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    Default The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    You see, recently I have had an idea, about having a homebrew game in the distant future. Because of this, I thought of how to populate this game. One of my ideas was robots on the verge of being conscious. But one problem arose, a famous question that many thousands of humans have asked: what makes a robot conscious? Where does it cross the line from sentience (the ability to view and sense the world around you) into consciousness (the ability to think and make choices in and outside of survival of the fittest, smartest, or prettiest). This is my question, how do I get them to realistically cross the line?

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    There's not really any clean line here - it's all continuous spectrums and areas of ambiguity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    You see, recently I have had an idea, about having a homebrew game in the distant future. Because of this, I thought of how to populate this game. One of my ideas was robots on the verge of being conscious. But one problem arose, a famous question that many thousands of humans have asked: what makes a robot conscious? Where does it cross the line from sentience (the ability to view and sense the world around you) into consciousness (the ability to think and make choices in and outside of survival of the fittest, smartest, or prettiest). This is my question, how do I get them to realistically cross the line?
    The simplest answer is to pick when you believe Humans did and then focus on recreating the conditions. Was a human conscious 100,000 years ago? 10,000? Now? You don't have to be right, you just have to make a decision and stick to it through the story.

    Say you choose empathy as the source of consciousness. Humans have a strong bonding system and the ability to step into each others shoes, so you claim that empathy grew out of a combined need for social harmony and childhood interest in learning. The ability to place yourself into another person's perspective made learning easier, and so it had a feedback where those who learned best survived best and carried on consciousness to their children. The robots would then need a group feedback system which would allow them to become aware of others' perspectives to survive and prosper.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    There's not really any clean line here - it's all continuous spectrums and areas of ambiguity.
    Not really. Take humans for example. There is a definite point where I stopped being one and transferred to the other. I can even remember it. It wasn't a slow warbling, it was a sudden shift in perspective that I remember quite vividly.

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    Not really. Take humans for example. There is a definite point where I stopped being one and transferred to the other. I can even remember it. It wasn't a slow warbling, it was a sudden shift in perspective that I remember quite vividly.
    I sure don't remember when I did.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    The simplest answer is to pick when you believe Humans did and then focus on recreating the conditions. Was a human conscious 100,000 years ago? 10,000? Now? You don't have to be right, you just have to make a decision and stick to it through the story.

    Say you choose empathy as the source of consciousness. Humans have a strong bonding system and the ability to step into each others shoes, so you claim that empathy grew out of a combined need for social harmony and childhood interest in learning. The ability to place yourself into another person's perspective made learning easier, and so it had a feedback where those who learned best survived best and carried on consciousness to their children. The robots would then need a group feedback system which would allow them to become aware of others' perspectives to survive and prosper.
    That's a good idea, instead of building a while new system, use the original as an archetype for the new.

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    That's a good idea, instead of building a while new system, use the original as an archetype for the new.
    It has a lot of advantages. It makes the ideas easier to follow for the audience, it lets you crib off of philosophers and researchers to make it more filled out, and since we haven't made a conscious robot yet it is as accurate as anything written from cloth.
    Last edited by Tvtyrant; 2019-04-20 at 05:50 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I sure don't remember when I did.
    Do you have a first memory, the first thing you ever remember out of everything?

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    Do you have a first memory, the first thing you ever remember out of everything?
    Sure, memory isn't consciousness. All sorts of animals have memories, including pigeons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    Sure, memory isn't consciousness. All sorts of animals have memories, including pigeons.
    Yes, but not conscious memories. Think about it, why can't you remember anything past that memory, when we know babies can remember things. Because there not conscious memories.
    Last edited by Matuka; 2019-04-20 at 06:11 PM.

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    Yes, but not conscious memories. Think about it, why can't you remember anything past that memory, when we know babies can remember things. Because there not conscious memories.
    There are all sorts of problems with that belief. If you forget something or only remember it vaguely does that mean you were unconscious? We know memory retention is attached to emotional state, does that mean we are more conscious in certain emotions? What chemically links consciousness to memory?

    It doesn't really matter for writing a book though, consciousness will work how you want it to.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    There are all sorts of problems with that belief. If you forget something or only remember it vaguely does that mean you were unconscious? We know memory retention is attached to emotional state, does that mean we are more conscious in certain emotions? What chemically links consciousness to memory?

