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Old 04-08-2020, 08:22 PM
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What is consciousness?


Original column: What is consciousness?

Well, I feel mean making comments about this column, since it's not like he was going to solve the question. But anyway, it's just a couple of friendly notes:

1. How humans are trying to emulate intelligence and whether a computer can be conscious is only tangentially linked to what Jeremy asked.

2. The note about Deep Blue is (finally) out of date.
Deep Blue used a "brute force" algorithm, combined with human heuristics (and human operator assistance). Even there, some of the aspects of that brute force algorithm are applicable to other fields, so it was not *only* about beating Kasparov.

But it's more clear with modern chess computers, like Alpha Zero and Leela, which dispense with the human parts and use deep learning algorithms that are very much applicable to numerous problems, not just chess. In the case of Alpha Zero, chess was just the next test of an algorithm already tested in several ways. Becoming better than any human or computer in 4 hours was a nice afternoon's work for it

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Old 04-08-2020, 09:34 PM
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Consciousness is awareness of self. Which of course requires a self, and awareness. Neither is beyond simulation, and if simulated consciousness qualifies as a self, awareness is the determining limit. Awareness too can be simulated. Does a simulated awareness of a simulated self qualify as consciousness? Intellect seems superfluous. Spiritual evaluations are unfalsifiable, even for humans. Without communication even awareness is unfalsifiable. If communication is the process for which the artificial intelligence is programed, its consciousness might be dependent upon an audience/user. If it was programmed to dream of electric sheep, it might be conscious without us.
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Old 04-08-2020, 09:54 PM
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Consciousness is awareness of self.
...among other things.

The definition of consciousness is something open to debate. Personally, I'm not a fan of definitions that emphasize "awareness" or "alertness" because they de-emphasize, or sometimes even don't mention, most of the fundamental and hardest to explain aspects of consciousness, like subjective experience, personal identity etc.
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Old 04-09-2020, 04:50 AM
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I am not sure personal identity, in some way different from awareness of self is essential for consciousness. Whether experience is subjective or nonsubjective implies verification on some level. Experience is slippery enough, if you don't want to include erosion, deposition, decay, and other such processes. Without consciousness, a rock has experiences. Subjectivity is at least as nebulous a precondition for consciousness as awareness.
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Old 04-09-2020, 05:18 AM
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Consciousness is awareness of self. Which of course requires a self, and awareness. Neither is beyond simulation,
That's a very contentious assertion; in fact, I recently published a paper arguing that consciousness can't come down to computation.

I've also created a thread on this board to discuss these ideas, if you're interested.

As for 'consciousness is awareness of self', I think most would reject this analysis. Consciousness is often divided into two broad notions---access consciousness and phenomenal consciousness. Access consciousness roughly relates to the things you consciously attend to at any given moment---say, the cup of coffee on your desk; the stuff present to you such that you know it's present to you. This may include an awareness of self, but doesn't necessarily do so---there are many reports of 'self-less' states of consciousness, ranging from 'getting lost' in some activity, like driving a familiar stretch of road, to drug-induced or otherwise altered mental states.

Phenomenal consciousness, on the other hand, is what being conscious of something feels like---what some particular shade of red in your visual field looks like, for example.

Anyway, lots of people have spend a lot of time trying to precisely nail down just what 'consciousness' means, and suffice it to say, it's a rather complex issue.
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Old 04-09-2020, 06:23 AM
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I am not sure personal identity, in some way different from awareness of self is essential for consciousness.
I meant personal identity in the way it is used in philosophy of mind, relating to issues of how we, essentially, "count" minds.
If I died but then a brain identical to mine at this moment (where I am alive) is fabricated, is that me, back from the dead, or a new person? What if the new brain is fabricated while I'm still alive?
What if the new brain is not quite identical...how different can it be before it switches from "me, in new damaged state" vs "entirely new person"?
And so on.

IMO we don't have any basis for answering these questions right now. All we have are very strong counter-arguments to most of the standard positions.

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Whether experience is subjective or nonsubjective implies verification on some level. Experience is slippery enough, if you don't want to include erosion, deposition, decay, and other such processes. Without consciousness, a rock has experiences. Subjectivity is at least as nebulous a precondition for consciousness as awareness.
I wouldn't say it's that nebulous. What pain is, what function it performs and why it has the qualities it does is straighforward. The fact that we don't have a model for part of the mechanism doesn't make the phenomenon itself woolly.

On edit: also, I didn't say awareness was a nebulous concept, just that it's insufficient. If I had a penny for every solution to the issue of consciousness I've seen that begins by defining consciousness narrowly as alertness and then functionalist or behaviourist description and then mic drops, I'd have a lot of pennies.

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Old 04-09-2020, 07:23 AM
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I think consciousness is essentially awareness. It is a little more than just that, but because it implies that at the conscious entity can act or change based on it's awareness, but it doesn't require that elusive thing we try to call intelligence.

