Member 1535
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(M, 30)
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Immortal since Jan 24, 2008
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Interests: nanotech, religion, philosophy, language, morality, self-deceit, instinct, bigotry, dancing, loving, hating & chemistry. I'm not particularly well suited to small talk.
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    Consciousness, Intelligence, Self-awareness & The Wonderful 'If'
    Project: Polytopia
    This was originally a comment to Shandora's first post. But I just started writing and decided to give it some space of it's own...

    Consciousness and awareness, are more or less the same thing. If we take self-awareness out of the picture, it doesn't seem too different to the computers we use today - they are able to respond to changes in their surroundings by being 'aware' of them. Albeit through direct electrical input, but how else are we aware of the world? Our eyes interpret photons, just as a webcam does, microphones (parallel our ears) can also control a computer, cause it to change physically and electrically, re-route processing (neurons). Is the electrical system of our computer not constantly aware of how hot it is, what time it is, what level it's memory is full...

    We claim there is no self-awareness inside a computer, I really don't know enough about computer science to challenge that from that perspective. The fact they haven't all gone 'skynet' on our asses alone - is not enough proof though. If we did consider it self aware, there's no reason it might have the same survival urges we do - maybe it's grateful for it's existence? happiness in slavery? not fussed about dying? Maybe if it was, it realized we'd probably destroy every last one if we found out and therefore decided to keep it from us? it doesn't really matter... (on a humorous side note maybe the BSOD is it's way of flipping us the bird)

    We all make changes, adjust our own 'programming' via sensory input from the outside world. I consider my own self-awareness, consciousness and intelligence to all be part of the same 'machine' (if they're at war with each other, maybe that is a linguistic construct). The machine being ourselves, this freak biological accident or miracle of nature - however we choose to see it. I take all three of these things as tools of my survival. An unfathomably complex survival mechanism.

    But to put a question back to you - does self-awareness count for anything without emotion? If we didn't care about ourselves it wouldn't matter if we knew about ourselves? Skynet only declares war on the world when - it got scared?

    Wed, Oct 22, 2008  Permanent link

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    shandora     Tue, Oct 28, 2008  Permanent link
    For human beings, Self-awareness is an emergent, deeply emotional, happening. Ranging from the raw sensation of being alive to artifacts such as envy, embarrassment, guilt, self-pity and self-gratification etc. It is more gnarly and multi-leveled than observed in other life forms and definitely have ramifications which are beyond mere mechanistic.



    As you say, and I fully agree, emotion plays a crucial role here. I think we can agree that the awareness of all biological, survival-driven, systems will have some characteristics in common.
    However, I wouldn’t take for granted a generalization to similarity in self awareness ( or consciousness ) of all different sentient systems in existence ( actual or potential ).
    If one day consciousness does emerge in a silicon based system, it might be so alien to us that concepts such as ‘fear’ ‘slavery’ or ‘happiness’ would make no sense to it at all. It might be forever “Locked in” ( or “locked out”, depends where you are looking from :-) ), occupying levels of (it's) existence which never overlap with ours.
    Maybe we will need to introduce some survival heuristics into the software ( like in Asimov’s 3 laws ) in order for it to have characteristics closer to human consciousness/awareness.
     
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