    It doesn't really matter for writing a book though, consciousness will work how you want it to.
    Let's say I wipe you of your memory and I mean all of it. Who would you be? Nobody, just a body and the base instincts inside all of us. Which means that being conscious is learned, not natural. We know this because when human children are raised by other animals, they don't become conscious, they are as instinctual as the other animals around them. So being conscious is linked (somehow) to the memories and experiences we have as a child.
    Last edited by Matuka; 2019-04-20 at 06:35 PM.

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Maybe go watch this episode of Star Trek TNG for some ideas?

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Consciousness is linked to memory, but a link doesn't imply complete co-dependency.

    I don't know about anyone else but, if mapped on a graph, my memory would look more like a scatter chart, with points of varying size and intensity, than a line of any sort. I can remember things that happened twenty years ago with near-perfect clarity but can't remember things that happened earlier today. There are things in the past which I could once remember but have now forgotten. And, more rarely, there are things that I have to all intents and purposes forgotten that I occasionally remember.

    My earliest memory is from when I was about two and a half, but I was definitely conscious on some level before that, based on the accounts of other people who knew me before that date. I had opinions and preferences; I was doing more than responding to stimuli.

    And that earliest memory? I'm not even sure I actually remember it, or that it's a real memory at all. It might just be something that I think I remember and consequently have created a false memory. Memories decay if left dormant, but can also be changed by the very process of recall.

    It's not like writing something down where it stays in that format forever unless specifically erased. It's more like saving a file to an old floppy disk: the file gradually gets corrupted. But unlike a floppy disk, where a corrupted file would often just spew gibberish, the brain replaces the gibberish with something that appears to make sense with or of the rest of the memory. Then next time it might be trying to rebuild the memory based on the details it inserted last time to fill a gap, until very little, if any, of the original memory is left. Without third-party corroboration, there's no way of knowing what was actually part of it or not.

    There is a parallel to consciousness there, in that we only directly experience a relatively small part of the world around us and the rest is projection. But they're not the same thing. I would argue that you can be fully conscious moment to moment and yet be closed off from memory, in either "write" or "read" mode or both (drugs, including alcohol, are notorious for that). Equally, it's entirely plausible that you can be forming new memories while unconscious, as the brain may still be processing sensory input data, even if it can't respond to it in real time.
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    I recommend doing at least some cursory research on philosophical zombies, since they cover a lot of the topics you want to. In short, it's intrinsically impossible to prove that one indeed has a subjective experience and isn't just a very convincing fake.

    Also, if you've ever had a pet, you'd know that most animals have memories, personalities, things and people they care for, and all manner of traits that strongly imply that they have some level of conscious objective experience. This highlights two things. First, that intelligence and ability do strongly affect the rights that various creatures can enjoy. (No matter how smart a chimpanzee may be, letting it drive on the freeway is a horrible idea.) Second, that getting human society at large to recognize that something has some level of consciousness and should be granted certain protections can be the topic of much debate, especially if it proves inconvenient for some people or raises uncomfortable questions. As such, in addition to the question of robot sentience, you also have the question of human society accepting/acknowledging robot sentience. At least until the robots are either positioned to either run away from a society that won't acknowledge them, or are powerful enough to demand acknowledgment.

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    Let's say I wipe you of your memory and I mean all of it. Who would you be? Nobody, just a body and the base instincts inside all of us. Which means that being conscious is learned, not natural. We know this because when human children are raised by other animals, they don't become conscious, they are as instinctual as the other animals around them. So being conscious is linked (somehow) to the memories and experiences we have as a child.
    The vast majority of animals are aware enough of themselves and their surroundings to be called conscious. I think the word "sapient" better matches the idea you're thinking of and could clear some confusion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cazero View Post
    The vast majority of animals are aware enough of themselves and their surroundings to be called conscious. I think the word "sapient" better matches the idea you're thinking of and could clear some confusion.
    There was no confusion, but thank you for your concern.
    Last edited by Matuka; 2019-04-22 at 09:30 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    I recommend doing at least some cursory research on philosophical zombies, since they cover a lot of the topics you want to. In short, it's intrinsically impossible to prove that one indeed has a subjective experience and isn't just a very convincing fake.
    That may be true for organic beings, but I think there's a great way to tell if a robot is conscious. If it can disobey its programming without outside intervention. EX: I order an attack drone to kill someone and it says no. If this is because it was hacked and forced to, it doesn't count. If it was programmed to not harm innocent life, it doesn't count. It must be because the drone didn't want to, for whatever reason. Real EX: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-26EHu5kRQY it did it because it wanted to, not because it was tampered with.
    Last edited by Matuka; 2019-04-22 at 12:06 PM.

