Re: Dennett: Making Conscious Robots

From: Basto Jorge (
Date: Sun May 27 2001 - 21:54:42 BST

>> 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.
>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.

Why is this so? To what extent can it be said we humans are NOT defined
by a set of rules? Otherwise, how would you explain our structural and
fuctional similarity despite all the available possibility of phenotips
that can be generated by the gene pool? (no matter how complex).
Besides, there are even rules in what is called "chaos" and there are
mathematics for non-calculus and for turbulent systems.
Turbulent and chaotic systems are sometimes generated from a VERY
SIMPLE set of rules and there is no correlation between the complexity
of the rules and the consciousness of the system.
Further more, I don't consider my conscious behavior and my conscious
actions and decisions anything close to "caotic" at ALL times (to say
the least...). On the contrary, they most of the time seem to be an
application of ordered and strategic intentionality over a chaotic set
of disordered, partially ordered, and also ordered information. There
is a certain pattern that describes "our" conscious system as to have
a personality and this doesn't seem to be chaotic at all. What is there
in the Cog specification and description that is different from us in
what was written above?

>> 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.
>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

What is meant by "supernatural" here? Because we hear about the
scientific world and we know things outside of the scientific realm of
explanation AS TO DATE. Science is definitely NOT a complete system,
but science accomodates new discoveries and it is in constant and
ongoing updating.
What matters with most of the "supernatural" things that are known of
is that there is not even a possibility of experimental confirmation.
Let's face it, science is slowly finding its way to bring experimental
explanation through all the phenomena of the universe; and a lot of so
called "supernatural" phenomenons have been sooner or later explained
by science.
I am not claiming that science will explain all phenomena, but there
are supernatural "facts" that are dogmatic in essence and do not allow
refutation because they are postulates without giving a possibility of
refutation (blind religious faith, witches,to name a few). There are
plenty of worlds outside the explanation of traditional science
(alternative chinese medicine, for instance) but all are subject to
experimental refutation (this is an argument due to Karl Popper,
according to which science is only science to the extent that it can be
refuted). Can these worlds be called "supernatural"? Well, to the point
of view of an acupuncturist, there is nothing more than pure science
(of a different kind) in work; most of the alternative worlds do not
rely on explanations from supernatural sources to its claims. If
beliefs are taken to be facts and are not grounded on the possibility
of experimentation then they are nothing more then beliefs and cannot
be taken to be arguments for or against anything.

Remark: there are many system that are "outside" the scientific world
(ufology, para-psychology, and so on...) but they are not supernatural
-they are not denied by science but they cannot be explained by science
-and this is a big difference. They are not called (at least to my
knowledge) supernatural. Furthermore, these "alternative worlds" (to
avoid the supernatural word) are refutable!

>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 contest these claims first on the basis of how can it be proved that
Cog will not reach a conscious level at any time of its development? I
am not sure Cog will, but I can give the benefit of the doubt.
This claim that Cog cannot figure new things for itself is contradicted
on Dennet's text since it is written there that Cog has some means
rewriting its rule system. Cog has a also been given learning
mechanism, so these two features at least allow some possibility of Cog
making new deductions and learning new facts from the set of knowledge
he already knows, which is all the freedom we as humans have as well.
At no point in Dennet's article it is said that ALL Cog's knowledge
will be given before hand by its creators/designers. Besides, Cog will
start as an infant robot and one could argue about humans degree of
freedom and counsciousness during the early stage of humans
development. Lets give it time to prove itself worong on these claims.

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