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Conscious AI No Longer A Fiction, Experts Warn

Academics from around the world have signed an open letter calling for further research into consciousness science for artificial intelligence (AI) experiments.

The letter was compiled by the Association for Mathematical Consciousness Science (AMCS), which described it as “a wakeup call for the tech sector, the scientific community and society in general”.

In the document, dozens of academics from respected institutions have warned that the computing power and capabilities of  AI systems are accelerating at a pace that exceeds the progress made in understanding their capabilities and “alignment” with human values.

“It is no longer in the realm of science fiction to imagine AI systems having feelings and even human-level consciousness,” the letter states.

It further stresses that contemporary AI systems already display human traits recognised in psychology, including evidence of ‘Theory of Mind’. This statement further supports the claims of a Google engineer, Blake Lemoine, who in June last year said that the company’s Lamda AI had the ability to express thoughts and feelings equivalent to a human child. Google placed Lemoine on compulsory leave following his revelations.

In order to address the ethical, legal and political dilemmas that would arise from sentient AIs, the open letter has called for further research to be made into consciousness science, with the goal of ensuring that society understands the implications of achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI).

“As AI develops, it is vital for the wider public, societal institutions and governing bodies to know whether and how AI systems can become conscious, to understand the implications thereof, and to effectively address the ethical, safety, and societal ramifications associated with artificial general intelligence.”

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Over the last few months, AI-powered chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT have seen a dramatic rise in popularity. These free tools can generate text in response to a prompt, including articles, essays, jokes and even poetry. A study published in January showed ChatGPT was able to pass a law exam, scoring an overall grade of C+.

However, governments and experts have raised concerns about the risks these tools could pose to people’s privacy, human rights or safety, with OpenAI acknowledging that ChatGPT can be “very unreliable” on texts under 1,000 characters.

Currently, most experts agree AI is nowhere near the level of sophistication the AMCS letter warns of. However, its rapid development has raised concerns among AI experts. Earlier this month, notable technology figures including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak signed an open letter warning that AI labs were locked in an “out-of-control race” and calling for a six-month pause on all large-scale AI experiments.

Source: E&T


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One thought on “Conscious AI No Longer A Fiction, Experts Warn

  1. It’s becoming clear that with all the brain and consciousness theories out there, the proof will be in the pudding. By this I mean, can any particular theory be used to create a human adult level conscious machine. My bet is on the late Gerald Edelman’s Extended Theory of Neuronal Group Selection. The lead group in robotics based on this theory is the Neurorobotics Lab at UC at Irvine. Dr. Edelman distinguished between primary consciousness, which came first in evolution, and that humans share with other conscious animals, and higher order consciousness, which came to only humans with the acquisition of language. A machine with primary consciousness will probably have to come first.

    What I find special about the TNGS is the Darwin series of automata created at the Neurosciences Institute by Dr. Edelman and his colleagues in the 1990’s and 2000’s. These machines perform in the real world, not in a restricted simulated world, and display convincing physical behavior indicative of higher psychological functions necessary for consciousness, such as perceptual categorization, memory, and learning. They are based on realistic models of the parts of the biological brain that the theory claims subserve these functions. The extended TNGS allows for the emergence of consciousness based only on further evolutionary development of the brain areas responsible for these functions, in a parsimonious way. No other research I’ve encountered is anywhere near as convincing.

    I post because on almost every video and article about the brain and consciousness that I encounter, the attitude seems to be that we still know next to nothing about how the brain and consciousness work; that there’s lots of data but no unifying theory. I believe the extended TNGS is that theory. My motivation is to keep that theory in front of the public. And obviously, I consider it the route to a truly conscious machine, primary and higher-order.

    My advice to people who want to create a conscious machine is to seriously ground themselves in the extended TNGS and the Darwin automata first, and proceed from there, by applying to Jeff Krichmar’s lab at UC Irvine, possibly. Dr. Edelman’s roadmap to a conscious machine is at https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.10461



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