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    Thread: Sentience and the Implications

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      Sentience and the Implications

      Hello everyone,

      I was discussing sentience with myself and whether it was evidence of a soul (something additional to matter and energy that exists in space) and thought I would get all of you involved!

      So, I’m sort of trying to tell myself that souls don’t exist but I can’t convince myself because of sentience.
      There is the view that sentience is just a physical result of brain chemistry. I can barely believe that. That’s because I sincerely do not believe robots are sentient. Yes, they have sensors allowing them to “see” objects and process the information to avoid the object. But they’re just following a program and they don’t actually see an image form within their consciousness, it’s just machinery and electricity in there. From there, if the body is just a robot, then, there is no reason consciousness would exist. Computers, televisions, robots work very well without consciousness. If we are determined by cause and effect laws, there is no reason we would be forced to experience the flow of this cause and effect perpetuation. Also, it doesn't make sense to me that aggregation of protons and electrons can experience consciousness.

      What do you all think about this?

      If there is no soul and consciousness is a chemical process (which doesn’t make sense to me), then I think robots do or will in the future have consciousness and animals do to, just as we do. As a consequence, animals and robots should have equal rights.

      In the other scenario, then, we have souls which I would define as another substance, not energy, not matter but a third thing that experiences the world. This wouldn’t mean that souls cannot exist in animals and robots and if they did, then animals and robots would, again, deserve equal rights. If not, they wouldn’t but there is no way to test that in my opinion. The mirror test doesn’t test for sentience; it only tests for whether something’s program allows it to recognize itself in a mirror.

      Another thing I’d like to add is if consciousness is just a product of a group of communicating bodies feeling the stimuli that they are receiving as a whole, just like cells communicate together and “feel” their environment thus causing us to be sentient, then, is there a greater consciousness for all of the people on this Earth who also communicate together and “feel” their environment?
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      I’m sort of trying to tell myself that souls don’t exist
      Why?

      But they’re just following a program and they don’t actually see an image form within their consciousness, it’s just machinery and electricity in there. From there, if the body is just a robot, then, there is no reason consciousness would exist.
      Many people would argue you could just as well be describing humans. Consciousness seems to be a product of evolution, and clearly is not something completely black in white. There's several types of consciousness, because to a certain point animals do seem to share a "kind" of consciousness with us humans. In that sense, robots could also possess consciousness.

      it doesn't make sense to me that aggregation of protons and electrons can experience consciousness
      Me neither lol. The fact, even if there is a soul that is not limited to a brain, we'd have some problems explaining why would you want consciousness without one: in the "human" definition of consciousness (or at least, some definitions), determine that a person without any functioning senses is not conscious. If taking consciousness out of the brain was possible, how would you make it experience reality without any kind of tool to experience and produce sensory information?

      Another thing I’d like to add is if consciousness is just a product of a group of communicating bodies feeling the stimuli that they are receiving as a whole, just like cells communicate together and “feel” their environment thus causing us to be sentient, then, is there a greater consciousness for all of the people on this Earth who also communicate together and “feel” their environment?
      What about a perspective based on evolution: a specialized type of cells produces one sense, other one another, another one produces another function. Consciousness would not (and is not) unitary, but you're experience of it (you're "mind") would feel like one. The role of language also adds an interesting factor to the discussion
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      Can you elaborate on why you don't think "robots" can be conscious? I agree that my television and computer and such are not conscious, but that doesn't prove that they can't be in principle. We don't know how the brain works yet, and so nobody has been able to build a digital version. But what about a computer which really did seem to be conscious, like the Operating System from the film "Her"? In twenty years or so we will have computers powerful enough to simulate entire brains digitally in real time. Why wouldn't such a program be conscious? Presumably it would act exactly like a human mind, sensing, conceptualising, and being capable of holding a normal conversation.
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      Lets just hope it doesn't go the way of AM. And personally, I believe and am content with the idea that everything is decided through brain chemistry.

