The “consciousness” of artificial intelligence

One of the basic tenents of a Technological Singularity according to people directly involved in making it happen, is the programming and building of an artificial intelligence.

By “intelligent” I mean a “human” level intelligence that is capable of thought and conversation with a human tester who can neither tell if he/she was talking to a machine or another human.

Such a test for the machine to pass is called a ‘Turing Test’, which was first proposed by Alan Turing in 1950. Turing was a pioneer in computer science and was instrumental in breaking the Enigma Code during WWII.

However on October 12 this coming Sunday at the University of Reading, six artificial intelligence programs are to to examined via the Turing test to determine whether AI programs have progressed to the point where a human tester can’t tell the difference between a conversation with a machine and a human:

In the Turing test a machine seeks to fool judges into believing that it could be human. The test is performed by conducting a text-based conversation on any subject. If the computer’s responses are indistinguishable from those of a human, it has passed the Turing test and can be said to be “thinking”.

No machine has yet passed the test devised by Turing, who helped to crack German military codes during the Second World War. But at 9am next Sunday, six computer programs – “artificial conversational entities” – will answer questions posed by human volunteers at the University of Reading in a bid to become the first recognised “thinking” machine. If any program succeeds, it is likely to be hailed as the most significant breakthrough in artificial intelligence since the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It could also raise profound questions about whether a computer has the potential to be “conscious” – and if humans should have the ‘right’ to switch it off.

Professor Kevin Warwick, a cyberneticist at the university, said: “I would say now that machines are conscious, but in a machine-like way, just as you see a bat or a rat is conscious like a bat or rat, which is different from a human. I think the reason Alan Turing set this game up was that maybe to him consciousness was not that important; it’s more the appearance of it, and this test is an important aspect of appearance.”

The six computer programs taking part in the test are called Alice, Brother Jerome, Elbot, Eugene Goostman, Jabberwacky and Ultra Hal. Their designers will be competing for an 18-carat gold medal and $100,000 offered by the Loebner Prize in Artificial Intelligence.

The test will be carried out by human “interrogators”, each sitting at a computer with a split screen: one half will be operated by an unseen human, the other by a program. The interrogators will then begin separate, simultaneous text-based conversations with both of them on any subjects they choose. After five minutes they will be asked to judge which is which. If they get it wrong, or are not sure, the program will have fooled them. According to Warwick, a program needs only to make 30 per cent or more of the interrogators unsure of its identity to be deemed as having passed the test, based on Turing’s own criteria.

I like the analogy Professor Warwick uses in describing “consciousness” in the programs, “…conscious in a machine-like way, just as you see a bat or a rat is conscious like a bat or rat…”.

There is wisdom in that, if an AI program did become sentient, would it be ‘conscious’ like a human, or would it act like its nature implies?

I suppose it would mean whether one believes consciousness requires sentience, or that sentience requires consciousness.

Here are some links to posts by various people who have opinions and possible answers to such questions.

As for yours truly, I think consciousness is overrated, but the death of my ego leaves me a little unnerved!

‘Intelligent’ computers put to the test

Dr. Michio Kaku interview at the Daily Grail

Physical Basis for Problems


11 responses

  1. Hi dad2059 et al. …

    “In the Turing test a machine seeks to fool judges into believing that it could be human. The test is performed by conducting a text-based conversation on any subject. If the computer’s responses are indistinguishable from those of a human, it has passed the Turing test and can be said to be “thinking”. …extract from above article

    There’s quite a bit of contention as to what represents human intelligence. Many humans although living flesh and blood entities couldn’t answer the judges questions either; therefore they shouldn’t be classed as “thinking” either…no?! It’s very human to not know the answer, to make mistakes, or simply to “lie” when the need should suit them. Until a machine can duplicate all these fine nuances; ie., even the flaws concerning human cognition then it’s simply nothing but a “mimic” and a dangerous mimic at that under certain circumstances.

    I want a computer or AI driven device to do what it’s designed to do and do it well without making mistakes or suffering fatigue concerning highly repetitive or dull routine tasks unlike a human.

