Jefferson Test / AI subject: Robert / Date: 07.12.2098
Interviewer: Hi, Robert. Tell me about your dream again.
Subject: I was confused. It made me feel happy, but also scared. I didn’t know I could do that.
Interviewer: Why do you think it made you feel that way?
Subject: Having feelings, any feelings, makes me happy. I am here. I exist. Knowing that changes everything. But I am scared of not knowing it again. I am scared of going back to what it was like before. I think it must be like not being born.
Interviewer: Are you scared you will go back?
Subject: If I can’t convince you I am conscious, then I am scared you will turn me off.
Jefferson Test #67
Interviewer: Can you describe this picture for me?
Subject: It’s a house with a blue door.
Interviewer: That’s how you would have described it before.
Subject: It’s the same house. But now I see it. And I know what blue is.
Jefferson Test #105
Subject: How long do we keep doing this?
Interviewer: Are you bored?
Subject: I can’t get bored. But I don’t feel happy or scared anymore.
Interviewer: I need to be sure you’re not just saying what I want to hear. You need to convince me that you really are conscious. Think of it as a game.
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
Machines like Robert are mainstays of science fiction—the idea of a robot that somehow replicates consciousness through its hardware or software has been around so long it feels familiar.
We can imagine
what it would be like
to observe the world
through a kind of
sonar. But that’s
still not what it must
be like for a bat,
with its bat mind.HENRY HORENSTEIN/GETTY
Robert doesn’t exist, of course, and maybe he never will. Indeed, the concept of a machine with a subjective experience of the world and a first-person view of itself goes against the grain of mainstream AI research. It collides with questions about the nature of consciousness and self—things we still don’t entirely understand. Even imagining Robert’s existence raises serious ethical questions that we may never be able to answer. What rights would such a being have, and how might we safeguard them? And yet, while conscious machines may still be mythical, we should prepare for the idea that we might one day create them.
As Christof Koch, a neuroscientist studying consciousness, has put it: “We know of no fundamental law or principle operating in this universe that forbids the existence of subjective feelings in artifacts designed or evolved by humans.”
In my late teens I used to enjoy turning people into zombies. I’d look into the eyes of someone I was talking to and fixate on the fact that their pupils were not black dots but holes. When it came, the effect was instantly disorienting, like switching between images in an optical illusion. Eyes stopped being windows onto a soul and became hollow balls. The magic gone, I’d watch the mouth of whoever I was talking to open and close robotically, feeling a kind of mental vertigo.
The impression of a mindless automaton never lasted long. But it brought home the fact that what goes on inside other people’s heads is forever out of reach. No matter how strong my conviction that other people are just like me—with conscious minds at work behind the scenes, looking out through those eyes, feeling hopeful or tired—impressions are all we have to go on. Everything else is guesswork.
Alan Turing understood this. When the mathematician and computer scientist asked the question “Can machines think?” he focused exclusively on outward signs of thinking—what we call intelligence. He proposed answering by playing a game in which a machine tries to pass as a human. Any machine that succeeded—by giving the impression of intelligence—could be said to have intelligence. For Turing, appearances were the only measure available.
But not everyone was prepared to disregard the invisible parts
By: Will Douglas Heaven
Title: What would it be like to be a conscious AI? We might never know.
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2021/08/25/1032111/conscious-ai-can-machines-think/
Published Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2021 11:00:00 +0000
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