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Synthetic Sentient Systems and the Consciousne s s
                       Byproduct
      As Examined in Mindscan and Blad...
Synthetic Sentient Systems and the Consciousne s s
                       Byproduct:
      As Examined in Mindscan and Bla...
to the ess ence of personhood as defined by degrees of self- awarenes s .

This complex characterization of consciou sne s...
The IIT equation looks impressive , but it means little to someone

who is not a neuroscientist .       Yet, it propose s ...
thoughts and behaviors that a carbon life form (humans) produces . Will

that silicon system be conscious in the same way ...
other shipmates on the Voyager. He makes the case that all humans are

created by their parents , but that they are not th...
awarenes s exhibited by one who is conscious , what is the “thinking” or

“awarenes s” that must exist that separates the ...
create its own ideas about its reality.


       Roy: We’ re not computers Sebastian, we’ re physical.

       Pris: I thi...
personhood , and second , she must believe that the soul is the definable

quality the separates the zombie from the self-...
Deshawn : I have a dream that my four little children will one day live
      in a nation where they will not be judged by...
soul. By substituting “qualia” for the word “soul”, we can examine the

consciou sne s s on a less abstract footing .

   ...
general definition of qualia, a person is known to have it if the person

experiences “the ‘ what it is like’ character of...
genuine, but then what is genuine knowledge of what it is to be X?
       We don’ t even quite know what it was like to be...
backwards . Perhaps , we believe we have consciousne s s because we live

first on the backs of our zombies . We look over...
physiological reactions in an organism , AND it takes a backseat to the

organism’ s zombie forever looking over its shoul...
android is not devoid of compas sion , empathy, passion or love .

      Roy: I’ ve seen things you people wouldn’ t belie...
July/August
      2009, pg. 16-19

Raley, Yvonne , “Electric Thoughts ? ” , Scientific American Mind, April/May
2006,
    ...
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Sentient synthetic systen and the consciousness byproduct as examined in mindscan and blade runner

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Transcript of "Sentient synthetic systen and the consciousness byproduct as examined in mindscan and blade runner"

