What is consciousness and does AI have it?

We're taking a slight detour from modeling best practices to explore questions about AI and consciousness. With special guest Michael Herman, co-founder of Monitaur and TestDriven.io, the team discusses different philosophical perspectives on consciousness and how these apply to AI. They also discuss the potential dangers of AI in its current state and why starting fresh instead of iterating can make all the difference in achieving characteristics of AI that might resemble consciousness.

Show notes

Why consciousness for this episode?

  • Enough listeners have randomly asked the hosts if Skynet is on the horizon
  • Does modern or future AI have the wherewithal to take over the world, and is it even conscious or intelligent?
  • Do we even have a good definition of consciousness?

Introducing Michael Herman as guest speaker

  • Co-founder of Monitaur, Engineer extraordinaire, and creator of TestDriven.io, a training company that focuses on educating and upskilling mid-level senior-level web developers.
  • Degree and studies in philosophy and technology

Establishing the philosophical foundation of consciousness

  • Consciousness is around us everywhere. It can mean different things to different people.
  • Most discussion about the subject bypasses the Mind-Body Problem and a few key theories:
  • Dualism - the mind and body are distinct
  • Materialism - matter is king and consciousness arises in complex material systems
  • Panpsychism - consciousness is king. It underlies everything at the quantum level

The potential dangers of achieving consciousness in AI

  • While there is potential for AI to reach consciousness, we're far from that point.
  • Dangers are more related to manipulation and misinformation, rather than the risk of conscious machines turning against humanity.

The need for a new approach to developing AI systems

  • There's a need to start from scratch if the goal is to achieve consciousness in AI systems.
  • Current modeling techniques might not lead to AI achieving consciousness. A new paradigm might be required.
  • There's a need to define what consciousness in AI means and to develop a test for it.

Final thoughts and wrap-up

  • If consciousness is truly the goal, the case for starting from scratch allows for fairness and ethics to be established foundationally
  • AI systems should be built with human values in mind

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