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Re: [evol-psych] Will fact match fiction as scientists start work on thinking robot?

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  • Steven D'Aprano
    ... [snip] ... Is this not equally true of human beings? Do not the children raised by wolves or otherwise in total isolation from other human beings fail to
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 31, 2003
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      On Tue, 26 Aug 2003 05:30 pm, Ian Pitchford wrote:
      > Lähettäjä: Timo Järvilehto [mailto: timo.jarvilehto@... ]
      > Lähetetty: 26. elokuuta 2003 10:00
      > Vastaanottaja: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
      > Aihe: Re: [evol-psych] Will fact match fiction as scientists start
      > work on thinking robot?
      [snip]
      > "To sum up, the research on robotics and artificial intelligence is
      > on a wrong path when trying to develop conscious machines, similarly
      > as the modern brain research is faced with an impossible task when
      > trying to find special areas for consciousness in the brain. This
      > doesn't mean denial of the importance of the brain or the nervous
      > system when consciousness is studied, or that machines could not
      > simulate conscious acts. However, locating consciousness in the brain
      > or in the machine leads to questions which cannot be answered,
      > because for consciousness to exist, we need much more than the brain
      > or the machine alone.
      >
      > Thus, a machine or a brain, as such, may never have consciousness of
      > their own. Robots cannot exist as autonomous beings, because their
      > existence as robots is bound to the human culture.

      Is this not equally true of human beings? Do not the children raised by
      wolves or otherwise in total isolation from other human beings fail to
      develop as functioning human beings?

      If you get right down to it, no human being is a fully autonomous being.
      We are all utterly helpless, unable to even run away from a threat, for
      months, and reliant on other human beings for years afterwards.


      > They are neither
      > "interested" in co-operation or in communication, as little as spades
      > are interested in digging holes or computers in the content of their
      > calculations; they do this only when they are programmed and used by
      > the human beings.

      Yes, but this pre-supposes that robots could never be created that are
      "interested" in co-operation. How do you know that this is the case?


      > Furthermore, there are also deep ethical issues related to such
      > endeavors. If we start to humanize machines then it easily follows
      > that we start to mechanize human beings.

      I'm sorry, but this does not follow at all. In fact, this sounds awfully
      like the argument against animal rights that if we humanize animals, we
      will only end up treating humans worse; or of the Fundamentalist
      Creationist argument that if we teach our children we are animals, they
      will go on to act like animals. Presumably they fear that they will
      roll around in the mud like elephants rather than bath.

      Your argument supposes that people have a limited quantity of humanity
      to apply to other beings, and if we waste it on machines, then there
      will be less available to apply to other Homo sapiens. I see no
      evidence of this.

      Over historical periods, we human beings have gone from more or less
      denying the humanity of anyone from another tribe, to conceiving of the
      notion that even machines and aliens from other worlds might be human.
      Far from having a limited quantity of humanity to apply, it seems that
      the further we spread our notion of humanity, the more we have to
      spread further still.

      > Here genetic engineering and
      > development of robotics seem to be just two sides of the same coin.
      > Already now there are strong efforts towards genetic manipulation of
      > babies, which reflect the attitude that a baby is just a doll which
      > serves the needs and satisfaction of its parents,

      This sounds pretty much standard human behaviour to me, at least for a
      large portion of the human species. I know many adults whose parents
      expect them to serve their own needs and satisfactions, and none of
      them were genetically manipulated.

      [snip]
      > Human
      > consciousness is based on long developmental history and co-operation
      > with the other human beings. Therefore, it is impossible to create
      > consciousness artificially.

      This supposes that there is one and only one way of creating
      consciousness, namely the specific way that consciousness in human
      beings develops.

      The flaw in the reasoning can be easily seen if we apply the same logic
      to a slightly different situation:

      "Human chess-playing is based on long developmental history and
      co-operation with the other human beings. Therefore, it is impossible
      to create chess-playing artificially."


      --
      Steven D'Aprano
    • Timo Järvilehto
      Steven D Aprano [mailto:dippy@cosmos.net.au] wrote: (Timo Jarvilehto) ... Yes, you are right; human beings may develop (human) consciousness only as a part of
      Message 2 of 6 , Sep 1, 2003
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        Steven D'Aprano [mailto:dippy@...] wrote:
        (Timo Jarvilehto)
        > > Thus, a machine or a brain, as such, may never have consciousness of
        > > their own. Robots cannot exist as autonomous beings, because their
        > > existence as robots is bound to the human culture.
        > (Steven D'Aprano)
        > Is this not equally true of human beings? Do not the children raised by
        > wolves or otherwise in total isolation from other human beings fail to
        > develop as functioning human beings?
        >
        > If you get right down to it, no human being is a fully autonomous being.
        > We are all utterly helpless, unable to even run away from a threat, for
        > months, and reliant on other human beings for years afterwards.

        Yes, you are right; human beings may develop (human) consciousness only as a
        part of human co-operation and culture. However, it is important to note
        that we build a machine for our purposes in order to extend and fortify our
        own activity. Thus, in this respect a machine is not a separate being, but
        exists only as a part of our own activity; it cannot have its "own"
        consciousness, because it is part of our consciousness as much as our brain
        or the hands.

