Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Needs-Wants-Beliefs (4) – consciousness and self-awareness

In my 24 October 2016 blog Needs, Wants and Beliefs (3) – the vulnerability of complexity, I introduced the concepts of consciousness and self-awareness. Michael Crichton‘s Westworld (1973 movie and 2016 HBO series) views these 2 concepts as the main difference between Artificially Intelligent (AI) robots and humans. I did not address the origin of those concepts. I just stated: “The vulnerability of complexity must have opened the doors to consciousness and self-awareness.”

In my 15 August 2016 blog on the human brain, I used a phrase from an 2014 Independent article: “Our brain is more mysterious than the least explored regions of the deepest ocean.” It may seem weird but scientists know much more about the surface of the moon and other planets than our oceans, let alone the human brain. Consequently, the Wikipedia pages on consciousness and self-awareness mostly highlight philosophical debates rather than scientific facts.

HBO episode 3 of Westworld offers an explanation on the origin of consciousness and self-awareness: “mistakes”. I have been digesting this remark and it indeed makes sense. 

In between the concepts of “the vulnerability of complexity” and “consciousness and self-awareness” are (fatal) human mistakes. To some extent, consciousness is similar to learning from mistakes. To another extent, self-awareness is realising that you are better or worse in preventing such mistakes, compared to others.

This view clearly has consequences. Many animals should then be considered conscious as they also learn from mistakes. In this view, we should not be surprised by a 2016 NYT article called: “German Forest ranger finds that trees have social networks, too”.

I think, feel and believe that any life form should be deemed conscious – by definition. A 2016 Japanese study showed that apes even have “the theory of mind – the ability to attribute desires, intentions, and knowledge to others” (eg, Nature, Science). Another example that primates are in the 2nd level of Needs-Wants-Beliefs, please refer to my 20 October 2016 blog.

I think, feel and believe that the human fear for AI robots is related to the 3rd level of Needs-Wants-Beliefs. If AI robots would believe that humans are inferior (eg, vulnerability) to them then they might exterminate humans. To some extent, this is another example of reverse psychology: we fear AI robots because we fear ourselves. Why would their behaviour be any different from ours? Also see my 16 April 2015 blog: who is afraid of whom?

I’m still puzzled what triggered humans to migrate to the 3rd level of Needs-Wants-Beliefs. Yet I think, feel and believe that it’s rather “easy” to program a Belief system into an AI robot (ie, Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth). That is another reason why we subconsciously fear AI robots.

Interconnected, conscious and self-aware AI robots are likely to perceive humans for what we truly are: extremely vulnerable. If not, a human fool will teach them by programming one or more Belief systems. Another highly improbable and catastrophic (ie, Black Swan) event is in the making.

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