Brain Inspired Cognitive Systems 2004
29 August - 1 September 2004, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK

BICS Debate Machine Consciousness Does it Make Sense?

Debate scheduled for Tuesday 31 August 2004, 11:20-12:45


MECHANICAL BODIES; MYTHICAL MINDS: Dr. Mark Bishop, Dept. Computing, Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London, UK

A cursory examination of the history of Artificial Intelligence, AI, serves to highlight many strong claims from its researchers, especially in relation to the populist form of computationalism that holds, 'any suitably programmed computer will instantiate genuine conscious mental states purely in virtue of it carrying out a specific series of computations'. The argument to be presented in this paper is a simple development of ideas first presented in Hilary Putnam's 1988 monograph, "Representation & Reality", which, if correct, has important implications for Cognitive Science both with respect to the prospects of developing a computationally instantiated consciousness and in general for any computational, (purely-functional), explanation of mind. In the paper, instead of seeking to ground Putnam's claim that, "everything implements every Finite State Automata, (FSA)", I will simply seek to establish the weaker result that, "everything implements the specific FSA [Q], when executing program (p) on a particular input set (x)". Then, equating Q (p, x) to an AI program with putative genuine phenomenal (conscious) states, I will show that conceding the computational thesis for Q, (crediting it with genuine mental states and consciousness), opens the door to a vicious form of panpsychism whereby all open systems, (e.g. grass, rocks and toadstools), have conscious experience and disembodied minds, ('ubiquitous pixies'), are found dancing everywhere...

THE AXIOMATIC APPROACH TO MACHINE CONSCIOUSNESS: Prof Igor Aleksander, Professor of Neural Systems Engineering, Imperial College, London

For me it makes sense to break my own feeling of being conscious into five basic introspective components or 'axioms':

These can be shown to map into computationally achievable structures and together provide 'explanations' of consciousness as well as novel machinery for artificial systems. Some of the major benefits of this approach can be listed The final parable, however is: it's not being conscious that distinguishes between the human, the slug and the machine, it is the content of the states of the the machine consciousness models. But having such computational models Is a distinct step forward in the science of consciousness.

CONSCIOUSNESS NEEDS CAREFUL CRAFTING: Prof John G Taylor, Dept of Mathematics, King's College London, UK

The necessary and sufficient conditions are still unknown for consciousness to emerge from the activity of the human brain. It is therefore expected to be even more difficult to construct a machine that can be guaranteed to be conscious. That does not however mean that machine consciousness is impossible. I will describe a program of work that attempts to attack machine consciousness by a) analysing how any machine can be tested for its conscious powers (the extended Turing test) b) developing a set of criteria on the structure of the machine so that it have the possibility of real-time experience c) detect that the machine possess an attention control structure indicating it is filtering out all but what might be in its consciousness. The need for such criteria is made stronger by the new generation of nano-chips being created over the next few years.

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