  1. 1. Synthetic Sentient Systems and the Consciousne s s Byproduct As Examined in Mindscan and Blade Runner By Chelse Benham For Dr. Jean Braithwait The University of Texas - Pan American Master of Fines Arts Creative Writing May 2, 2010 Benham Chelse Page 1 5/15/2010 1
  2. 2. Synthetic Sentient Systems and the Consciousne s s Byproduct: As Examined in Mindscan and Blade Runner “It will not be a neutral or malevolent force that will do us in, but one whose only motivation is to improve us.” – Sherwin Nuland, clinical profess or of surgery at Yale University’ s School of Medicine , and author of “How We Die” There are three criteria for sentience . A sentient being must pos s e s s self- awarenes s , intelligence , and consciou sne s s . To be human you must be conscious . To be consciou s , “you must be a single, integrated entity with a large repertoire of highly differentiated states ” that derives meaning from cross - linked images that form greater levels of complexity and memories . (Scientific American Mind, July/August 2009, pg. 16 ) From such integrated thinking, “Consciousness emerges from total behavioral and neurological repertoire – Just as the face in the painting emerges from the whole array of colored patches.” (Scruton, 2005, pg. 76) Those “color patches” of consciou sne s s are made up of memories , dreams , colors , pain, problems and other intricate sens e s . They are central Benham Chelse Page 2 5/15/2010 2
  3. 3. to the ess ence of personhood as defined by degrees of self- awarenes s . This complex characterization of consciou sne s s is vital to the plot of Mindscan, by Robert Sawyer, and Ridley Scott’ s movie Blade Runner. In both science fiction novel and movie , the characters must defend , and come to terms with what it means to be human- like as determined by their sentient states of consciousne s s and issues of death and dying . Replicant’ s weren’ t suppose to have feelings. Neither were Blade Runners. What the hell was happening to me? Leon’ s pictures had to be a phony as Rachael’ s. I didn’ t know why a replicant would collect photos. Maybe they were like Rachael. They needed memories. – Deckard, Blade Runner To be sentient is to be aware, to be responsive to or conscious of impressions, to be finely sensitive in perception or feeling. (Merriam Webster’ s College Dictionary) Whether consciousne s s can arise in a complex , synthetic machine is a question that has long fascinated scientists and science fiction writers. Neuroscientist , Giulio Tononi from the University of Wisconsin - Madison , developed the integrated information theory (IIT). It is based upon two tenants of thought. First, conscious states are highly differentiated; they are information rich. Second , this information is highly integrated. IIT uses mathematics to calculate how much integrated information an entity pos s e s s e s and thus , its level of consciousne s s . Benham Chelse Page 3 5/15/2010 3
  4. 4. The IIT equation looks impressive , but it means little to someone who is not a neuroscientist . Yet, it propose s to quantify levels of consciou sne s s , and perhaps even evaluate the ess ence of personhood . If Tononi’ s equation for Φ proves to plumb the hitherto ineffable— consciousness itself— it would validate the ancient Pythagorean belief that “ number is the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of gods and demons.” (Koch, pg. 17 ) But consciou sne s s cannot be easily reduced to numbers . It has yet to be observed and does not produce empirical data. (Scruton, pg. 72) As a counterpart to the IIT formula, science fiction offers a more readily understandable and palpable illustration of awakened consciousne s s . Through parables that explore the issues of what it means to be human using futuristic scenarios , science fiction writers can go where no science has managed to penetrate, by creating extremely sophisticated androids or replicants to explore the complicated issues surrounding consciousne s s . Mindscan and Blade Runner explore the subject of sentient androids in the greater context of inalienable rights . For example , consider a silicon - based android (replicants or mindscans ) that produces exactly the same Benham Chelse Page 4 5/15/2010 4
  5. 5. thoughts and behaviors that a carbon life form (humans) produces . Will that silicon system be conscious in the same way that a person would be ? If so , does that silicon system ascend in status , because of its sophisticated self- learning and self- aware artificial intelligence , becoming a “sentient being” afforded rights equivalent to our own ? Is this larger proposition - sentient machines having equal rights because they are sentient - disturbing because such a proposition holds that a man-made (android) life form be promoted to the status and equivalency of a God-made (human) life form ? Such a proposition ultimately questions what it is to be human and what is “personhood” . It ultimately places the creator (man) on equal terms to the created (synthetic sentient system) and pos sibly, subjugating man to the android as the android develops superior intelligence and super- human strength . By contrast, if sentient systems are refused rights to protect them from abuses , exploitation, and enslavement , neglect of a sentient being ’ s rights would have future societies condoning such unjust institutions . The explication of this proposition was examined in another popular science fiction television program, Star Trek: The Next Generation. “The Measure of a Man” was a second - seas on episode broadcasted in 1989. In this episode , Data’ s sentience is put on trial. Captain Picard must defend Data as a sentient being worthy of the same protections and rights afforded Benham Chelse Page 5 5/15/2010 5