        > > They are neither
        > > "interested" in co-operation or in communication, as little as spades
        > > are interested in digging holes or computers in the content of their
        > > calculations; they do this only when they are programmed and used by
        > > the human beings.
        >
        > Yes, but this pre-supposes that robots could never be created that are
        > "interested" in co-operation. How do you know that this is the case?

        From my point of view, development of consciousness is possible only in a
        group of structurally similar beings, because only the common structure
        ensures that the interests are similar, which would be a prerequisite for
        fruitful co-operation. If one could develop an "interested" robot it would
        probably try to eat all electricity available in the human society...

        >
        > > Furthermore, there are also deep ethical issues related to such
        > > endeavors. If we start to humanize machines then it easily follows
        > > that we start to mechanize human beings.
        >
        > I'm sorry, but this does not follow at all. In fact, this sounds awfully
        > like the argument against animal rights that if we humanize animals, we
        > will only end up treating humans worse; or of the Fundamentalist
        > Creationist argument that if we teach our children we are animals, they
        > will go on to act like animals. Presumably they fear that they will
        > roll around in the mud like elephants rather than bath.

        Well, my statement was not a logical conclusion and, in fact, most of the
        neuroscientific research has treated human beings (and especially their
        brain) as machines already for a long time.

        > [snip]
        > > Human
        > > consciousness is based on long developmental history and co-operation
        > > with the other human beings. Therefore, it is impossible to create
        > > consciousness artificially.
        >
        > This supposes that there is one and only one way of creating
        > consciousness, namely the specific way that consciousness in human
        > beings develops.
        >
        > The flaw in the reasoning can be easily seen if we apply the same logic
        > to a slightly different situation:
        >
        > "Human chess-playing is based on long developmental history and
        > co-operation with the other human beings. Therefore, it is impossible
        > to create chess-playing artificially."

        I am sorry, but it seems you don't quite get my point. Chess-playing is a
        human invention with its specific figures and rules, and therefore it is not
        too difficult to mechanize such kind of activity. On the contrary, your
        example demonstrates exactly one situation, in which application of machines
        may widen the human skills. However, we didn't invent our life and
        consciousness, but they had a long developmental history already before we
        existed.
        Every description of life is a metaphor created by humans, and it touches
        only some aspect of life. In constructing artificial life we have the
        problem that we try to build this metaphor, which results in something that
        is precisely “artificial” and imitation only. Life cannot be exhaustively
        described, and even if it could this description is not identical with life.
        We cannot create life by following linguistic descriptions. Life can be
        created only by living, not by imitating life. Construction of functioning
        machines according to the instructions is possible, because the machines are
        from the beginning constructed by humans. The human being himself, however,
        is a ”construction” of life and nature.


        Timo Jarvilehto, PhD
        Professor of psychology
        Homepage: http://cc.oulu.fi/~tjarvile/indexe.htm
        Email: timo.jarvilehto@...
        University of Oulu
        PB 2000
        90014 Oulun yliopisto
      • Stan Franklin
        Though my research group is one of a half-dozen or so around the world (that I know of) seriously attempting to
        Message 3 of 6 , Sep 1, 2003
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          Re: [evol-psych] Will fact match fiction as scientists start work on thinking robot?
          Though my research group <http://csrg.cs.memphis.edu/CSRG/index.html> is one of a half-dozen or so around the world (that I know of) seriously attempting to create machine consciousness, I vowed to stay out of this thread. This morning’s interchange between D’Aprano and Järvilehto (I agree with D’Aprano) has lured me into it with only a couple of points to make.

          For a good account of current thinking on this subject by researchers in and about the field please see the recent special issue of JCS (Holand, O. 2003;\, ed., Machine Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 10 (4-5) April-May.<http://www.imprint.co.uk/>) Owen Holland, the guest editor, is the person whose large grant started this tread,.

          [Järvilehto]
          >>  for consciousness to exist, we need much more than the brain
          >> or the machine alone.
          ...
          >> Human
          >> consciousness is based on long developmental history and co-operation
          >> with the other human beings. Therefore, it is impossible to create
          >> consciousness artificially.

          None of us are trying to recreate human consciousness artificially. Human consciousness can only exist in humans, by definition. The consciousness I attribute to my cat is certainly much different than mine. Any artificial consciousness, if such can indeed exist, will surely be much different still.

          [Järvilehto]
          >> This
          >> doesn't mean ... that machines could not
          >> simulate conscious acts.

          Our “conscious” software agent, IDA, (see the web site listed above) is functionally conscious in that she implements the Global Workspace theory of consciousness (Baars, B. J. 1997. In the Theater of Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Baars, B. J. 2002. The conscious access hypothesis: origins and recent evidence. Trends in Cognitive Science 6:47-52.). Is she phenomenally consciousness? That is, does she have subjective experiences? I’d like to know.

          Stan

          --
          Stan Franklin     Dunavant University Professor
          Computer Science             phone 901-678-3142
          Univ of Memphis                fax 901-678-2480
          Memphis, TN 38152          franklin@...
          USA                www.cs.memphis.edu/~franklin
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