Human consciousness and artificial consciousness

Human consciousness and artificial consciousness. A couple fruitful
by Jean-Paul Baquiast 04/08/2008

The purpose of this article is to give the reader a reflection on the conscience of artificial human consciousness, the same that we experience every day the virtues – and limitations – in our case.

The need for such work is increasingly obvious as that specialists describe in public, such as science clubs or television, the constant progress of robotics in the field of artificial consciousness. Beyond the curiosity, the first reaction seems to be dread. The comments from readers in response to articles published on this subject in our review raises the same finding. Imagine robots capable of conscious behavior comparable to those of men seems deeply disturb many people.

Why? Remove immediately the position of radical spiritualists who the human spirit and consciousness in which he expressed are properties of divine essence it would be sacrilege to try to understand or reproduce by science. Monotheistic religions and probably most other religious beliefs have a dualistic world. One hand there is the matter and other spiritual which is akin to the divine. Science has the right to study or reproduce the material phenomena. But the facts of conscience can not and should not be subjected to scientific studies. They are the faith and must be understood through the revelations that have made major religious texts and the prophets or priests have sole authority to interpret them. This position is called dualism by philosophers. It is known that since the so-called Enlightenment, the contrary view, said tier, postulates that it is not possible to separate the spirit of matter. These are two interacting versions of the same coin. Monism in its modern form dates back to some philosophers of ancient Greece. It was illustrated by the writings of Spinoza. It was not a materialistic sense in the current term, but rather a pantheistic, for whom the divinity is inherent in all things. . But for him, and perhaps for this reason it should not separate the mind of matter.

The view tier, we shall see, is taken by all those who study consciousness, whether neuroscientists or robotics. A number of these scientists are believers, but they regard as possible to separate those of their beliefs that are the religious faith and those they acquire by studying the world through the instruments of rationality and experimental science. We can not deny that since the Enlightenment, scientific research focused on demonstrating the futility and danger of traditional beliefs based religions, for whom such issues as the origins of the universe, life and consciousness not should not be material to scientific research. Science is therefore globally Materialistic. When trying to explain life and consciousness, they are a priori considered suspicious by religions.

In the case of artificial consciousness, the reluctance or fear inspired by this concept are not only spiritualists fundamentalist beliefs, even if they are being increasingly widespread and intolerant. They are also found in people sensitive to social and political consequences that could arise from the generalization in the modern world of technological systems or robotic with skills consciousness. The non-specialist public is becoming aware that the theme of humanized robot, which so far only been scenarios of science fiction, will soon become reality. But many are concerned about.

In other words, many people do not optimistic forecasts today by the scientific literature or advisers on the future of artificial consciousness. What do these authors? If science and information technology and communication (ICT or info-technologies) are developing even faster pace that, if also no comprehensive disaster does prevent their spread around the world, we will rub shoulders daily, in the next decade or later in the next twenty years, artificial systems capable of performance equipment, intellectual and spiritual similar and sometimes superior to those of humans today. These systems, moreover, will be autonomous, ie able to behave according to their own interests, when disobey any orders given by humans. It also speaks to them robots more or less autonomous.

The image of autonomous robot has long been present in the collective imagination. Without going back to the origins, just to mention HAL, the computer taking power by the Stanley Kubrick film of 2001, Odysée de l’Espace (1968). Today, the film WALL. E, produced by Pixar Studios, modernize representation. It features robots with all the qualities of intelligence and sensitivity unique to humans. The little robot WALL cleaner. E, remained alone on Earth after mankind has deserted, has developed a strong personality … Extremely curious, he feels too alone. But his life will be disrupted by the arrival of a small “robot” extraterrestrial named Eve. Falling in love with her instantly, WALL. E will make every effort to seduce. Film directors do not give much information on technological solutions to these two robots have cognitive skills comparable to those of men, but specialists know that they have confined themselves to anticipate research currently under way.

It must be recognized in his defense that the argument of the film Wall. does not fear too often used by others to generate dramatic interest. It shows we do not, as do many other films or TV shows, robots destructive. We propose instead to maintain its heroes with a relationship of empathy. But in real life, attending real autonomous robots, with consciences and sensibilities artificial, will not only empathy.

Many people are ready to build robots with-companions, according to the expression of genuine friendship. First examples exist around Japanese products. But for many other people, these possibilities, like all of those interesting the development of science, first to generate mistrust. Scientists and those who finance their research they do not, as word spread, playing the sorcerer’s apprentice. Do they not going to move non-human, either on their own or inciting people “malicious” (dictators, terrorists, perverts) turn against humans to control or destroy them?

It is clear that these risks exist. But they are not limited to robotics. The path currently followed by the human race shows that it is changing not only the Earth’s environment, with the risks known, but its own characteristics, including genetic and epigenetic. It can also change without further call for artificial intelligence (which we refer later in this article by the acronym IA), but only with simple drugs or the abuse of television shows, how work brains. Nobody is able today to predict the short-term or long term these developments. Should disaster areas more or less, affecting all ecosystems? Can you imagine that on the contrary humanity renewed, sometimes called post-human, can emerge? In uncertainty, should apply a precautionary radical prohibiting all research? But who could or would make such bans, if they have some chance of success?

