Archive for the ‘Machine consciousness’ Category

The reality of A different way of thinking

thinking machineOn a long journey recently my satnav seemed to become annoyed with me. There were road closures and it was desperately trying to send us back the way we had come, to the closed roads. The instructions it then gave us amounted almost to  “sort yourselves out then”. When we stopped it flew out of the car door, almost suicidally.

This led to the discussion about whether complex machines had some sort of consciousness.

A few days later I happened to watch a film about Alan Turing and his work on the enigma machine. When asked if he thought if machines could think he said, “Just because machines cannot think as people do, does not mean that they cannot think”. Also,” Just because something is thinking differently from you does not mean it is not thinking”.

This made me think anyway. Not only to be nice to your mechanical objects, they may be more conscious than you think, but also this may apply to any aliens in our world. Could we actually understand each other if our thinking patterns were so different.

Aspect of reality

Just because something is thinking differently from you does not mean it is not thinking. Are we really the only intelligent or conscious beings in our reality?


Rise and fall of machines


Around us these days is much talk of the machines replacing humans to make and do everything. There are even worries that they may, as in science fiction horrors, attempt to take over completely. I read only the other day of a worker in a factory being killed by a car making robot.

Even the most advanced machines are not yet conscious in the way humans are though, even though they are cleverly programmed to appear so.

As I was sitting in my car in the hand car wash the other day though, I thought this is one area that has fought back. People prefer to have their cars washed by hand. Humans actually do a better and more careful job. Especially with older or non standard cars.

We have also gone back to individual baking, sewing and crafts. So what is going on here? Where else are we going to fight back, and turn back the tide of standardization and over reliance on machines? Some machines are essential and life enhancing, like the one I am using now. Some have relieved us from lives of drudgery. Many are beginning to do jobs that we can still do better. We after all have something that machines do not,  consciousness, souls and life experience. Let us realize the difference, celebrate the differences and not let the machines have all their own way.

Most importantly though let us remember that our physical reality relies perhaps too much on machines. We have lost skills, the ability to feed ourselves, and we are too reliant on computers in our banking system. We, and our civilization could be eliminated very easily if required. If machines do achieve consciousness, on the other hand, would turning them off count as murder? Time to think this through properly before it is too late.

Aspects of reality

They cannot yet create real artificial intelligence, should it be feared or welcomed?


The reality of machine consciousness- or the suicidal robot

In my search for all things quirky, the headline “Bored robot killed itself” caught my eye in a Sunday heavy weight paper recently. But as ever, a silly story actually illustrated an important reality question.


The story An advanced cleaning robot, Irobot Roomba 760, which can clean polish and Hoover, apparently was so bored that it switched itself back on and deliberately burned itself to death on a kitchen hotplate.

Why? The problem was, so the sub text inferred, there was a high degree of engineering sophistication, computer programming and advanced circuitry  needed to allow the robot to do these things. Its very complexity allowed vestigial intelligence to be generated which had then become bored with the lowly tasks it had to do!!!!


Could this be possible? Depends of course on the nature of consciousness and what it means in our reality. I did quite a lot about the nature of consciousness at the beginning of this blog ( See A question of consciousness, and also, The reality of us- mind body conundrum parts 1 and 2- published in 2011 and to be found in Aspects of reality category ) I know the artificial intelligence debate, about whether computers can only ever process and look as if they are thinking, or could  actually really ever properly think independently of their programming, is ongoing. Independent thinking is completely different from just following preprogrammed instructions, let alone developing emotions such as boredom. The real question is, what does it take to make that leap? Is consciousness and independent thinking only possible as a bi product of advanced biological brains? Or is it something else inherent in the structure of the universe? Is all matter in some way conscious?  These are serious questions that raise interesting questions themselves about the true nature of our reality.

Aspect of reality

Just because something is thinking differently from you does not mean it is not thinking. Are we really the only intelligent or conscious beings in our reality? Could advanced machines actually have some sort of actual consciousness?




Aspects of reality- machine life

When talking about the reality of life, most of us presume that we mean animal or vegetable life. We almost always prioritize intelligent human life. What about intelligent, non human, non organic life? Could there be such a thing? Could complex machines ever be considered live? If so what does it mean for our aspects of reality?


Machine life

When you think about, on first glance, the three criteria which define organic life ( see life post) are just not there in machines. They cannot metabolize and release the energy stored in molecular bonds. They cannot form their own boundaries, and they certainly cannot reproduce themselves. Will this always be true though? It is possible to imagine that in the future machines can be designed to breakdown bio products and convert them into energy to furnish their energetic needs. They could almost now build and repair themselves. They could thus maintain their own boundaries, and be said to reproduce themselves. Would this then count as life, albeit inorganic?


Conscious life

The other main criteria with which we define intelligent life is consciousness. By this we mean the awareness of yourself as a separate functioning entity. This involves the ability not just to follow instructions, but to actually think and make decisions. Could a clever, advanced machine even have that? Could machines think, as we know it, or are they always going to be no more than computational machinery?


The Chinese room

There is an analogy called “The Chinese Room.” This is said to describe how computers process information. In this analogy there is a sealed room with a hatch. In the room there are symbols and a book of instructions. Someone passes other symbols though the hatch and a person in the sealed room matches the symbols according to the book of instructions and passes out those matched. The point is that the matcher does not have to understand what the symbols mean to produce an output. What looks like thinking, is merely a mechanical process.


Machine rights to life?

Computers process data, they do not, at the moment think. They are not considered, at the moment, conscious entities. They are not considered life. If more advanced machines do seem to become conscious, then we will have to re-open the debate. For instance, what rights to life would a conscious machine have? Would switching it off count as murder? Will life have to be re-defined? This may sound far fetched but it is an interesting point.


Aspects of reality-life

Our narrow understanding of life is now understood only in terms of organic entities. If consciousness can be seen as the true definition of life, then machines may have to be included in that definition sometime in the future. What difference will this make to our understanding of this particular aspect of reality? What other strange life will we discover in the future?