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      Yeah, why don't you think robots can be conscious? I am fairly certain that robots will be conscious in the future, and that many animals are already so. Consciousness seems to be a byproduct of very complex thinking patterns. When robots get advanced enough, I don't see why they wouldn't have consciousness. What is consciousness but high level thinking being done by our brain?
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      Zoth, I'm just trying to be skeptical

      Everyone else, I didn't mean to say robots cannot have a consciousness. What I was trying to convey is that what our body does (ex. See an object and avoid it) is something a robot can do too, a very simple one. I'm just saying that if you separate any function of the brain, we can have a robot do the same thing. For example, we can make a robot that recognizes itself in a mirror. However, no one would intuitively think that a computer which gives you the information you ask for is sentient even though it is doing something a part of our brain does too. I don't think consciousness is a "useful result of evolution" because there is no need for a consciousness. Computers can analyze a lot of data simultaneously and give creative and intelligent actions (like chess computers). Is a chess computer sentient? I wouldn't intuitively say so but it is impossible to tell and they could just the way we do. Scientists can't find consciousness, perhaps every circuit in this world has sentience and creates its own interpretation of the impulses.

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      If you ask me, organic lifeforms are just biological machines and robots.
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      [QUOTE=Xei;2079298]Can you elaborate on why you don't think "robots" can be conscious? I agree that my television and computer and such are not conscious, but that doesn't prove that they can't be in principle. We don't know how the brain works yet, and so nobody has been able to build a digital version. But what about a computer which really did seem to be conscious, like the Operating System from the film "Her"? In twenty years or so we will have computers powerful enough to simulate entire brains digitally in real time. Why wouldn't such a program be conscious? Presumably it would act exactly like a human mind, sensing, conceptualising, and being capable of holding a normal conversation.[/quI doubt 20 years will do it. For starters if you don't know how something works then
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      I doubt 20 years will do it. For starters if you don't know how something works then you can't simulate it. And say you did build it, it would be "born" an infant, unless we've invented brain dumping and loading also by then. We're more than just brains, all of the physical systems interact with our consciousness. And I imagine that if one did manage to build a complete artificial human it would grow up insane.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Occipitalred View Post
      Zoth, I'm just trying to be skeptical

      Everyone else, I didn't mean to say robots cannot have a consciousness. What I was trying to convey is that what our body does (ex. See an object and avoid it) is something a robot can do too, a very simple one. I'm just saying that if you separate any function of the brain, we can have a robot do the same thing. For example, we can make a robot that recognizes itself in a mirror. However, no one would intuitively think that a computer which gives you the information you ask for is sentient even though it is doing something a part of our brain does too. I don't think consciousness is a "useful result of evolution" because there is no need for a consciousness. Computers can analyze a lot of data simultaneously and give creative and intelligent actions (like chess computers). Is a chess computer sentient? I wouldn't intuitively say so but it is impossible to tell and they could just the way we do. Scientists can't find consciousness, perhaps every circuit in this world has sentience and creates its own interpretation of the impulses.
      In this same way, you can take any part of a car and replicate it separately, but it won't be a car. Which part of a car is the car? Take a wheel from it; this isn't a car, this is a wheel. Take the engine; that's not a car either, it's an engine. Take a seat out of it, it's a seat, not a car. You can look at every single part of a car, and never find the car.

      Does that mean that we cannot build a car, because we cannot find the car among it's parts?
      Last edited by Forsaken; 02-02-2014 at 10:38 PM.
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      A computer that plays chess very well would be easy to detect as a computer. A computer that plays chess at say the 1600 (USCF) (intermediate) level and makes the same sorts of mistakes that a human player at that level typically makes would be much harder to create. Chess computers however have absolutely no creativity whatsoever. They are simply performing a "search" through all good moves to find the best possible position according to the programmed evaluation function, and the strength of the program is directly tied to the quality of this evaluation function. Or searching a database of completely solved chess endings in order to play perfectly.
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      I don't remember where I saw this but I think they can actually learn and improve. I mean, robots are presently being made so that they can learn.

      If we ever made robots for a specific use but they convinced us of having a consciousness, would we have to give them freedom or would we say "We've created you for a purpose, you must serve us"? If we have to give them freedom, is it counterproductive to build that technology?

