The Descartes Thing

Thinking zombieBy reading my blog you will find that I’m quite enthusiastic by Michael Graziano’s theory of consciousness[1]. Just recently I came across this other book on consciousness[2] (also from 2013) by Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi that I’ve been now eagerly reading as well. It has given me more insight on what is known of consciousness… or awareness… or sentience…

And here lies a problem: There are several terms in the English language that seem to be used almost interchangeably for this thing that René Descartes reached for in 1637[3]. This is partially due to negligence, but I believe, most often due to people having focus on different things, where the Descartes thing is only a somewhat relevant side track.

We have, at least, consciousness, intelligence, awareness, soul, and sentience. Continue reading “The Descartes Thing”

Everything Looks Like a Nail

Thinking zombieI recently came across this article by senior research psychologist Robert Epstein, titled “The Empty Brain”[1]. It was linked on a critical Facebook posting that was upset about the article’s superficially most important point appearing to be that the brain is not a computer. Ironically, this Facebook poster had become upset about Epstein’s wording and got stuck with the verbal term, not seeing the actual thought behind the phrasings.

I started reading the article and found myself initially with the same ire as the Facebook poster had. Fortunately I have experience in looking past my first reactions. It looks like Epstein uses provocatively roughly formed language as a tool to try and shake people awake from being satisfied with how they are looking at the world through tainted glasses. His point would not be that the brain couldn’t abstractly be considered as a computer. As I understand, Epstein’s point is the same as in the old proverb: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Here I am, of course, on a bad footing, being first a computer scientist, who only has a minor subject and a keen interest in psychology and awareness. My hammer and nail is the computer, so I should be biased to see everything, including the brain as a computer. Continue reading “Everything Looks Like a Nail”

Posthumous Messages in Interactive Bottles

For a great deal this post is an extension to my earlier post, The Ghost Leaving the Shell. There I discussed how a system designer leaves an echo of their “ghost” in the design. You might like to read that before reading this entry, but you should be able to understand this post without it too. Both of these entries are actually in the very core of this blog, discussing the question of whom we are interacting with, when using digital services.

The remake of Total Recall movie, once again featured a personal message in the form of an interactive hologram. The idea is that you interview the hologram for the information that was sent to you. Also in I, Robot, Dr. Lanning had left, before his death, a holographic note to the murder investigators, where the message was something rather of a riddle. Finally, at least, the hologram confirmed to the main character: “That, detective, is the right question.” Continue reading “Posthumous Messages in Interactive Bottles”

(Artificial) Intelligence is not Possible Without Sensors and Manipulators

It is not possible to have (artificial) intelligence without having sufficiently functional and free mechanisms for sensory input from the surrounding reality and for manipulating it. Continue reading “(Artificial) Intelligence is not Possible Without Sensors and Manipulators”

Awareness of awareness

I have been reading Michael S. A. Graziano’s book “Consciousness and the Social Brain“, where Graziano explains his theory of what consciousness might be and how a brain might construct it. I now try to explain the gist of the theory with the following mental exercise: Consider that you are looking at a green apple. Your visual senses are providing your brain information about the apple, among many other things. Your brain now ignores the many other things by preforming attention on the information concerning the apple. Attention creates a representation of the apple in your brain, which is cognitive information that is stored as well as the sensory input was. This representation is your awareness of the apple: It is green. It has a stem. It is somewhat roundish.

Photo 30.10.2014 15.29.38

At this point, in your brain there is the awareness (the cognitive information) of the “greenness”. Continue reading “Awareness of awareness”

Ender Turing

Yesterday I watched the movie Ender’s Game and last summer I had read the book. The movie now made me think about the main character, Ender’s story from the perspective of this blog. In towards the end, he sensed that this might not be just a computer simulation. For one part, the Formics at the final battle missbehaved, in the sense of a computer simulation – they waited, instead of taking action to defeat Ender. This is related how good chess players beat computer, I’ve heard: The computer doesn’t anticipate the player to do inefficient moves.

For another part, Ender sensed the Formics. They had telepathically communicated with him – apparently mostly through his dreams. However, in the very end, Ender was awake communicating with one of them. Perhaps closer proximity helped with the telepathy. Of course, this is (science) fiction, but it refers to what I’m looking for: What else is there into sensing the sentient presence of another in an interaction, than mere inefficiencies?

In the Turing’s test you are supposed to differentiate between a real human being and an artificial intelligence. I guess most efficient strategy is to discuss stories and try to make the computer fail in consistency, understanding of reality or understanding of concepts and their relations. This is generally about spotting the human inefficiently waiting and not trying to win – something a computer is less likely to do. How about strategies involving actually sensing another person behind the interaction?

The Ghost Leaving the Shell

At which point and how does the creator of an application disappear from the user experience of the application? This is a psychological phenomenon, where the user sees the application as an actor and doesn’t see the real actor beyond that.

It is my conception that there is no human-computer interaction or human-object interaction as far as interaction is considered of involved parties all taking action on each other. Basically I see this as a case of time differentiated human-human-interaction, where there is a person designing an application or an object and a person using the application or object. Continue reading “The Ghost Leaving the Shell”