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The Singularity, Virtual Immortality and the Trouble with Consciousness (Op-Ed)

https://www.livescience.com/52503-is-it-possible-to-transfer-your-mind-into-a-computer.html

livescience.com

The Singularity, Virtual Immortality and the Trouble with Consciousness (Op-Ed)
If you really want to upload your mind to a computer or create a sentient machine, you first must come to grips with what consciousness is, argues Robert Lawrence Kuhn.

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Artificial Intelligence: Singularity and Virtual Immortality

Artificial Intelligence: Singularity and Virtual Immortality

The growth of technology and Artificial Intelligence(AI) is on track to provide us with:

  • Singularity: A merging of human intelligence and AI, resulting in Superstrong AI.
  • Virtual Immortality: Our mental selves including our memories being uploaded on the cloud computer, making us live beyond our original biological bodies.

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Inner Awareness and AI

... or self-awareness is something many scientists and philosophers are discussing. The fact that there is consciousness inside us, is a big problem for those developing AI, as no matter what they do, and how technologically superior the product is, nobody can explain or even fathom the juggernaut of consciousness.

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Qualia: Experiencing Sensations

Qualia relates to the raw sensations of experience, like colours, smells, sounds.

It is through our actual experience that we know what something tastes, looks or smells like, and it is not some information already drilled inside our brains on birth. We have to experience sensations to understand them.

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Consciousness In Computers

  • Computers and AI can never have a real, conscious mind, even if they appear to behave, talk and act in the same way a human being does(like self-driving cars, for example).
  • Simulation of consciousness, however sophisticated, is merely a duplication, not the real thing.
  • Computers can be made to act conscious, by saying or doing things that make us believe they may be conscious, but consciousness, as we know, cannot be replicated in a non-biological system.

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Giulio Tononi

" To be truly conscious, an entity must be of a certain kind that can constrain its past and future — and certainly a simulation is not of that kind."

Giulio Tononi

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Virtual Immortality

... is a ripe area of debate, with some neuroscientists saying that it is not possible to transfer the entire person in a computer, and even if it is done successfully, the resulting entity would not be that person, but a ‘zombie’ who acts like that person.

These computers, armed with our mental information, may seem very intelligent and will claim that they are conscious, but they are not.

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The Two Conjectures

  1. The nature of artificial intelligence singularity with a consciousness (hypothetically) is vastly different and superior to ‘Superstrong AI’ which may be supremely intelligent, and even appear to be conscious. Being conscious beats appearing conscious.
  2. The human inner awareness cannot be wholly recreated or synthesized as of today, so uploading one’s complete neural patterns and ‘brain information’ cannot be authentic virtual immortality. We aren’t able to reproduce or transfer first-person consciousness.

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Trying To Define Consciousness

  1. The consciousness can be entirely physical, a product of the brain.
  2. It is an independent, unique entity, a special feature of physical reality, and can be a different reality in itself.
  3. Everything that exists has some form of ‘proto-consciousness’, or varying levels of consciousness, as stated in the old theory of panpsychism.
  4. Consciousness is non-physical, existing as a dual entity, connected to the physical brain at some metaphysical level. This non-physical substance is also called the ‘soul’.
  5. As believed by eastern religions for thousands of years, consciousness can be the ultimate reality, whereas our physical reality could just be a subset of the same.

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Superstrong AI Being Conscious

  1. If consciousness were completely physical then it is easy for Superstrong AI to be aware like humans are.
  2. If consciousness is an independent unique entity, then one cannot say if computers, AI, and other non-biological entities can ever experience any real awareness.
  3. In the case of panpsychism, where everything can have a certain level of consciousness, then Superstrong AI, too by this logic, can be aware.
  4. If the ‘soul’ exists, connected to the human mind, then Superstrong AI can not experience any true awareness, no matter how advanced.
  5. If consciousness is the ultimate reality then everything could be conscious, including non-biological entities.

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Digitizing The Self and Virtual Immortality

Virtual Immortality follows a similar path, depending on how we define consciousness.

  1. It is possible to upload a virtual self if consciousness is entirely physical.
  2. In case of consciousness being an independent entity, if it is understood and studied, then it is possible to upload a first-person mental self, though with some caveats and limitations.
  3. If everything is conscious then too, our mental self can be uploadable, provided advanced technologies can control consciousness.
  4. In case of consciousness being the soul, it would be impossible to transfer the self.
  5. If consciousness is the extreme reality, then it should exist in itself, without the need for unique digital upload.

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The Self, Copied

In case a digital replication procedure does work perfectly, there is an unanswered question of where the self would be, if, for example, it is replicated five times. It can lead to various possibilities in the self:

  1. Each of the five replicas can be super-identical twins, with their own consciousness, or can be psychological zombies.
  2. I can sense that I suddenly have five other selves, and can merge with them.
  3. The consciousness shifts from one replica to the other, maybe in fragments.
  4. The original self disappears, and all of the replicas claim they are the original.

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The passage of time is subjective

The passage of time is subjective

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Time is manipulated by the things we do

When our minds are not stimulated, it can feel like time is moving very slowly.

When we are fully engaged, especially when we are busy with activities that keep us in a state of flow, our sense of time seems to speed up or even disappear. This "flow state" is where one is wholly absorbed in a mental or physical activity.

Improvisation and flow

Improvised art forms, such as music, acting, or comedy is an example of a flow state. Improvisation is a highly complex form of creative behaviour. The ability to improvise requires cognitive flexibility, divergent thinking and discipline-specific skills.

During musical improvisation, there is an increase in the area of the brain involved in intentional self-expression and the pursuit of goal-oriented behaviours and a decrease in the brain areas involved in conscious self-monitoring, focused attention, and evaluation of planned actions.

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The mystery of consciousness

The mystery of consciousness

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Consciousness: A unique scientific problem

For much of the 20th century, consciousness was not a serious topic for "serious science." That has changed. The problem of consciousness is a scientific dilemma.

For one, consciousness is unobservable. We know consciousness exists through our immediate awareness of our own feelings and experiences. But you can't look in the head of someone else to see their feelings and experiences.

Using observation for an unobservable issue

When we are dealing with data, we can do experiments to test whether what we observe matches the hypothesis. But we are dealing with the unobservable data of consciousness.

The best scientists can do is to correlate unobservable experiences with observable processes. For example, the feeling of hunger is associated with visible activity in the brain's hypothalamus.

But collecting correlations does not explain why conscious experiences correspond with brain activity.

Consciousness And Quantum Physics

Consciousness And Quantum Physics

Understanding consciousness and how it fits in the universe is a perennial puzzle for decades. Some call it the holy grail of science.

Quantum physics is able to describe the atomic and...

The Observer Effect

Modern science is hesitant to talk about consciousness due to it opening a pandora’s box, putting their previously ‘bulletproof’ theories under suspicion.

Quantum Theory had a similar ‘uh oh’ moment when it was found that the behaviour of atomic level particles changes when we (a conscious observer) are looking at it, or not. This is known as the Observer Effect.

Objectivity Vs Consciousness

Physicists argue that objectivity might as well be an illusion, and consciousness has to be put in the picture of its worldview.

The two puzzles of Science, Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics, might as well be closely related, with one arising because of the other.