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      Quote Originally Posted by Occipitalred View Post
      I don't remember where I saw this but I think they can actually learn and improve. I mean, robots are presently being made so that they can learn.

      If we ever made robots for a specific use but they convinced us of having a consciousness, would we have to give them freedom or would we say "We've created you for a purpose, you must serve us"? If we have to give them freedom, is it counterproductive to build that technology?
      Learning by a rote algorithm to maximize some "goodness" and minimize "badness" (just my guess at the quality of the learning algorithms, maybe they're much more subtle than that), does not qualify as sentience. Now, show me a robot that can love and sacrifice itself for the sake of a loved one or a friend or a stranger, where none of these qualities were present in the initial programming, and then we have a conversation .
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      Quote Originally Posted by FryingMan View Post
      Learning by a rote algorithm to maximize some "goodness" and minimize "badness" (just my guess at the quality of the learning algorithms, maybe they're much more subtle than that), does not qualify as sentience. Now, show me a robot that can love and sacrifice itself for the sake of a loved one or a friend or a stranger, where none of these qualities were present in the initial programming, and then we have a conversation .
      See, I agree. The thing is human are also programmed to love and sacrifice. Evolutionary instincts. We are robots. We are just like the chess computer who does as their program is told. Except we know it's not true. We are conscious and we can make decisions. We have free will. And these are things that make us different. That's why I think there must be another thing on top of matter and energy, called soul or whatever you want it to be that is aware and that "lives" in our cortex.

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      Quote Originally Posted by FryingMan View Post
      Now, show me a robot that can love and sacrifice itself for the sake of a loved one or a friend or a stranger, where none of these qualities were present in the initial programming, and then we have a conversation .
      But humans don't pass your test either. Altruism is in your genes.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      But humans don't pass your test either. Altruism is in your genes.
      Not in my book. But discussions like this basically don't go anywhere when people do not share or agree on a common worldview. Enough non-dreaming messaging, it's pretty much the same the internet over. "I'm dreaming....I'm dreaming...lucid dreams tonight..." ah, that's better.
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      Of course they can go somewhere. People don't just settle on "worldviews" when they're young and then keep them forever. People remain open to new evidence and can change their minds accordingly. How did you come to your "worldview"..? I came to mine through empirical evidence. Psychopathy is a real psychological condition in which a person lacks empathy. Brain scans can show us the parts of the brain involved in empathy. Psychopaths do not show activity in these brain areas, and they lack certain genes associated with those areas.

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      I do not believe in a soul as a third constituent of reality, like I think, I read you argue somewhere else, Occipitalred.
      Sentience and sapience are emergent phenomena in the normal realm of matter and energy for me - something brains with sensory organs can bring forth - but surely they can also reside in an other matrix.
      In any sort of sufficiently complex and accordingly interconnected computational arrangement.

      First of all - I feel the need to distinguish sentience from sapience.
      No need to discuss sentience in higher animals - they got it after this definition:

      Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or to experience subjectivity. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations (known in philosophy of mind as "qualia"). For Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights, because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, which is held to entail certain rights.
      So what then differentiates us from higher animals is sapience:

      Sapience is often defined as wisdom, or the ability of an organism or entity to act with appropriate judgement, a mental faculty which is a component of intelligence or alternatively may be considered an additional faculty, apart from intelligence, with its own properties. Robert Sternberg has segregated the capacity for judgement from the general qualifiers for intelligence, which is closer to cognizant aptitude than to wisdom. Displaying sound judgement in a complex, dynamic environment is a hallmark of wisdom.
      When we come to "robots" - the usual term is artificial intelligence (AI).
      What Wikipedia has on intelligence is this:

      Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving.
      The way, I was taught, though - intelligence is what the/a intelligence test measures. Period.
      It is a really weak term - hardly useful at all in my eyes for this topic here.
      Something can act intelligently, without being sentient or sapient I guess.

      If I was to give a computer human rights - I would want to know, if it is sapient.
      And if I would want to protect it from cruelty - it would be about sentience.