  6. 6. other shipmates on the Voyager. He makes the case that all humans are created by their parents , but that they are not the property of their parents . Picard argues that Data was made by Dr. Noonien Soong , but that he is neither the property of Dr. Soong nor Starfleet. As a sentient being , Data has free will and the choice to subject himself to disas s embly if he chooses . Picard points out that if the court ruled against Data’ s right to choos e , it would be tantamount to sanctioning slavery. Roy: Quite an experience to live in fear isn’ t it? That’ s what it is to be a slave. (escaped android in Blade Runner) For Roy, he is expres sing what it is like to feel fear as a slave , to live in fear of dying not dissimilar to that of a human being , and he must face the termination of his life. In that statement, he is defining his experience of dying and demonstrating his state “personhood” . This is a far greater sense of awarenes s than merely explaining his surroundings and his situation as a fact. He is self- aware. He is much more than the philosophical “zombie” that describes a person who appears to be awake and intelligent, but does not exhibit consciou sne s s or self- awarenes s . Profess or Caleb Poe : … a zombie is conscious in that it is responsive to its environment – but that’ s all. True consciousness – … is what we really mean when we talk about personhood – recognizes that there is something that it is like to be aware. (Mindscan pg. 235) If there are consciou s states differentiated by a sens e of knowing or Benham Chelse Page 6 5/15/2010 6
  7. 7. awarenes s exhibited by one who is conscious , what is the “thinking” or “awarenes s” that must exist that separates the zombie state from the awakened state ? To learn to think, a machine needs to “ have a chance of finding things out for itself. (Raley, pg. 81 ) People interchange the words “awarenes s” or “thinking” to describe proces s e s that involve consciou sne s s , understanding , and creativity and the ability to draw inference from one ’ s experiences , perceptions and accumulated memories . But what does it mean to be conscious? Consciousness is more familiar to us than any other feature of our world, since it is the route by which anything at all becomes familiar. But this is what makes consciousness so hard to pinpoint. Look for it wherever you like, you encounter only its objects – a face, a dream, a memory, a color, a pain, a melody, a problem, but nowhere the consciousness that shines on them. Trying to grasp it is like trying to observe your own observing, as though you were to look with your own eyes at your own eyes without using a mirror. Not surprisingly, therefore, the thought of consciousness gives rise to peculiar metaphysical anxieties, which we try to allay with images of the soul, the mind, the self, the “ subject of consciousness,” the inner entity that thinks and sees and feels and that is the real me inside. (Scruton, pg. 72) Computer scientist Stevan Harnad, of the University of Southampton in England, believes for computers to begin to understand they would have to grasp abstractions and the context of the abstractions by first learning how they relate to the real, outside world. David Hume, author of “Treatise of Human Nature” written in 1978, sugge sted that a person is “a bundle or collection of different perceptions . ” Thus , a sentient machine must understand how it relates to its reality through its subjective perceptions to Benham Chelse Page 7 5/15/2010 7
  8. 8. create its own ideas about its reality. Roy: We’ re not computers Sebastian, we’ re physical. Pris: I think, Sebastian, therefore I am. (Blade Runner) Rene Descartes ’ axiom “Cognito ergo sum” utilized by Pris in her declaration that she believes she exists because she is aware that she does , is ironic. She is an escaped replicant (android), created as a pleasure slave who is afforded no inalienable rights by her creators and who is destined to die because her “coding sequence cannot be revised once it’ s been established” that shortens the replicant’ s lifespan . Yet, she defends her personhood on the grounds that she is aware of herself, and thus has a right to life. Simultaneously , Roy reminds Sebastian that replicants aren’t glorified computers . They are much much more than that. Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You’ re the prodigal son. You’ re quite a prize! Could we extend the concept of consciousne s s to include something more ? Does the argument for awarenes s shape itself around an ineffable idea of personhood and that personhood pos s e s s e s a soul? To begin to go down that rabbit hole, there must be established at least two convictions . First, one must believe that a soul exists and is in some way a part of Benham Chelse Page 8 5/15/2010 8
  9. 9. personhood , and second , she must believe that the soul is the definable quality the separates the zombie from the self- aware person . Deshawn , (attorney for the plaintiff, Karen Bes sarian in Mindscan):“You yourself said it was significant that a biological person has a soul and an upload does not. Indeed, you used the language of philosophy to tell us that the Karen Bessarian in this courtroom must be soulless – a condition you described as being a zombie.” But what creates the soul and where does it exist within a person ? Science has yet to find the answers to these questions because it has yet to find consciou sne s s . If science can not tell us where the soul or consciou sne s s resides , perhaps the better question would be, “Is it content – the degree of subjective perception that forms self- awarenes s , rather than construction – the biological material that make the organism , that should be examined when qualifying the status of sentient synthetic systems ? ” If it walks , talks, thinks , acts , and is aware of itself like a human, then it should it be recognized as a human equivalent ? “If identity is a matter of psychological variables x, y, and z, transferring x, y, and z to a different vessel should make that vessel have the same identity.” (Katz, pg. 151) In this equation , Katz asserts that if there is a soul then the soul attaches to a body, one at a time, and if it is dislodged , it will transfer itself in whole to its new body . (Katz, pg. 151) The very same assertion is made by Deshawn for Karen Bessarian in Mindscan. Benham Chelse Page 9 5/15/2010 9