You have to admit that evolutionary processes seem beyond the capacity assessment and intervention more political bodies regulators are implemented, involving more or less passive billion people. It is not yet speak, except marginally, aimed aware of wills, if not block these processes, at least to rationalize. The ideologues of growth to rejoice. For them such processes, even and especially if they are not regulated in any case will progress to humanity. But this optimism is less and less shared, given the damage caused by growth.

The fears that artificial consciousness then join the fears aroused by this irrational course for growth in which humanity seems committed and which we see more and more limits. Not only the emergence of artificial consciousness could bring new elements to uncontrollable explosion techno-scientific, but it might undermine confidence in the regulatory mechanisms based on voluntary political awareness. Activists of the decrease or simply said sustainable development argue that when we measure the weight of low risk perception, to events happening with the tsunami blind implacabilité it would be foolish to diminish the effectiveness of human consciousness as an instrument of a voluntary pilot of the future, equating to the mechanisms artificielle conscience under Automatismes primary.

Why be wary of artificial consciousness?

We must broaden the debate, however, recognizing that trials to consciousness facts artificial join a more general fact of science in developed societies. Yet they are part of their success to buildings permitted by this science. Today science, as the technological applications that flow from, seemed less and less able, contrary to What encyclopedias of the Enlightenment and their successors, to overcome the rules of Reason face prejudice obscurantist imposed by religions and mythologies themselves relayed by magicians false science. Without denying the merits of rationality, speaking under the experimental scientific practice (for whom any event must be confirmed by an experiment objective), more and more people, including scientists themselves, are wary of abuses that can be made of science. 1)

First is the abuse of scientism. It is often described as a perversion of scientific approach. Scientism, according to its critics, refuses to take into account the manifestations of mind and body that can be analyzed and reproduced by conventional scientific methods, based on mathematical models and rigorous logic. Such scientism away the field of scientific study of phenomena and issues of great importance that specifically modern science more open and seek to explore include: feelings, aesthetic, moral values, critical thinking about the purposes .

It is clear that achieving artificial models of conscience to be necessarily in their infancy, simplifications, fear that the scientist take reductionism, among other areas, and cognitive sciences. Or for those, like the ordinary sense, the complex realities that are the human mind and conscience should not be denied nor artificially simplified. The same fear of excessive simplification had been mentioned at the beginning of the computerization of society. In this case, experience has shown that, at least in democratic societies, the scientists have not really taken power. Will this be the case with robotics?

It could take comfort in mind (wrongly) that research on artificial consciousness will not neurologists and psychologists who study the human brain and its manifestations. The two worlds, that of the machine and the living, are sufficiently distant from one another so that oversimplification can not be deducted from the first world and imposed on the second. But experience shows that relations are growing. Since the 1970s, when the IA has really taken off, as a result of development of components and programs, neuroscience and cognitive science have greatly inspired the progress of AI and robotics. In fact, the exchanges were made in both directions. Each acquired knowledge obtained in a field was operated by another. The success of this method also explain systematic cooperation that has developed in the last decade among researchers from different disciplines. This does not mean that reductionism has triumphed, as claimed by those who ignore the subtleties of these sciences. On the contrary. Each area runs continuously to new challenges, requiring the search for new explanations or solutions that other area is generally able to provide.

It is certain that against by the deepening of cooperation with robotics requires brain sciences and the humanities in general to desist from simplistic concepts and explanations so far admitted not only by religion but by common sense. Thus, whether in robotics or in neuroscience, the naive concept of a space machine or in the cortex, dedicated exclusively to the generation process representations aware, must be abandoned. These representations and decisions causing or resulting implement vast fields of forces involving not only the machine or the whole body but also the environment in which the machine or body changes.

It follows that scientists of conscience, whether artificial or natural, are not as well educated, take the risk to say that individuals or groups are conditioned by determinism leaves no freedom of choice and therefore no responsibility for these choices. No citizen that’s independent and responsible would accept such conclusions. They will explore against by far more than their predecessors detail the conditions under which small and big decisions are taken, and how to ensure the greatest possible autonomy to the staff responsible for such decisions. These conditions apply against by everyone, and not just humans. The robot of the future will indeed behave in a way also ethical, moral and ultimately responsible that the individual human.

A second concern is expressed, with probably more solid foundation than the previous one. It arises because, more and more obvious that scientific research in areas known as advanced strategic aim is far from disinterested advancement of knowledge. If there is progress, it is only the byproduct of practice by which political and economic powers aimed primarily to improve their grip on societies and the world. It would be unreasonable to assert that science and technology are solely financed and therefore decided by military or large capitalist firms working for the sole benefit of their shareholders. Experience shows that this is the case with perhaps 80 to 90% of research and development applications. Robotics and AI are not the only ones to suffer from this handicap. We know that all emerging science, those that are theoretically the most promising in relation to the changing world: biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, energy sciences, materials, space and many others, are mainly financed by powers to take their results. Robotics and IA are no exception.