      Can there be sapience without sentience?

      Anyway - I wonder why nobody brought up the Turing Test yet..

      The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In the original illustrative example, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test does not check the ability to give the correct answer to questions; it checks how closely the answer resembles typical human answers. The conversation is limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so that the result is not dependent on the machine's ability to render words into audio.
      The original question here was, if machines would be able to think - but the end-version of the question came out like this:
      "Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?"

      Mr. Kurzweil - the main suspect for the topic of AI coming to my mind, had, the last time I looked, been moaning and going into a tirade, why after decades of work, still nobody would even come close to true AI, because they would neglect the way brains work, and only go into specific problem-solving brute force algorithms.
      But he is freshly enthused these days I found out:

      New Techniques from Google and Ray Kurzweil Are Taking Artificial Intelligence to Another Level | MIT Technology Review

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      StephL, you are great for bringing articles in discussion! Thank you! I'll read it when I have time.

      So, you bring the idea of

      sentience and sapience. The thing is anything that receives stimuli and can react to it has sentience. For example, a starfish surely "feels" things so that it can eat them and walk around. However, does it create a world like we do to experience these sensations? That is how I define consciousness and I think it does not rhyme with neither sentience and sapience. The only reason we have sapience and animals don't have it is because we have a bigger frontal lobe which allows us to reason and use judgement. It is something else that we could replicate in a machine one day when we become sophisticated enough.

      My point is, I don't think neither sentience of sapience proves consciousness. It is not because some bacteria can see light and therefore react to go in that direction that they actually experience it. For example, if you stab a fly larva with a pin, it will twirl around and try to escape. Isn't that a response to pain? A robot could have many "pain receptors" that when activated, it would have reflexes to remove itself from that pain, or cry out because by screaming, you can get someone else's help. Our responses to pain is organic, therefore, it is deterministic and it doesn't require consciousness.

      I feel like I'm being comfusing so I'll just summarize here in the clearest way I can achieve:

      Anything that is a result of physical and chemical processes acts by cause and effect and follows deterministic laws. I don't know the name of the researcher but someone proved that when we make an action, our brain decides to do it before we are even conscious of it. This is the experiment behind the deterministic view. It says we have no will and we are solely controlled by cause and effect. The way we react is a result of physical processes and apparently, consciousness is outside of this. However, we are conscious. We know because we experience a world created by our brains. Now, this consciousness doesn't create neither sentience nor sapience.

      How do you test for consciousness? You can't. You can only really just trust that people who say they are conscious actually are.

      I think that a being that would have sentience and sapience but would not be conscious of neither would not require human rights nor any more freedom than that we decide to give.

      But if not, I do agree with your idea that protection against cruelty goes to the sentient and rights (which come with responsibilities) go to the ones with sapience because they can use their judgement.

      I just feel like if they don't experience the world in which they are interacting, they are as good as an inanimate object.

      The reason I feel a soul makes sense is because it gives an explanation for consciousness and also a source for free will which would not exist without this other component.
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      Well - but for explaining something - to take something indefinable/inobservable/mystical does not lead to understanding in my view.
      It's just a word.
      Only "makes sense" in the context of a religious belief of some sort.
      There is no evidence for a soul - it is just a concept, humans find attractive - especially since it seems to promise the survival of physical death and fosters the ego - to be substantially better than animals.

      What do you think - where do souls come from? What happens to them without/at the death of the body?
      I keep finding it curious, that people try to invent new forms of energy or substance, which physics supposedly could even find, if they were looking correctly - but what would be the difference then?
      This energy - that energy - what's the point to distinguish if not for the sole purpose to keep on doing wishful thinking of all sorts - magic, the afterlife...

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      StephL, I do agree that I could never say that souls exist for sure. I can only say it is intuitive for me to believe they do, which does not make it more real. In philosophy (correct me if I am wrong), we can only speculate about things, as long as they do not disagree with science but without restricting oneself to science.

