Friday, December 5, 2014

The State of Consciousness: Meeting the Philosophers of Artificial Intelligence



Consciousness is our state of awareness and has been debated among theologians for a long time. John Locke discussed consciousness as perception that passes through the mind while Rene Descartes followed Cartesian Dualism when pondering the differences between physical and mental matter. No one has every truly defined, empirically broke down, or proven the existence of consciousness. I had the pleasure of meeting a group of philosophers to discuss the nature of consciousness in today’s world.

Of course I am not talking about sandal wearing theologians coming out from some past century to share their Socratic wisdom. Instead of unemployed philosophers the group was made of psychologists, computer engineers, and even a mathematician. They are an eclectic crew that ranged from individuals who wore t-shirts with formulas to those with proper business attire. Each attended with their own interest in the topic from a professional and hobbyist point of view.

The meeting was fast paced and gave each person just a little time to discuss their understanding and knowledge of the topics. Participants discussed the nature of consciousness, difference between mind and consciousness and its application to artificial intelligence.  The knowledge contained within this group of enthusiast far surpassed that which you will find on the street.

What is Consciousness?

The group attempted to answer question with a variety of different responses based upon their research and experience. Answers included comments such as outside of self, neuro nature, reflectiveness, greater than parts, universal, life force, subconscious, and awareness of right or wrong. It is a property that has a meaning beyond the individual entity.

Consolidated Definition: Consciousness is neurologically based intelligence and awareness that transcends oneself to greater understanding of the environment.

Mind vs. Conscious:

The beginning of the discussion started with an attempt to understand the difference between mind and consciousness but soon morphed into the hypothetical place where consciousness is first realized. They used terms like environmental adaptability, levels of consciousness, collective awareness, relatedness of mind and consciousness, and evolving into consciousness.

Consolidated Definition: Awareness is an evolving process that purposefully improves survival of oneself and one’s species through awareness.

Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness:

It is not currently believed that Artificial Intelligence has the ability to create consciousness but is at present stuck in programing and thinking. When machines become aware of their existence, survival, and form a species they will be considered to be living with consciousness and therefore engage in independent goal-directed behavior.  At such time, machines will have a level of “free will” and independence of thought beyond their programmers. This makes them a living species of a different breed and a new developmental trajectory.

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