Saturday, August 26, 2023

Consciousness and AI

Philosophical discussions seem to center on disagreements about definitions, which are arbitrary. What does it mean to be conscious? From vocabulary.com:

'Conscious is a Latin word whose original meaning was “knowing" or "aware.” So a conscious person has an awareness of her environment and her own existence and thoughts. If you're "self-conscious," you're overly aware and even embarrassed by how you think you look or act.'

Recent discussions about AI and consciousness can be confusing because they often ask questions about things that aren't well-defined. Let's look at it more simply:

  1. Consciousness as Awareness: I understand consciousness as awareness of myself. I am conscious when I'm awake and when I'm dreaming. When I'm asleep without dreams or sedated, I'm unconscious.
  2. We Are Simulators: We often put ourselves into our own thoughts and dreams, like being in a dream within a dream. Sometimes it feels so real we don't know it's a dream.
  3. Levels of Reality: When we wake up, we think we're back in real life. But even our waking world is a kind of dream or simulation. We believe in it as real, but it's a constructed reality.
  4. Limits of Our Senses: Our senses can only take in so much. We don't really see or hear everything around us. Our brains fill in the gaps, making us believe we see things that might not be there, like optical illusions.
  5. Consciousness as an Illusion: Research shows that our conscious self might be a creation of our brains. Decisions are made before we're even aware of them. We're more like observers rather than decision-makers.
  6. Why it matters: I'm interested in this idea of consciousness because it could help create AI systems that have a sense of self. They could imagine and think like we do, making them more useful. By looking at it this way, we can see that consciousness isn't just one thing. It's a mix of awareness, simulation, reality, and illusion. Understanding this can help us explore ourselves and make new technologies like AI that can "think" like we do.

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