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Huh. So identity is linked with consciousness rather than sentience. Never thought about it.

    I guess that does line up the org the whole continuity-of-consciousness concern.
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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    The simplest answer is to pick when you believe Humans did and then focus on recreating the conditions. Was a human conscious 100,000 years ago? 10,000? Now?
    Try about 18 million years ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    There's not really any clean line here - it's all continuous spectrums and areas of ambiguity.
    True. Like intelligence, it is a contineous spectrum.
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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by shawnhcorey View Post
    Try about 18 million years ago.



    True. Like intelligence, it is a contineous spectrum.
    I'm not really concerned with reality here, at what point monkeys or apes became conscious isn't really the point in fictional robots so much as deciding what you as the author think a good time and explanation is and sticking with it.

    Especially in something as debatable as consciousness, where no two people are going to agree. Make a choice and go with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I'm not really concerned with reality here, at what point monkeys or apes became conscious isn't really the point in fictional robots so much as deciding what you as the author think a good time and explanation is and sticking with it.

    Especially in something as debatable as consciousness, where no two people are going to agree. Make a choice and go with it.
    Yeah good point

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I'm not really concerned with reality here, at what point monkeys or apes became conscious isn't really the point in fictional robots so much as deciding what you as the author think a good time and explanation is and sticking with it.
    The timeline would still be far further than 10 to 100 thousand years ago. Ten thousand years ago we not only had modern humans but early agriculture, several domesticated species, buildings, and basically every stone age tool. 100 thousand years ago is only half way back to the origin of modern humans, and closely related hominids pretty far diverged from the rest of the surviving apes (ie. not apes if you're using a definition that excludes humans, which are definitely a species of ape) show up a good 4 million years ago by conservative estimates.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shawnhcorey View Post
    Try about 18 million years ago.
    18 million years ago is way before the great ape radiation - it's estimated that even gibbons split off from the rest of the great apes slightly less than 18 million years ago:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbon...ommon_ancestor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    That may be true for organic beings, but I think there's a great way to tell if a robot is conscious. If it can disobey its programming without outside intervention.
    That would requite "consciousness" to either be acausal or truly random. Both break most intuitive assumptions about what "consciousness" is and how it operates. It's also dubious if humans would qualify as "conscious" under this standard.

    Quote Originally Posted by danzibr View Post
    Huh. So identity is linked with consciousness rather than sentience. Never thought about it.

    I guess that does line up the org the whole continuity-of-consciousness concern.
    Hahaha. There is NO such thing as continuity of consciousness in humans. Even if you're as boring as can be, your consciousness has taken an extended break due to deep sleep or, well, unconsciousness at one point or another. (In the extreme end, we have people who've been clinically brain dead yet were revived.)

    Continuity-of-self is a story your brain tells you when you wake up each morning. It isn't even a reliable story, because human memory is read-and-rewrite. Every time a memory is recalled, it is adjusted with new information and the "original" is lost. From a technical standpoint, your memory is less reliable than a bunch of scribbles drawn on a notepad.

    ---

    Even further, there are lot of intuitive concepts about "consciousness" which may be category errors. We identify our consciousness with our self and with our decision-making, but there are both philosophical and empirical reasons to think that self is an illusion and consciousness isn't involved in decision making at all. Computers certainly don't need consciousness to make decisions, only a mechanism to gather inputs, an algorithm to process those inputs, and a mechanism to produce outputs. People talk about P-zombies, but you might as well talk about chatbots and videogame characters. The bar for making humans feel like they're dealing with a conscious actor is far easier the pass than actually creating consciousness. It's easier than defining consciousness, even.

