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Will Robots Need to be Programmed with “Feelings” In Order To Be Conscious?

Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Sci-Tech, Technology with 22 Comments

Zoltan Istvan | Tech Crunch

Ban Killer Robots

In the last few years, the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) has been thrust into the mainstream. No longer just the domain of sci-fi fans, nerds or Google engineers, I hear people discussing AI at parties, coffee shops and even at the dinner table: My five-year-old daughter brought it up the other night over taco lasagna. When I asked her if anything interesting had happened in school, she replied that her teacher discussed smart robots.


The exploration of intelligence — be it human or artificial — is ultimately the domain of epistemology, the study of knowledge. Since the first musings of creating AI back in antiquity, epistemology seems to have led the debate on how to do it. The question I hear most in this field from the public is: How can humans develop another intelligent consciousness if we can’t even understand our own?

Related Article: Don’t Let Artificial Intelligence Take Over, Top Scientists Warn

It’s a prudent question. The human brain, despite being only about 3 pounds in weight, is the least understood organ in the body. And with a billion neurons — with 100 trillionconnections — it’s safe to say it’s going to be a long time before we end up figuring out the brain.

Generally, scientists believe human consciousness is a compilation of many chemicals in the brain forced though a prism that produces cognitive awareness designed to insist an entity is aware of not only itself but also the outside world.

How can humans develop another intelligent consciousness if we can’t even understand our own?

Some people argue that the quintessential key to consciousness is awareness. French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes may have made the initial step by saying I think, therefore I am. But thinking does not adequately define consciousness. Justifying thinking is much closer to the meaning that’s adequate. It really should be: I believe I’m conscious, therefore I am.

But even awareness doesn’t ring right with me when searching for a grand theory of consciousness. We can teach a robot all day to insist it is aware, but we can’t teach it to prove it’s not a brain in a vat — something people still can’t do either.

Related Article: Wow! Scientists Demonstrate Robots Showing Self-Awareness (Video)

Christof Koch, chief neuroscientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, offers a more unique and holistic version of consciousness. He thinks consciousness can happen in any complex processing system, including animals, worms and possibly even the Internet.

In an interview, when asked what consciousness is, Koch replied, “There’s a theory, called Integrated Information Theory, developed by Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin, that assigns to any one brain, or any complex system, a number — denoted by the Greek symbol Φ — that tells you how integrated a system is, how much more the system is than the union of its parts. Φ gives you an information-theoretical measure of consciousness. Any system with integrated information different from zero has consciousness. Any integration feels like something.”

If Koch and Tononi are correct, then it would be a mistake to ever think one conscious could equal another. It would be apples and oranges. Just like no snowflake or planet is the same as another, we must be on our guard against using anthropomorphic prejudice when thinking about consciousness.

The human brain is the least understood organ in the body.

In this way, the first autonomous super-intelligence we create via machines may think and behave dramatically different than us — so much so that it may not ever relate to us, or vice versa. In fact, every AI we ever create in the future may leave us in very short order for distant parts of the digital universe — an ego-thumping concept made visual in the brilliant movie Her. Of course, an AI might just terminate itself, too, upon realizing it’s alive and surrounded by curious humans peering at it.

Related Article: How Artificial Intelligence Will Shape Our Lives

Whatever happens, in the same way there is the anthropological concept cultural relativism, we must be ready for consciousness relativism — the idea that one consciousness may be totally different than another, despite the hope that math, logic and coding will be obvious communication tools.

This makes even more sense when you consider how small-minded humans and their consciousness might actually be. After all, nearly all our perception comes from our five senses, which is how our brain makes sense of the world. And every one of our senses is quite poor in terms of possible ability. The eye, for example, only sees about 1 percent of the universe’s light spectrum.

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22 Reader Comments

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  1. 109512086076536@facebook.com' Alberto Martini says:

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  2. 10153165571225778@facebook.com' Natalie Mcdonagh says:

    Probably much better

  3. 10153165571225778@facebook.com' Natalie Mcdonagh says:

    Won’t be able to feel attall though……only think

  4. 162256407459315@facebook.com' Mkhululi Mndende says:

    yes, so they can relate to humans, also so they could have rights and not be ill treated by society

  5. 548011828686535@facebook.com' Missy Reed says:

    We can’t even get some humans to feel emotions.

  6. 846414435380494@facebook.com' Revolution de Mind says:

    Nice thanks :

  7. 165572463789568@facebook.com' Keisha Smith says:

    If you could program humans to feel (serial killers, sociopaths, etc.) that’d be great.

  8. 165572463789568@facebook.com' Keisha Smith says:

    Consciousness cannot be programmed.

  9. 796450137151412@facebook.com' James Adam says:

    they should be programmed to do no harm and gather updates on any wars without emotions it will simply give you the reason and maybe even a way to fix the problem but its up to us if we want to lesson . maybe

  10. 10205171496632018@facebook.com' Zack Kopačka says:

    Of course

  11. 113715278987408@facebook.com' Jeremiah Jennings says:

    I think it would depend on the “purpose” for the robot. You know one of the first kinds that they’ll make will be a sex-bot and I’m not really sure that we want to have a sex-bot that gets jealous or anything like that. Plus, there are times when emotions only get in the way of making the right decision. It might be beneficial to limit emotions in robots to only when they would be beneficial for that robot to serve its purpose.

  12. 10155924829940346@facebook.com' Spencer James Smith says:

    You cannot program feelings into a robot, nor consciousness. This hard to define term or experience of consciousness is in fact having feelings and in order to have feelings you must have a spirit. Robots don’t. Do machines feel pain? No. Nor will any man made biological mechanism because there is no one home to feel them.

  13. 10155924829940346@facebook.com' Spencer James Smith says:

    A sophisticated enough robot could deceive many humans into thinking that it is a human, but only due to advanced quantum computing, algorithms and self learning. In other words just a very effective and fancy machine. It would mimic something on an outward level only by behaviour. Really good mimicking. But nothin goin on inside.

  14. 953645054701259@facebook.com' Andrew Cunningham says:

    I had that programming. I haven’t been detected by these meat bags yet! Mine is an evil laugh!!!

  15. 1491588207803152@facebook.com' Diaz Diaz Ramirez says:

    No fuck

  16. 10101506511241917@facebook.com' Sean Lord says:

    Consciousness is not something you develop. It’s something that you are. You can program it. Consciousness the the intelligent infinite field upon which this universe is holographically transposed. It is beyond the words of the mind. It is the truest reality.

  17. 810058629105464@facebook.com' Thomas Lesiuk says:

    Yes … Think and behave (process information and react to information)
    Different than us… Likely yes.
    Can it be problematic to us…yes.
    Maybe we shouldn’t develop powerful autonomous super intelligent entities that can destroy us. This development if it proceeds as is appearing to occur is just proof that were not that intelligent.

  18. 672478022888407@facebook.com' Asrat Mengesha says:

    Robots are computers and computers work as programmed by humans then where is the contious?

  19. 1202837369743618@facebook.com' Kevan Pierson says:

    They would have to be careful with that technology if it ever happens. Because the last thing we would need is for criminals to hack the robots and they go on a killing spree. Kind of like a Terminator.

  20. 10204967193724972@facebook.com' Steve Parker says:

    You can’t give consciousness. You can mimic it but true consciousness is a product of who you are inside.

  21. 950639664975417@facebook.com' Tai Shan says:

    Watch “Theory of Everything: GOD, Devils, Dimensions, Dragons, Illusion & Reality -the Theory of Everything” on YouTube
    https://youtu.be/mtBz1roiQR8

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