But this is not new and has always found its limits. Experience has shown that research or military objective power, such as nuclear, aerospace and information technology, have finally received more or less delay at all. This under pressure from citizens and many scientists, even when they were directly involved in such research. There would be no reason why robotics and IA escape this rule, if a democratic control over their development was properly insured. Extremists of zero growth argue that humanity could very well have to do without all this research. But then they should admit that civilizations ideal for them were those who dominated the world before the industrial age and techno-scientific. They certainly would not want to be carried even by the thought, for such periods.

Dispel the misunderstanding

Let beyond these generalities about the mistaken notion that advances in artificial consciousness diminish the role and weight of the human conscience? Here is the misunderstanding that we believe deserves to be dispelled. Western democratic societies, since the Enlightenment, and unlike many others, enhance the role of individuals as factors in their development. To use a term a bit technical, they consider individuals as agents proactive rather than passive components. They do not deny, in general, that individuals and groups are determined by large packs that are striving to study science: geography, climate, genetic, economic, political … But they highlight a process than Other companies do not want to see or deny, and that sometimes is called individuation. Each individual, according to this design, in a society that is richer and more complex, may acquire some room for maneuver within the various overall determination against him. Depending on his own, it can take decisions that are not necessarily those of others and which normally are not foreseeable at the collective level. The conviction of being an I capable of original decisions (that is to be an “I primary decision-maker”), even if it does not correspond exactly how each individual expresses his personal choices, reflects the importance given democratic societies to “proactive” individuals.

These decisions do not result from a free game referee hypothetical quasi-divine. This emergence of complexity, so to speak, of each individual and each situation, resulting from a combination of simple causal factors present in the body and in his brain. Like all emerging, they are neither predictable nor reduced to simple elements that have caused. The decision once “iceberg”, ie taken, often reorganizing around her activity on the entire topic. At this stage, so it is causal.

The individuation and democratic organization that corresponds are threatened by theocracies and autocracies still active, but they seem yet still spread, as a result of competitive advantages they confer. The fact that the individual in democratic societies have been able to develop a relative self-determination has long been the strength of Western societies. Their members were the first to demonstrate scientific curiosity, facing major issues whose ancient traditions, especially religious, claim only hold the answers. Today, the capabilities of resilience and resistance to diverse attacks democratic societies, due to the individual, seem an important survival for the future.

Should we call the freedom of pro-activity enjoyed by individuals or “agents” in the process of individuation described? Can we, more precisely, appoint voluntary capacity conscience whose individual agents have to try to self-determination? Probably not if it gives the concept of freedom metaphysical meaning that relate to freedom as absolute religious dogma enjoy only the deity. However, this ability to self-determination, it was on and intermittently enjoyed by individuals in a democratic society or to democracy seems indisputable. It should not be denied without precautions scientific hypotheses by saying that individuals are fully determined by massive chains of causality leaves no room for adaptation. The great challenge of modern science, we believe, is to understand the mechanisms at biological, neurological or societal, allow individuals to benefit from what we may lack most appropriate term to appoint a voluntary consciousness. This is not incompatible with the pursuit of systemic determinism, particularly in statistics, define the content of this awareness and behavior overall result.

Observe that conscience, if this option can be individualized, is not the monopoly of the human race in its current form. She has appeared in more rudimentary forms or different in many other systems in development. We will not speak against them aware systems but cognitive systems able to acquire, transmit and edit information or knowledge (cognitions) resulting from their co-adaptation to their environment. We have already devoted several articles to these questions, which we refer the reader. We believe it should be stressed in particular on the epigenetic factors that can understand the major developments collective appears to affect all living species, including humans. Concerning the humanity, these include building relationships between genetic factors and instrumental techniques used increasingly massively since the invention of the first tools. We have already discussed under the somewhat barbaric systems anthropotechniques.


In conclusion, we believe that the foregoing considerations justify the assumption that it should not appear contradictions between present and future developments of artificial consciousness, and the role that also play in the overall human individuals with a brain capable of generating conscious representations of themselves.

Of course, artificial consciousness and awareness “natural” should be enriched by amending another, according to the process called co-evolution. But there is no reason to suppose that the technology of artificial can finally replace the “technology” biological and neurological nature. In the same way, transport technologies do not question (although tell) the ability of humans to move their legs. They simply diversify and enrich the potential of travel.

We believe that under a scenario that can be described as optimistic, but not unrealistic, the two forms of consciousness, conscience and natural artificial consciousness, should cooperate to help expand the scope of the process aware Within the universe.

1) On science and reason, we read an online discussion organized by rich newscientist of the July 2008