  10. 10. Deshawn : I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character… That is what should count! The content of one’ s character. And, as we have shown, the content of the plaintiff’ s character is identical to that of the biological original…There’ s a concept in the law known as scienter – it refers to the knowledge that a person possesses, the awareness. This Karen Bessarian has the knowledge of the original; she is the same person… More than that, she has the same feelings, the same hopes, the same aspirations, the same creativity, and the same desires as she always did. Deshawn : You concede that your philosophical notion of consciousness superimposed on the zombie, and the religious notion of the soul superimposed on the biological body, are essentially the same thing? Poe : Yes. Deshawn : I mean, the soul doesn’ t change upon death. It still has volition, doesn’ t it? Your soul hasn’ t become an automaton, has it? It hasn’ t become a zombie? Poe : No. Deshawn : Even if souls are only created by God, and can’ t be duplicated by any mortal process, isn’ t it still possible that Ms. Bessarian’ s soul now resides n this artificial body – making her no more a zombie than the original was before it passed away? Poe : Yes. Though this exchange emphasizes a pointed argument worth considering , it relevancy is based upon a specious idea that a soul exist, for which no scientific evidence has ever been substantiated. A substitution may be better suited for our purpose s here. Qualia, a term used in philosophy to describe the subjective quality of conscious experience , in ess ence may be thought to be the same as a Benham Chelse Page 10 5/15/2010 10
  11. 11. soul. By substituting “qualia” for the word “soul”, we can examine the consciou sne s s on a less abstract footing . We bridged the gap between qualia, consciou sne s s , and the soul in the earlier case of Star Trek. Captain Picard defines the ess ential quality of qualia by arguing that Data fulfills two of three criteria for sentience as he is both self- aware and intelligent. Data is human- like and has a right to choos e between his options because he is self- aware of his own existence . However, Picard raises the eternal question what is consciousne s s and how do you measure it ? The Judge Advocate General answers that when humans speak of consciousne s s “they are often referring to the metaphysical concept of the soul .” She concludes by stating that she is not qualified to attest to whether anyone is in poss e s s ion of a soul, and therefore Data has as much right to his choice as everyone else . The elusive soul (religious perspective) is neither known or unknown and cannot be determined to make a case against of for sentience . soul n 1. the complex of human attributes that manifests as consciousness, thought, feeling, and will, regarded as distinct from the physical body 2. in some systems of religious belief, the spiritual part of a human being that is believed to continue to exist after the body dies. (Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation .) However, where the soul fails to be established qualia picks up the pieces . The first definition of the soul is similar to qualia. In the more Benham Chelse Page 11 5/15/2010 11
  12. 12. general definition of qualia, a person is known to have it if the person experiences “the ‘ what it is like’ character of mental states. The way it feels to have mental states such as pain, seeing red, smelling a rose, etc.” (Chalmers , pg 100) In Thomas Nagel’ s seminal work on the experience of subjectivity in “What Is It Like to Be a Bat ? ” he wants to know if it is pos sible humans know what it is like to be a bat if humans cannot imagine what it is like to be a bat. It is the subjectivity of the experience that eludes him and is the subject of his paper. He doesn ’ t want to know what’ s it like for him to be a bat. He wants to know objectively what it is subjectively to know what it is like to be a bat. This raises questions about artificial intelligence having the ability to know what it is “like” to be human to the extent that they can be considered similar to a human in ways of consciou sne s s . Karen Bessarian (Mindscan) and Roy Batty (Blade Runner) both know what is like to be human. Karen’ s upload was once human. By Nagel’ s assertion , she would most certainly know the human experience having been one . Roy knows of the human condition, to face death and his own mortality. Both demonstrate striking “likenes s” to humans , to personhood , and to the sense of “me, myself and I”. But, do they have to experience perfect human likenes s to be able to perceive a sense of “I”? By means of meme-exchange media such as language and gestures, we can experience what it is like to be or do X. It’ s never Benham Chelse Page 12 5/15/2010 12
