Friday, January 23, 2009

How much is phenomenal consciousness worth?

Selmer Bringsjord (see reference bellow) raises some important questions in his exploration of the (moral?) dilemma of whether or not to accept a billion dollar contract for producing a mere 'proof-of-concept' robot capable of phenomenal consciousness: first, what would a SOW (Statement of Work) outlining the research & development of the project look like (all that's necessary simply to get half the money and get started))? second, why, if truly honest, one must decline such an offer; and third, even in a distant future when robots indistinguishable from humans both physically and sensorimotor-wise could become a reality, the question of whether they have phenomenal consciousness (and not merely physical and behavioral resemblance) still remains.

Bringsjord is rather candid in his assessment of human motivation (at least in certain quarters of Consciousness Studies) when it comes to such ridiculously large sums of money: sure, some researches will write a proposal, grab the money and run! But, as he tells us, "these are not nice people." And precisely how would researches of a future world already 'populated' by androids, look upon such a proposal?

If behaving in a certain way is having qualia, then one may justifiably grab the billion dollars offer now. But it's not: at best, it's as if having qualia. How much might a 'proof-of-concept' robot with phenomenal consciousness rake in the future (with appropriate adjustments for inflation) is anyone's guess. But if anyone thinks that such a robot would have life and feelings and a sense of what is it like to undergo certain experiences, then obviously that person (Shanahan et. al.) does not fully understand that phenomenal consciousness is not reducible to activation patterns of the brain's neural architecture nor any simulation thereof.

Source: Bringsjord, Selmer, "Offer: One Billion Dollars for a Conscious Robot; If You're Honest, You Must Decline," Journal of Consciousness Studies, 14, No. 7, 2007, pp. 28-43.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Collective Consciousness

On the heels of our discussion last Tuesday about collective consciousness here's what Pamela Gerloff has to say about Obama's Real Challenge: Shifting the Collective Consciousness.

Consciousness, Intentionality, Embodiment


Welcome to the course blog for PHIL 450 - Consciousness, Intentionality, Embodiment in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Charleston (Spring 2009). This course will explore some of the most important research on consciousness, intentionality, and embodiment that is at the heart of the new interdisciplinary field of Consciousness Studies: What it is like to perceive, desire, or know something---like listening to the sound of a Mozart concerto, tasting the flavor of a strong espresso, or feeling the cool breeze of a spring morning? What are the structures of conscious experience? How is perceptual consciousness different from emotion, memory, or imagination? Why is there something it is like to be conscious? How are we to understand the fact that our consciousness appears to be always directed at something? Finally, to what extend is our conscious experience shaped and conditioned by the body? I sincerely hope that in conducting some of our discussion of these important questions on this open forum others might benefit from it.

To find out more about the content of this course, please consult the draft syllabus.