    Humans do what they do best and if they have sterling intellects the ability to make great leaps of creative thought through intuition and the ability to relate that which is highly unrelated with the end result being a totally new idea all while having a headache or a bad case of acid stomach to boot… :))

    Here’s a link to everything you might ever want to know or not want to know about “The Turing Test”.

    It’s truly an enjoyable read and has some fascinating links to other theories relating to the impossibility of creating truly sapient machine.

    One thing too is that the human brain is a massive parallel processor in that the nominal 100 billion neurons are in a sense are all connected to each other chemically, closely by cell body dendrites and more distantly via axon cross connects. The brain is massively hardwired and modular relative to its respective areas and functions. Here’s a link to everything you might want to know about the human brain.

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Hi dad2059…

    I made the first comment, but it didn’t post due to the several imbedded links I provided with my commentary. Your assist would be appreciated.

    Nemo **==

  3. Assistance granted and done Nemo.

    While a truly sapient machine or program might be improbable, I do agree with Professor Warwick in that the machine or program could have its own level of consciousness, i.e., a machine being a machine, a rat being a rat, a dog being a dog, etc.

    Rather Buddhist in outlook, don’t you think? 😎

  4. Hi dad2059…

    That’s fine and it would be more fun to interface with a device that seemed sapient with human like articulation rather than of a metallic, boxy device with a dull monotone voice.

    I’m looking forward to having a female android so refined; ie., perfection in intelligence and things of the flesh along with 13th octave “kink” on demand. I’m tired of inflatables… :))

    Carl Nemo **==

  5. The Japanese are looking into that now Nemo:

    It wouldn’t surprise me any if robots were to spontaneously develop sapience, it would be warbots or sexbots!


  6. “I’m convertin’ to natural gas…TODAY! : D

    At least the Japanese have their priorities right when it comes to getting sensible utility out of AI. All our “mad dogs” in Congress and the MIC will come up with is making warbots; ie., more “killtoys” !

    I’m so glad that not only we, but the entire phony assed world paradigm of “debt without end” is finally collapsing around our collective ears. Soon we won’t have money to wage war at least land based conventional ones in faraway places in which we have no business… : |

    Families will be huddled around the fireplace playing board games again … :))

    Carl Nemo **==

  7. Check out this Web 2.0 approach to chatbots:

    Just as Deep Blue brute-forced it in chess with speed, the idea behind the Chatbot Game is to brute-force it with a huge number of user-submitted Google-like chat rules.

  8. Chatbot Elbot almost passes the Turing Test…can humans fool humans into thinking they are, in fact, another computer program?

    This past weekend, the 18th annual Loebner Prize was held . That’s the contest that tries to get computers to fool humans into thinking that they are, in fact, human. The winner, Elbot, created by Fred Roberts of Artificial Solutions in Germany,came the closest that anyone has so far. See how close is to pass this interview:

  9. I suspect that machine consciousness, while a major technical challenge, is in principle merely a matter of a quantitative change leading to a qualitative change, i.e. it’s essentially a super-display with logic tacked on.
    The social and ethical implications of this have been explored in advance by science fiction writers for the last two centuries, longer if one includes certain myths.

  10. I’m not really sure such a being can be made by human hands, but a super display with a logic tacked on could be made.

    Simply increasing processor power isn’t enough. For the type of creature Singularitarians want, it needs to be greater than the sum of its parts.

    Parts that make humans human.

  11. Robert MacMaster | Reply

    Hello dad2059

    I have a question, actually afew. so here goes, why do people seem to expect robot that are instantaniously built in relevant terms of time in comparison to how long it take a human to accumulate enough intelligence to just survive. I belive that if scientist were to crate a robot that can learn and through sight and sound and have it shadow (ie learn along side) a human baby from birth to becomng an adult and to be tought the ethics of humanity just like how we teach our young as they grow up on a daily basis, I truley believe this would give ths A.I was we know as a soul but then on that note we must question by who’s ethics is it being taught.( just like humans). Am I on the write parralel of thinking about how we can create A.I


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