  13. 13. genuine, but then what is genuine knowledge of what it is to be X? We don’ t even quite know what it was like to be ourselves ten years ago. Only by rereading diaries can we tell – and then, only by projection! It is still vicarious. Worse yet, we often don’ t even know how we could possibly have done what we did yesterday. And, when you come right down to it, it’ s not clear just what it is like to be me, right now. – Douglas Hofstadter, The Mind’ s I, 1981, pg. 413 In Mindscan, Karen Bes sarian must defend that her upload is the real Karen and that her “experiences” and memories are her own just transferred. Yet, in the paragraph above there cannot exist the same person over time because the person changes . If the self is, at its core, a psychological notion, the question then becomes what particular psychological aspects are neces s ary for the construction of self. Is this construction of self ultimately that “feeling” experienced in qualia and consciou sne s s found through self- awarenes s ? Feeling is a mark of consciou sne s s only if we interpret “feeling” as “awarenes s” . But what is it to be aware of something ? Scientists would argue that if consciousne s s is real it must be part of the real world - the world of space and time, which we observe with our sense s and explain by scientific experimentation and evidence . “The subject (consciousness) is in principle unobservable to science, not because it exists in another realm, but because it is not part of the empirical world. It lies on the edge of things, like a horizon.” (Scruton, pg. 75) “I do, therefore I think I am.” (Scruton, pg. 75) Perhaps , Descartes had it Benham Chelse Page 13 5/15/2010 13
  14. 14. backwards . Perhaps , we believe we have consciousne s s because we live first on the backs of our zombies . We look over the shoulders of our consciou s unawakened selves and determine we must exist. That we perform, experience , and live out our lives accumulating memories along the way may make us feel some pressing need to categorize , define , and justify our existence in the greater context of the world we live in, but to what end. Profess or Caleb Poe : I contend that all human beings are first and foremost zombies, but with the added element of consciousness essentially along as a passenger. Let me make the distinction clear: a zombie is conscious in that it is responsive to its environment – but that’ s all. True consciousness – … is what we really mean when we talk about personhood – recognizes that there is something that it is like to be aware. (pg.235) Scruton argues that “consciousness and self-consciousness are holistic properties, which emerge from the totality of a creature’ s physiognomy and behavior.” He contends , and the body of scientific literature supports , that consciousne s s does not exist because it cannot be located , studied , or empirically quantified. Similar arguments are made regarding the existence of God. It is perhaps not surprising that when references are made about the soul it is directly linked to God and the afterlife. To declare that there exists no soul is terrifying for many people . And yet, how could it be otherwise ? IF the proposition that consciou sne s s is the side-effect of Benham Chelse Page 14 5/15/2010 14
  15. 15. physiological reactions in an organism , AND it takes a backseat to the organism’ s zombie forever looking over its shoulder, AND if self- awarenes s only becomes animated post the initial experience after the zombie has already experienced it, THAN consciou sne s s becomes a byproduct! It is no longer tethered to a soul. This has profound implications of the synthetic sentient beings ’ rights of Karen Bes sarian in Mindscan and those of the replicants in Blade Runner. In both stories , the divine creator argument, if supplanted by the byproduct theory, does not uphold the assertion that there is a difference between man- made and God- mad sentient beings . Neither human nor animal nor AI system would be excluded based upon their lack of a soul . Furthermore, it has been argued by Hofstadter that even the simplest computers have a point of view relative to their perspective say of a given set of coordinates that constitutes an “I” perspective . Ultimately, it is the level of complexity associated with “awarenes s” that defines sentience within an organism ; it is the organism ’ s contents not its construction that determines personhood that warrants the same rights , protections and considerations that humans enjoy. Consciousne s s in all its forms (self-awarenes s , soul , sentience ) is a byproduct and not a spiritually conceived state of being handed down by a divine creator. It is generated in the organism after the point of creation . Through the fictional character of Roy Batty, it is clear consciou sne s s in an Benham Chelse Page 15 5/15/2010 15
  16. 16. android is not devoid of compas sion , empathy, passion or love . Roy: I’ ve seen things you people wouldn’ t believe… All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die. Deckard: I don’ t know why he (Roy) saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody’ s life, my life. All he’ d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die. Bibliography Blade Runner script, http://www.trussel . com / bladerunner.htm Chalmers , David, “The Puzzle of Conscious Experience” , Scientific American, August 2002, pg. 90-100 Hofstadter, Douglas r., and Dennet, Daniel C., The Mind’ s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul, Basic Books , Inc. Publishing , New York, 1981 Katz, Bruce F., Neuroengineering the Future: Virtual Minds and the Creation of Immortality, Infinity Science Press , Hingham, Massachusetts , 2008 Koch, Christof, “A Theory of Consciousne s s” , Scientific American Mind, Benham Chelse Page 16 5/15/2010 16
  17. 17. July/August 2009, pg. 16-19 Raley, Yvonne , “Electric Thoughts ? ” , Scientific American Mind, April/May 2006, pg. 77-81 Sawyer, Robert J., Mindscan, Tom Doherty Associates , LLC, New York, 2005 Schneider, Susan , Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence, A John Wiley & Sons Publication , United Kingdom , 2009 Scruton, Roger, “The Unobserverable Mind”, MITTechnology Review, Vol. 108, Number 2, February 2005, pg. 72-76 Snodgrass , Melinda, “The Measure of a Man”, Star Trek: The Next Generation, second - seas on , 1989 Wikipedia Benham Chelse Page 17 5/15/2010 17

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