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consciousness

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    Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious

    Zombies are supposed to be capable of asking any question about the nature of experience. It’s worth wondering, though, how a person or machine devoid of experience could reflect on experience it doesn’t have.Photograph by Ars Electronica / Flickr The Australian philosopher David Chalmers famously asked whether “philosophical zombies” are conceivable—people who behave like you […]

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    The Link Between Bioelectricity and Consciousness

    “It’s really hard to define what’s special about neurons,” says Tufts molecular biologist Michael Levin. “Almost all cells do the things neurons do, just more slowly.”Illustration by jijomathaidesigners / Shutterstock Life seems to be tied to bioelectricity at every level. The late electrophysiologist and surgeon Robert Becker spent decades researching the role of the body’s […]

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    This Test for Machine Consciousness Has an Audience Problem

    The audience problem highlights a longstanding worry about robot consciousness—that outward behavior, however sophisticated, would never be enough to prove that the lights are on, so to speak. A well-designed machine could always hypothetically fake it.Photograph by Paul Biryukov / Shutterstock Someday, humanity might build conscious machines—machines that not only seem to think and feel, […]

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    What William James Got Right About Consciousness

    Is consciousness an instinct? When feeling at sea about definitions and meanings in the mind/brain business, it is always rewarding to dial up William James once again. More than 125 years ago, James wrote a landmark article simply titled “What Is an Instinct?” He wastes no time in defining the concept: Instinct is usually defined […]

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    The Science Behind “Blade Runner”’s Voight-Kampff Test

    Is Rick Deckard a replicant, an advanced bioengineered being? The jury concerning the character in 1982’s Blade Runner is still out. Harrison Ford, who plays Deckard in the film, thinks he’s human. Ridley Scott, the film’s director, is adamant that he’s not.* Hampton Fancher, the screenwriter for the original film and the sequel, Blade Runner […]

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    Why Trump Would Enjoy Being a Consciousness Researcher

      Sure, Donald Trump usually isn’t one for heady or complex matters. His business roles—promoting steaks, golf courses, and casinos—haven’t been particularly rigorous, in an intellectual sense. The closest he came was with Trump University (although, among other problems, its use of the word “university” to describe its operations violated New York State law.) Studying […]

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    The Moral Importance of Understanding Consciousness

    As we get better and better ideas of what is conscious and what is not, they might change the kinds of experiments we will be able to comfortably and ethically perform.“The Scream” (1893) by Edvard Munch Debating whether other beings are conscious can sometimes feel like an unimportant academic exercise. But it’s not. The conclusion […]

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    Westworld Is Strikingly Real: AI Could Be Conscious and Unpredictable

    Westworld recently wrapped its first season with a few stunning twists and a stunning statistic: With a 12-million-viewer average, it was the most-watched first season of an original HBO show in the network’s history. Westworld concerns a perverse theme park, styled in the fashion of the American Old West. The park’s “hosts,” artificially intelligent beings […]

  • Consciousness

    Is There Awareness Behind Vegetative States?

    Imagine that a loved one, let’s say your brother, has suffered a serious brain injury. After languishing in a coma, he finally “emerges”—that is, he cycles between sleep and wakefulness, yanks his hand away when it’s pricked, is startled by loud noises, and so on. But it’s not clear that he’s ever truly awake; his […]

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    When Does a Consciousness Test Not Test for Consciousness?

    A pigeon looks at its reflection in the mirror. It sees a blue dot on the reflection’s breast. It reaches down and pecks at the dot on its own breast. This is the classic behavior required for passing the “mirror test,” an influential experiment used to test for self-awareness in animals. Chimpanzees became the first […]