    Also, to go back to continuity-of-consciousness, an electronic robot would only be conscious while the power is on and an algorithm is running. Turn off power, boom, no consciousness. A conscious electronic robot would imply consciousness is an emergent phenomenom of energy running a processing unit to turn inputs into outputs. This in turn would imply there is no essential self and no essential consciousness.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    That would requite "consciousness" to either be acausal or truly random. Both break most intuitive assumptions about what "consciousness" is and how it operates. It's also dubious if humans would qualify as "conscious" under this standard.
    For humans, our programming is our instincts and we indeed have the power to disobey them (with mixed results).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    For humans, our programming is our instincts and we indeed have the power to disobey them (with mixed results).
    That's debatable. Some would argue that our programming is our entire brain. It's our instincts, overlaid with our personality, overlaid with all our learned mannerisms and memories. When an impulse comes in, your brain makes a decision based on all those things, but it's really just running through an algorithm that is predictable if you knew every single detail about that person. (in other words, its theoretically possible, but would likely never truly happen). Each new memory and interaction you have just change your programming a little bit.

    Also, by liking sentience to the ability to break programming, you're assuming sentience equals free will. What if sentience is just having a program advanced enough to recognize that the other has a voice in their head too? Most animals don't recognize themselves in a mirror, and babies have a hard time realizing that other people can own things long after they realize that they can. Maybe sentience is just realizing that everyone one else feels like they're the center of the universe and has their own wants and needs and everything. You can do that without necessarily having free will.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    That may be true for organic beings, but I think there's a great way to tell if a robot is conscious. If it can disobey its programming without outside intervention. EX: I order an attack drone to kill someone and it says no. If this is because it was hacked and forced to, it doesn't count. If it was programmed to not harm innocent life, it doesn't count. It must be because the drone didn't want to, for whatever reason. Real EX: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-26EHu5kRQY it did it because it wanted to, not because it was tampered with.
    I am not sure that this is that informative. An AI can be programmed to Obey, to not Obey, to Conditionally Obey or to decide itself.

    If it Obeys, and was programmed to it is following external commands and is uninteresting. If it disobeys it is faulty programming - of technical but not philosophical interest.

    If it was programmed to not obey, then this is the same, but with the roles reversed.

    If it is programmed to conditionally obey, then this is still the same but pushed further down the line - its command is "check conditions x,y, z are met then follow"

    To decide for itself - if it is programmed to decide for itself then in making a yes/no decision it if following its coded instructions anyway.




    I think from a setting perspective it is useful to just think of the traits of intelligence; for me the most profound ability is the ability to generalise.

    Now some AI does some of this already, indeed this is how it is trained. If A, b, c are pictures of dogs and d,e, f are pictures of cats, can you generalise to tell what sets a dog apart from a cat? Can an AI look at an image of a tumour and generalise to other images it hasn't seen? So far so simple.

    Generalising from language, generalising logical structures to perform abstract reasoning, generalising behaviours to anticipate reward/punishment stimulii.

    Making the powerful inductive leaps that humans do is the hallmark of intelligence - this is based on capacity, experience and the ability to generalise well. I believe that this will underpin many things we associate with consciousness - self awareness is easy, but this can support the idea that there are "others", to generalise from one's own experience to conclude that there are other entities with desires and distastes.


    If you want to get a feel for this, I would suggest doing a bit of a search for transfer learning (and representations, although this is more likely to throw up technical content) and reinforcement learning. This may give you a bit of a feel for some of the tools we currently use and why some challenges are easier than others.

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    Default Re: The Line of consciousness and how to cross it

    Quote Originally Posted by Matuka View Post
    That may be true for organic beings, but I think there's a great way to tell if a robot is conscious. If it can disobey its programming without outside intervention. EX: I order an attack drone to kill someone and it says no.
    Proves nothing. Any computer scientist will tell you that any non-trivial system is always displaying various kinds of unexpected behaviour, which seems at first glance to be contrary to their programming, but in fact is just caused by the unexpected complexity of it.

    Repeat after me: brains are not magic. There is nothing a human mind can do that a computer can't. And I'm not talking about some theoretical futuristic computer here, I'm talking about current generation technology. It's just a matter of scale, and patience.

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