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Testing Consciousness

Autor:   •  March 5, 2017  •  Essay  •  2,328 Words (10 Pages)  •  334 Views

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Testing Consciousness

A.M. Turing considered the question, “Can machines think?” He devised a theoretical test for whether machine has intelligence. His test is a sort of “imitation game” where an interrogator interviews an unseen person and unseen machine and tries to decide which is which. The next step beyond the Turing test is a test for consciousness. In this paper, I will delve into the types of consciousness worth determining whether a creature or machine has, consider what such a consciousness test would look like, and apply said test to my pet ball python, Pookie.

Let us consider the idea that a machine has passed this Turing test. There are still many who will deny the idea that this machine can think. Many of these objections come from the view that thought is located somewhere outside the physical world. A machine cannot possibly be thinking because a machine is a purely physical entity. This view, broadly defined as dualism, is a largely accepted theory of the mind. However, it fails in providing an explanation to the fact that thinking, a non-physical phenomenon, causally interacts with the physical body of a person in everyday life. A simpler view of thinking is physicalism. In this view, all types of thinking are physical events. This allows non-animals the possibility to think, have intelligence, and possibly have consciousness.

Consciousness can be seen as the “next level” of thinking, understanding, and awareness. The concept is notoriously ambiguous with multiple distinctive notions.

The first sense of consciousness is whether a creature is awake rather than asleep. This sense offers very little controversy, as animals and even some machines can easily be acknowledged as being in one of these two states. Still, it offers an argument that consciousness may not be as complicated as we may think it to be.

Another sense of consciousness is the basic ability to perceive and respond to certain features of their environments. This is useful for defining whether a person has recovered from a coma or not, but it is not what we are looking for when trying to test the unknown for consciousness. After all, many machines and animals respond to environments, but an outdoor light comes on when detecting motion can hardly be argued as being conscious. I do however appreciate its ability to ward off burglars!

A third notion of consciousness introduced by Block is called access consciousness. It is the idea that consciousness is mental representations available for use to help rationalize actions. Examples include beliefs, desires, and thoughts. Access consciousness is the ideas that creatures act upon, and Block believes that many animals possess this kind of consciousness. For machines, access consciousness is likely to be implanted. It could be the “set of rules” that these machines go by.

A fourth sense, phenomenal consciousness,


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