      I don't know if I said it here but my view which includes separate souls (because I have many views. I don't hold one particularly for the reason that they are not backed up by scientific evidence) goes as so: In this world, there is matter (stuff, you know), energy (what gives matter the ability to do work) and souls (gives matter they ability to be conscious and have freewill). Energy cannot exist without matter and souls cannot exist without matter and energy. Souls come from the same place matter and energy comes from, all three being the three fundamental building blocks of this world. Also, you'll know that when we use machines to observe matter or energy, we need to affect them. For example, you cannot see a photon unless you absorb it. In the same way, we cannot see someone else's consciousness unless you had some way to absorb that consciousness and the machine that this would have to be able to experience that consciousness. We obviously don't know how to do this and it would be quite dangerous to be able to do this anyways.

      If souls are different "particles", then, they float around and attach to a proper brain cortex which is necessary for them. When we die, they just move to another proper body.

      This is just a nice theory I made, that feels intuitive to me. I have another theory, however, that I'd like to share because it feels to me that it garuantees our immortality. But I don't have time now. Later.

      For the theory I stated, I think animals would also have souls. I don't know where the line is crossed. Again, it would be a matter of intuition which is not very conclusive anyways. They just have a less developped brain and that is why they seem so different.

      Anyways, what do you think of that theory (other than it does not have evidence) and how do you accound for consciousness without a soul and without the physical/chemical need for one.
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      Here's some potential mass misunderstanding of physics, but aren't matter and energy functionally the same on the quantum level? Would souls, in your theory, be the same as the other two on the quantum level?

      Regardless, I'm of the belief that souls don't exist, though I would love it if they did.

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      Quote Originally Posted by splodeymissile View Post
      Aren't matter and energy functionally the same on the quantum level? Would souls, in your theory, be the same as the other two on the quantum level?
      Sure, souls could be the same as matter and energy at the quantum level but what does that even mean? It's nice that physics can say all these things but it doesn't matter much since we live far away from the quantum level. I don't think energy and matter are the same. Energy is more like a trait of matter. You can have matter with a lot of energy or matter with little energy. And at the quantum level, mass can become energy and so forth. souls could be another trait of matter. Some matter is conscious if it's structure is complex enough, some is not and there might be a spectrum, or a quantum number for consciousness.

      Anywho, this is another theory that I have made so that if I decide to not believe in souls, I am still guaranteed to live for ever. If there is no such thing as souls, then, there is only matter and energy. Right? Right. We all agree. Now,
      1. I can look at a bunch of molecules and say it is one thing. For example, one chair. That is, I forgot the word, deliberate? Anyways, it's just us grouping this structure and saying it is an object. We can further add objects together and give that object a name, for example, a house. Again, that's us. Not physics. We can even combine everything on the Earth and call it planet earth. And so on... and so one. I just take everything that exists and call it Life. You could name it anything. You could name it Universe. Now, if there is no such thing as a soul and no such thing as an identity or a self or what you want to call it, then it doesn't matter that you be conserved. All you need to be conserved is the universe because that's what we actually are, the universe. We are every single person at the same time. We only feel separated because each body only has the ability to experience itself. But in the end, my experience is not my experience but the experience of this world. When I die, I will continue to experience the world through every other living being on the face of the Earth and on the other planets. It's just, I feel like I am each person and that each person is different.

      I don't think this can really be argued at all. The only way this is not true, is if there are separate souls, and still, on a greater level, they could all be united to one. Anyways... what do you think?

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      Doesn't have to mean anything, though I think if they are similar in that regard, we should be able to either prove or disprove them.

      As for your other theory, I do have a problem. Namely, that your theory seems to suggest that there is no sense of self, or that if there is, it is somehow linked to souls. As I said earlier, I believe that everything is to do with chemical reactions, including our sense of self, which, through the "I think therefore I am" argument, does demonstrably exist.
      It sounds like a different flavor (American spell check!) of reincarnation, mixed with inherent omnipresence. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound particularly valid to me, but as you say, can't really be proven.

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      I'm not entirely sure anymore that we have free will. I've heard some good arguments against the notion that we have free will, and I find myself agreeing with them the more I think about it. It seems to me that we don't have as much conscious control over ourselves as we like to think.
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