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Do Computers Have To Be Conscious To Think? (Mapping Great Debates)

As there are quite a number of computer scientists in the course, let’s try and make this click. 15 years ago, a company called MacroVU decided to create posters mapping great debates related to the question “Can Computers Think?”, the main link to which you can find at — totally clickable!

One of the more interesting sub-questions was “Do computers have to be conscious to think?”, the link to which is here – if you click either on portions of the map or on the links below it, you’ll be able to navigate the entire reasoning of the subsections, the direct links to which are below (you can click the resulting images as well, to get deeper into the debate):

Now, you won’t get the most recent status of the debates of course (a lot changes in 15 years), but you will get some of the basic (philosophical) arguments linking consciousness with AI. So if you’re familiar with some foundational issues in AI but not with consciousness, this may be an angle. Also interesting for non-computer scientists of course, as it contains some of the issues at the very core of consciousness studies.

This is an interactive version of some of the posters, with the consciousness one somewhat represented here.

The Web’s Largest Database of Consciousness Papers

Years ago philosopher David Chalmers put together a database of online papers on consciousness – it now contains about 7734 free online available papers neatly categorised:

It is truly Ali Baba’s cave, especially because they are topically organised.

Measuring Consciousness 2: Measuring the measures of consciousness

In a recent paper by Bert Timmermans they compared: i) the Perceptual Awareness Scale (PAS) ii) confidence ratings (CR) and iii) post-decision wagering (PDW) which are all scales of measuring consciousness. Although other measures do exist these are more commonly used to measure subjective awareness, and a systematic overview of them was long overdue.
What is the Perceptual Awareness Scale?
The PAS was originally developed (more…)

Measuring Consciousness 1: Tipping the scales

Perhaps of all the concepts dealt with in Psychology — the conscious experience — is one of the most subjective. In 1889 consciousness was recognised by Stuart Smith as a term “impossible to define except in terms that at unintelligible without grasp of what consciousness means.” Finding the correct scales to use to measure such a thing is, therefore, pretty difficult. Let’s take a look at some of the measures and methods used to determine good subjective scales in consciousness ratings. (more…)