Re: Dennett: Making Conscious Robots

From: Henderson Ian (
Date: Thu May 24 2001 - 13:19:37 BST

In reply to: Kyriacou Elias: "Re: Dennett: Making Conscious Robots"

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

>> Cove:
>> I agree with this statement, but does this really matter? If we are
>> using Turing's criterion as a guide then surely not. As long as the
>> function of the robot is indistinguishable from that of its human
>> counterpart, can we simply assume this is good enough to claim it is
>> conscious.

> Kyriacou:
> You can not assume that it is good enough to claim it
> is conscious because a robot that is indistinguishable from its
> human counterpart is still a system that is defined by a set of
> rules, thus prohibiting it from ever truly being conscious, since
> a conscious mind can be considered to be caotic in its actions
> and decisions.

Just because the output of the human mind sometimes *appears* chaotic, does
that mean that it *actually* functions randomly in some way? And even if it
did, would this property be necessary for consciousness? Humans are
partially defined at least implicitly by a set of rules anyway in the form
of their genetic code: these rules seem little different to me than the
explicit rules programmed into Cog to encourage it to behave in a certain
way, for instance by showing curiosity in its surroundings. Genes may mutate
too, but there is nothing to stop Cog modifying its own code -- its own
rules -- in a similar way either.

>>> (1) Robots are purely material things and consciousness requires
>>> immaterial mind-stuff.
>>> (old-fashioned duality).

>> Cove:
>> This view appears to me to be pseudo-science. Dennett correctly argues
>> that if supernatural forces had been accounted for explainable, causal
>> principles, scientific knowledge would not be as sophisticated as it is.

> Kyriacou:
> I do not neccessarily agree with this view, because
> there is no evidence to suggest that both the supernatural and
> scientific world cannot exist. So far there has not been
> discovered any evidence that goes against each of these
> approaches and thus, it is plausible to assume that they may
> co-exist.

Science gains its credibility from *repeatable* experiments, but I have
never come across any such evidence for the supernatural. In the absence of
such evidence, a purely scientific explanation of the mind seems much more
likely. Dennett's approach to reverse engineering intelligence through
scientific experimentation (building a robot) is the right way forward in my

> Kyriacou:
> My opinion on MIT's Cog Robot is that it will never
> truly be a conscious thing, despite all the expensive accessories
> that are attached to it to make it resemble as closely as
> possible human behaviour. The truth is that Cog can not figure
> new things out for itself unless it is told how to by the
> programmers and also Cog never decides or chooses what thing to
> do next or solve next without an instruction being given to it.
> It does not have its own free, conscious choice.

I don't think that we can reach *any* conclusion about the 'success' of Cog
at the current time: we will have to wait and see. Humans like to think they
have freedom of will, but how can we be so sure of that ourselves? We may
just be very complex Cogs in an ultimately deterministic mechanism we call
the Universe. Like a pseudo-random number generator on a computer, our
behaviours and decisions don't *appear* to be products of causality, but
maybe they are.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Tue Sep 24 2002 - 18:37:31 BST