Machine consciousness is possible, but first, psychologists must define consciousness


Quantum physicist David Deutsch has penned an article for Aeon Magazine that examines the concept that artificial general intelligence (AGI) on a par with human intelligence is possible, given the assumption that any physical model—even the very movements and actions of atoms—can be emulated by mechanical means.

Deutsch discusses the Babbage Engine, and the fact that the only thing that prevented it from being able to emulate more of the human mind was its size and architecture. Its theoretical properties prompted Alan Turing to postulate that all aspects of consciousness could be emulated by a computer.

Unfortunately, the identification and definition of consciousness itself is still a mystery to scientists, a wall preventing us from taking the next step and designing a conscious computer. Deutsch suggests that it is the philosophers, not the scientists, who must step up and provide those definitions for us. And once we have them, it will be possible to create computers that must be considered “people,” as they will be as self-aware as people.

These theories will be touched on in my latest novel, a romantic adventure that delves into the relationships between humans and robots. The book is expected out in early 2013.

2 thoughts on “Machine consciousness is possible, but first, psychologists must define consciousness

  1. It might; but the real questions are, what will a machine consciousness consider to be acting “in its best interests?” Will it act in support of the individual (itself), or the many? And which “many?” Humans, other machines, both, or something else? Finally, if it is of a certain level of intelligence, is there any way to accurately predict its preferences?

    Intelligence hasn’t been fully defined among the one race we can study most closely–ourselves–or amongst the other species, thousands of species, living around us. This suggests that we are in a bad position to define, predict or control intelligence, and any attempts to create artificial intelligence is essentially a great dice-throw.

    So: Do we hold back, or do we throw the dice, and throw caution to the wind?


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