Machine Messiah: Lessons for AI in “Destination: Void”

Tomorrow is the first day of a two-day conference to be held at Jesus College, Cambridge on the topic: “Who’s afraid of the Super-Machine?  AI in Sci-Fi Film and Literature” (https://science-human.org/upcoming/), hosted by the Science & Human Dimension division of the AI & The Future of Humanity Project.

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I’m speaking on Friday:

Machine Messiah: Lessons for AI in Destination: Void

In Destination: Void (1965), Frank Herbert anticipates many current and future ethical, social and philosophical issues arising from humanity’s ambitions to create artificial consciousness.  Unlike with his well-known Dune millieu, which explicitly sidesteps such questions via the inclusion of a universally-respected taboo against artificial intelligence, the moon-based scientist protagonists in Destination: Void explicitly aim to create artificial consciousness, despite previous disastrous attempts.  A key aspect of their strategy is to relinquish direct control of the process of creation, instead designing combinations of resources (a cloned spaceship crew of scientists, engineers, psychiatrists and chaplains with interlocking personality types) and catalytic situations (a colonising space mission that is, unknown to the clone crew, doomed with scheduled crises ) that the moon-based scientists hope will impel the crew members to bring about, if not explicitly design, an artificial consciousness based in the ship’s computer.  As with Herbert’s other works, there is a strong emphasis on the messianic and the divine, but here it is in the context of a superhuman machine, and the ethics of building such.  I will aim to extract from Herbert’s incredibly prescient story several lessons, ranging from the practical to the theological, concerning artificial consciousness, including: the engineering of emergence and conceptual change; intelligent design and “Adam as the first AI”; the naturalisation of spiritual discourse; and the doctrine of the Imago Dei as a theological injunction to engage in artificial consciousness research.

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Revisionism about Qualia: Prospects for a Reconciliation Between Physicalism and Qualia

 

On January 30th I’ll be presenting joint work with Aaron Sloman (“Revisionism about Qualia: Prospects for a Reconciliation Between Physicalism and Qualia”) at a conference in Antwerp on Dan Dennett’s work in philosophy of mind (sponsored by the Centre for Philosophical Psychology and European Network for Sensory Research).  Both Aaron and Dan will be in attendance.  I don’t have an abstract of our talk, but it will be based on a slimmed-down version of our 2016 paper (with some additions, hopefully taking into account some recent development’s in Dan’s position on qualia).

The official deadline for registration has passed, but if you are interested in attending perhaps Bence Nanay, the organiser, can still accommodate you?  Below please find the list of speakers and original calls for registration and papers.

Centre for Philosophical Psychology and European Network for Sensory Research

Call for registration 

Conference with Daniel Dennett on his work in philosophy of mind. January 30, 2018. 

Speakers:

  • Daniel Dennett (Tufts)
  • Elliot Carter (Toronto)
  • Ron Chrisley and Aaron Sloman (Sussex)
  • Krzysztof Dolega (Bochum)
  • Markus Eronen (Leuven)
  • Csaba Pleh (CEU)
  • Anna Strasser (Berlin)

This conference accompanies Dennett’s deliverance of the 7th Annual Marc Jannerod Lecture (the attendance of this public lecture is free). 

Registration (for the conference, not the public lecture): 100 Euros (including conference dinner – negotiable if you dont want conference dinner). Send an email to Nicolas Alzetta (nalzetta@yahoo.com) to register. Please register by December 21. 

Workshop with Daniel Dennett, January 30, 2018

Call for papers!

Daniel Dennett will give the Seventh Annual Marc Jeannerod Lecture (on empirically grounded philosophy of mind) in January 2018. To accompany this lecture, the University of Antwerp organizes a workshop on  Dennett’s philosophy of mind on January 30, 2018, where he will be present.

There are no parallel sections. Only blinded submissions are accepted.

Length: 3000 words. Single spaced!

Deadline: October 15, 2017. Papers should be sent to nanay@berkeley.edu

Machine consciousness at the Brighton Digital Festival

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Next Tuesday I’ll be giving a brief talk on machine consciousness prior to a screening of the film Ex Machina, as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. Sackler colleagues Keisuke Suzuki and David Schwartzman will be giving consciousness-illuminating VR demos involving our Nao robots as well. The event is being organised in conjunction with the British Science Association.  More info at http://theoldmarket.com/shows/toms-film-club-ex_machina-2015/


Update, 4 October 2017:

Here are some photos of the event, courtesy of Amber John.  As you can see, the title I settled on was “Turing Tests and Machine Consciousness”.

