul", the "I" of self identity and consciousness. The supposed exactor of our free will. If you were to slice the corpus callosum (the structure linking the left and right hemispheres of the brain) in half, you literally cut the "Self" in half as well - with each now independent hemisphere of your brain able to follow it's own free will.

Roger W. Sperry's 1981 Nobel Prize Lecture.

Each brain half, in other words, appeared to have its own, largely separate, cognitive domain with its own private perceptual, learning and memory experiences, all of which were seemingly oblivious of corresponding events in the other hemisphere. Although the basic hemisphere deconnection syndrome in man (10) proved to be essentially similar to that worked out earlier in cats and monkeys, its manifestation was much more dramatic in the human subjects. The speaking hemisphere in these patients could tell us directly in its own words that it knew nothing of the inner experience involved in test performances correctly carried out by the mute partner hemisphere. Lateralization of brain functions could be inferred, not only from the deficiency or absence of function on one side but also from its concurrent presence on the other.

We are not Ghosts in the Machine. We are not blank slates. If there is such a thing as soul at all, it has apparently no interaction with the brain in regards to behavior, decision making, emotional response, cognitive faculty, etc. At least, not outside of the illusion of "Self", which can be split, shut down in whole or in part, or in otherwise modified through drugs, alcohol, damage, etc.

Come up with the logic behind being able to "see". Not that which collects the image, but for the computer to actually "see" and "observe".

I already mentioned above that you don't "see" what you think you see. You see a mental construct built by multiple different interacting systems in your brain. It's an illusion approximating reality, and by use of illusions, inhibitors, and other such methods - we can trick or shut off some of those mental processes running below the surface to create some neat perception effects.

Knock out certain regions in your brain, and you knock out certain cognitive abilities. For instance, the disorder visual agnosia inhibits the ability of the sufferer to perceive the shape of objects around them. They can move around without difficulty, pick up items, inspect them, but cannot perceive their shape - even while other areas of the brain involved in motor function can receive and respond to visual cues. They can even describe such objects in detail.. color, texture, weight, etc.

Wikipedia list of various Agnosia disorders.

[edit on 17-8-2009 by Lasheic]

posted on Aug, 17 2009 @ 05:47 PM
reply to post by Lasheic

Is there anything you do on your computer that is separate and not detectable by the computer, or the use of resources?

When our computers communicate with each other, there is evidence of it and so forth.

Does that mean you are inside your computer, just because there is evidence of things going on in the computer as a result of it's use?

But really, just show me the basic logic behind it. You don't need to build a car engine to understand the basic logic behind a combustion engine.

I understand why you think that is the case, I once had the belief myself which is why I even attempted it in the first place. But just sit down and try to come up with the basic logic behind it, rather than hiding behind "complexity" and "time" as excuses and places of faith and you will see for yourself.

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