Consciousness and AI
Why are we conscious? How does consciousness arise? How has consciousness evolved? Surprisingly we know precious little about the thing that is closest to us subjectively.
We have come to realize that Higgs bosons, bearers of Higgs field which enables particles to actually have mass, are dismally difficult to detect, but nevertheless we manage to do that now. We may still feel both thrilled and desolate (interestingly that humans may experience these emotions in tandem) about the prospects of explaining how come that the strength of Higgs field is so well tuned to other parameters of the Universe and why it is slightly above zero if our theory tells us that it should be either switched off or have an incomparably greater value, but at least we are in the process of writing down theoretical approaches that will tackles these problems.
Also, we have managed to explain the ever accelerating expansion of cosmos by a reference to dark energy, although our theory misses the strength of energy of the vacuum by an unimaginable order of 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000! This is 1 with 120 zeros! We definitely need a better theory!
However, with regard to consciousness we basically have no theory whatsoever. There are scholars like Dan Dennett or Patricia and Paul Churchland who deny the ontological status of consciousness. According to them consciousness is an illusion. Brain states are themselves conscious experiences. There are others like David Chalmers or (to an extent) Antonio Damasio who disagree with the eliminativists and argue that if we cannot elucidate consciousness using such physical concepts as time, space, mass or charge then you have to enlarge your fundamental notions - consciousness as fundamental block of nature. Sometimes they also argue that consciousness is universal and not only humans possess it.
Regardless whether you believe that you stay closer to the eliminativists or non-eliminativists the recent progress in AI makes you ponder. Do you think there is a path from artificial intelligence to artificial consciousness? IBM’s Watson supercomputer may have destroyed humans in the game of jeopardy but it actually did not know what it had won! If you have followed the debate starting with The Emperor’s New Mind by Roger Penrose or if you have just been excited by reading Ned Block, John Searle and others, please share with us your views by dropping a line or two at firstname.lastname@example.org