Re: Dennett: Making a Conscious Robot

From: Cliffe, Owen (
Date: Mon May 01 2000 - 22:34:33 BST

> Harnad:
> > It is unlikely, in my opinion, that anyone will ever make a robot that is
> > conscious in just the way we human beings are.

> Harnad:
> The trouble is that talking too liberally about different "forms" of
> consciousness risks admitting one form we definitely don't want to
> admit, namely, no consciousness at all, "nobody home," a "Zombie."

Indeed, and it seems to me that separating human conciousness (holy-grail
like) into a separate category is totally unnessecary. The underpinnigs for
a concious system are present in relatively simple life forms (reaction to
environment). Human conciousness differs _only_ in its complexity and

> Harnad:
> There ARE Zombies, by the way: A teapot is a Zombie; so is a toaster,
> and a furnace, and a thermostat, and a plane.

Plants are zombies too right?

they can show particularly 'life-like' (e.g slime molding) behaviour despite
the total absence of an electrical nervous system. Not that that is
neccesarily a basis for conciousness.

> Harnad:
> So, yes, bio-modules might be components in a T3 robot -- but they
> better be components that still allow us to understand the robot's
> overall (T3) function and the basis for its T3 success. Otherwise such
> robots will be more like clones than explanations.

But that would only be a speed-up excercise wouldn't it? Because the
behaviour of the bio-components would have to be defined, and thus
potentially replacable with non-bio parts.

> Harnad:
> > We consist of billions of cells, and a single human cell contains
> > within itself complex "machinery" that is still well beyond the artifactual
> > powers of engineers. We are composed of thousands of different kinds of
> > cells, including thousands of different species of symbiont visitors, some
> > of whom might be as important to our consciousness as others are to our
> > ability to digest our food! If all that complexity were needed for
> > consciousness to exist, then the task of making a single conscious robot
> > would dwarf the entire scientific and engineering resources of the planet
> > for millennia. And who would pay for it?

> Harnad:
> This is similar to the earlier points. T3-power is still the critical
> test; and although only optimized bio-modules might be capable of
> T3-power, we still have to reverse-engineer the functional basis of
> their success, if we are to explain, and not merely duplicate it.

And also who is to say the bio+electo+chemical systems required for the T3 power
activites could not be replicated with more efficient/duplicate
bio+electrical+chemical systems. e.g. if you say that the device can live in
a sterile room then you might reasonable be able to ignore the immune
system, or that its blood could be dripped with foodmix and cleaned (things
which are possible to a certain extend with current medical science) , then
you can discard digestion, the renal system and so on.

> Harnad:
> (Exercise: What is the difference between a functional system capable of
> learning to avoid structural damage to itself -- functioning as-if it
> were in pain-- and a system capable of feeling pain?)

I assume in the latter case you are refering to the animals pain for example.

The difference is only the level at whi
ch the sensation of pain or the
concept of pain is experienced and responded to. In humans the sensation and
the bulk of the response to pain is unconcious, where as in the former case
the machine is not responding automaticaly but learning from scratch that
pain is bad. The behaviour of the former system is also adopted by system
capable of feelind pain because its conciouse learning is intrinsically
integrated with unconcious 'fact' (i.e. pain=ouch).

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