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(Another) joint paper with Aaron Sloman published

Screenshot 2017-06-13 16.25.17The proceedings of EUCognition 2016 in Vienna, co-edited by myself, Vincent Müller, Yulia Sandamirskaya and Markus Vincze, have just been published online (free access):  

In it is a joint paper by Aaron Sloman and myself, entitled “Architectural Requirements for Consciousness“.  Here is the abstract:

This paper develops, in sections I-III, the virtual machine architecture approach to explaining certain features of consciousness first proposed in [1] and elaborated in [2], in which particular qualitative aspects of experiences (qualia) are proposed to be particular kinds of properties of components of virtual machine states of a cognitive architecture. Specifically, they are those properties of components of virtual machine states of an agent that make that agent prone to believe the kinds of things that are typically believed to be true of qualia (e.g., that they are ineffable, immediate, intrinsic, and private). Section IV aims to make it intelligible how the requirements identified in sections II and III could be realised in a grounded, sensorimotor, cognitive robotic architecture.

Roles for Morphology in Computation

 

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From Pfeifer, Iida and Lungarella (2014)

Tomorrow I’m giving an invited talk in Gothenburg at the Symposium on Morphological Computing and Cognitive Agency, as part of the The International Society for Information Studies Summit 2017 (entitled — deep breath — “DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY: Embodied, Embedded, Networked, Empowered through Information, Computation & Cognition!”).  Here’s my title and abstract:

Roles for Morphology in Computation

The morphological aspects of a system are the shape, geometry, placement and compliance properties of that system. On the rather permissive construal of computation as transformations of information, a correspondingly permissive notion of morphological computation can be defined: cases of information transformation performed by the morphological aspects of a system. This raises the question of what morphological computation might look like under different, less inclusive accounts of computation, such as the view that computation is essentially semantic. I investigate the possibilities for morphological computation under a particular version of the semantic view. First, I make a distinction between two kinds of role a given aspect might play in computations that a system performs: foreground role and background role. The foreground role of a computational system includes such things as rules, state, algorithm, program, bits, data, etc. But these can only function as foreground by virtue of other, background aspects of the same system: the aspects that enable the foreground to be brought forth, made stable/reidentifiable, and to have semantically coherent causal effect. I propose that this foreground/background distinction cross-cuts the morphological/non-morphological distinction. Specifically, morphological aspects of a system may play either role.

The Symposium will be chaired by Rob Lowe, and Gordana Dodig Crnkovic, and the other speakers include Christian Balkenius, Lorenzo Magnani, Yulia Sandamirskaya, Jordi Vallverdú, and John Spencer (and maybe Tom Ziemke and Marcin Schroeder?).

I’m also giving an invited talk the next day (Tuesday) as part of a plenary panel entitled: “What Would It Take For A Machine To Have Non-Reductive Consciousness?”  My talk is entitled “Computation and the Fate of Qualia”.  The other speakers are Piotr Bołtuć (moderator), Jack Copeland, Igor Aleksander, and Keith W. Miller.

Should be a fantastic few days — a shame I can’t stay for the full meeting, but I have to be back at Sussex in time for the Robot Opera Mini-Symposium on Thursday!

 

Functionalism, Revisionism, and Qualia

logoA paper by myself and Aaron Sloman, “Functionalism, Revisionism, and Qualia” has just been published in the APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Computing. (The whole issue looks fantastic – I’m looking forward to reading all of it, especially the other papers in the “Mind Robotics” section, and most especially the papers by Jun Tani and Riccardo Manzotti). Our contribution is a kind of follow-up to our 2003 paper “Virtual Machines and Consciousness”. There’s no abstract, so let me just list here a few of the more controversial things we claim (and in some cases, even argue for!):

  • Even if our concept of qualia is true of nothing, qualia might still exist (we’re looking at you, Dan Dennett!)
  • If qualia exist, they are physical – or at least their existence alone would not imply the falsity of physicalism (lots of people we’re looking at here )
  • We might not have qualia: The existence of qualia is an empirical matter.
  • Even if we don’t have qualia, it might be possible to build a robot that does!
  • The question of whether inverted qualia spectra are possible is, in a sense, incoherent.

If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear what you think.

Ron

The existence of qualia does not entail dualism

Our next E-Intentionality seminar is this Thurnaossday, December 1st, at 13:00 in Freeman
G22.  This will be a dry run of a talk I’ll be giving
as part of EUCognition2016, entitled “Architectural Requirements for Consciousness”.  You can read the abstract here, along with an extended clarificatory discussion prompted by David Booth’s comments.