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  • Writer's pictureNikos Tzagkarakis

Artificial Consciousness: A Proposed “Experiment”




Once again I would like to clarify that this piece of writing is just a personal philosophical quest, from my personal journey in Artificial Intelligence, based on my biased search on how could a machine “be conscious”.


Consciousness is probably one of the most important and most controversial, quests of scientific research, one that seems to be more relevant than ever, since we are at the very beginning of the era of artificial intelligence.


First of all, for the sake of avoiding possible misinterpretations let me put a straightforward, and kind of loose, description of what I mean when I say “consciousness”: The subjective experience that is happening in one person’s brain. This description is often referred to as the “Hard Problem” of consciousness and was proposed by David Chalmers.


There have been literally hundreds of publications, delivering different interpretations on what consciousness is and there have also been many experiments on trying to find out, at what point consciousness begins and at what point it ends. However, the scope of this article is not to question any of these theories, but rather to propose a practical and playful way of testing what I call the “Camera State” concept, an experimental hypothesis of mine, that “dares” to test how to slowly make a machine conscious. By “making a machine conscious” is not meant that the machine would be aware of itself, but rather that it will seem to start coming to the conclusion that it exists, in a zombie-like fashion(?).


Acknowledgement: If interested, I highly suggest reading books like “Life 3.0” by Max Tegmark, “How To Create A Mind” by Ray Kurzweil and “In Our Own Image: Saviour Or Destroyer” by George Zarkadakis, just to name a few.


The “Camera State” concept is a proposed and fun experiment, based on the idea that consciousness is the result of the experiences when being processed inside ones brain.

As Max Tegmark says in “Life 3.0”: “Consciousness is how the information feels….it is a function above all other functions”.


So..Being a camera & the “Camera State”.


For the sake of understanding the concept, you must try to imagine of being a camera. I know how this sounds, but bare with me.

Let’s say that you are a camera attached on a wall, with absolutely no needs (a need would be satisfaction through achieving goals, e.g. need for food), plus you do not have to struggle to survive because you will never die which makes you to not need to develop any curiosity. In addition you have no other senses except from vision.


That means that you (the camera), would just watch the world fly by with absolutely no reason to understand it, because you have no needs thus no fears and no senses… except vision. In addition, you have no way of seeing or even feel yourself, thus would be impossible for you to even think that you are a being that exists.


So for now you are a camera on the wall with no feelings, no needs, no senses (except vision), no reason to even think. So no consciousness(?).



Now, imagine that I gradually begin giving you more senses, like the ability to hear, to taste, to smell and to touch. You suddenly begin to experience the world in completely different ways and perhaps you start to have a sense of your own body. But still, you have no needs, thus you do not try to “solve the world”, and you still are not aware of your existence.


Here comes the need for goals.


Now imagine that I give you a purpose of understanding the world by giving you points for every bit of information that you understand around you. You begin doing calculations in your mind, you try to guess and imagine solutions and answers, based on what you know up till now. Because otherwise you get no points, or in the human case… you die.


And then I put a mirror in front of you. You will need to solve everything because you need the points, and you will see yourself in the mirror. You will try to understand what is that thing in the mirror and you will finally get it. It is you. You exist.


At this point, perhaps, you will begin having thoughts of self-preservation, you will begin calculating your moves, you will begin having that thinking process that makes you feel like something is observing your thoughts. Perhaps you will have the full experience of what we call consciousness.


Conclusion


There is that possibility, if this experiment is successful, that consciousness is an evolutionary necessity of high level calculations that are needed to happen in our brain in order for the organisms to function in higher levels, e.g. to go hunting. Perhaps, that self awareness is how these calculations “feel” inside our brain.


The End.


The above theoretical experiment is my personal pursue on trying to give conscious-like features on Tzager in collaboration with researchers. Everything will be done in a computer in pure software and then tested in some kind of robotic hardware.


It is just a way that I am trying to explain consciousness and how it might have gradually be developed through the thousands of years that we exist, feel and need to survive.

It is of crucial importance that we will someday understand what is consciousness and how it came to be in order to implement it in artificial “life”, or in order to know how to avoid it.

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