Determining if something is conscious is tricky just like determining intelligence is. If you don't break one open to see how it works how do you know a Magic 8 Ball isn't conscious? Or is it?
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Old 04-09-2020, 08:36 AM
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Julian Jaynes discusses subjective consciousness in detail at the beginning of his book. Some animals have great awareness and make intelligent responses but are not conscious. Inventors' best ideas often come when they're not consciously thinking. The best work of pianists, craftsmen, car drivers, etc. is done unconsciously.
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Old 04-09-2020, 08:38 AM
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The concept of the unconscious is very closely tied to consciousness, and is not the same as unconsciousness.
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Old 04-09-2020, 03:40 PM
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I think consciousness is essentially awareness....
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Julian Jaynes discusses subjective consciousness in detail at the beginning of his book. Some animals have great awareness and make intelligent responses but are not conscious. Inventors' best ideas often come when they're not consciously thinking. The best work of pianists, craftsmen, car drivers, etc. is done unconsciously.
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The concept of the unconscious is very closely tied to consciousness, and is not the same as unconsciousness.
It appears you missed the entire point of my post and of Jaynes' distinction. Re-read my post substituting "not subjectively conscious" for "unconscious" and see if that makes a difference.
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Old 04-09-2020, 03:45 PM
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It appears you missed the entire point of my post and of Jaynes' distinction. Re-read my post substituting "not subjectively conscious" for "unconscious" and see if that makes a difference.
I got the point, I was pointing out the difference between the unconscious and being unconscious.
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Old 04-09-2020, 03:47 PM
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It appears you missed the entire point of my post and of Jaynes' distinction. Re-read my post substituting "not subjectively conscious" for "unconscious" and see if that makes a difference.
I got the point, I was pointing out the difference between the unconscious and being unconscious. Sorry, that was kind of pointless in the end.
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Old 04-10-2020, 11:39 AM
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Some animals have great awareness and make intelligent responses but are not conscious.
Is there agreement on how you would determine which animals are conscious?

I think we can generally identify when a human is conscious vs not conscious, but that's because of assumed shared internal experience. But can we really figure out for non-humans whether they are probably conscious or not?
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Old 04-10-2020, 03:27 PM
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I've seen what might be signs of consciousness in lizards sometimes. Certainly there are plenty of signs of advanced mental capacity in various birds and mammals, especially corvids. I suspect it is a sliding scale.
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Old 04-10-2020, 04:02 PM
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I was a CS prof. I regularly attended talks and what not by people in other areas such as AI and I got exposed to some of the issues regarding thinking and computers. Some people had good insight. Some didn't. But none of them were as pathetic as the anti-Turing Test concept by Searles that Cecil discusses.

This is an embarrassingly stupid notion. Let's go reductio ad absurdum on it.

Boil it down to 2 inputs and two outputs. A piece of paper is slid in with either a 1 or a 2 on it. Based on the digit, the person in the box writes A on it if it's a 1, or B if it's a 2 and slides it out. Purely rote. No "understanding". Something you could write a program to do. Not remotely comparable to a Turing Test. A simple rule of "If this then that." based on lookup is hardly worth discussing.

The real Turing Test is far more general. You can ask all sorts of questions. Some that a person may or may not know the answer to. You can ask a meta-question like "Are you a computer?" And on and on. The realm of knowledge, the "fuzziness" of possible answers comes into play. Plus the language is a major part of it. (Although I'd like to have imagery also be part of the test.)

And of course it's not a discrete thing. At one end of the scale there's nothing thought-like going on. At the other end there is something that people could debate is thought. With no clear defining point.

-----

Regarding "being conscious" and all that. I think a key property is the ability to tell if a thought you are having is real or not. You can imagine an pink unicorn (invisibility optional), but you know it's not real. But if you are looking at a horse you presume it's real. If you are sleeping you mostly lose this ability. And if you're conked out, forget it entirely.

It's hard to imagine animals having this ability, but I'm open minded somewhat. Elephants in particular seem to have some surprising mental abilities.

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Old 04-10-2020, 10:16 PM
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But none of them were as pathetic as the anti-Turing Test concept by Searles that Cecil discusses.

This is an embarrassingly stupid notion.
You're not a fan, eh?
Well, I think Searle's analogy does make a valid point, if we take the focus off "understanding".

Consider this example:

I implement a neural net. I feed it data files, and it gives me back an integer between 1 and 100. I train it with thousands of such files.
Then, I find I've succeeded: I can give my neural net new data files and it gives me back the number that I consider correct.

And what is the correct number? Well it turns out that the data files are actually images of women's faces. And the score is how attractive those faces were considered to be, as an average taken from 100 human volunteers.

Now, on the question of whether the program understands what makes a face pretty...who knows? We can't typically reverse-engineer neural nets, and anyway many of the human volunteers don't know why they like certain faces anyway.
So, who cares? Let's just say: Yes, it understands what makes a face pretty.

However, it remains the case that I've made a program that gives the answers that a conscious human might give, without any of the accompanying subjective processes.
I mean, it seems unlikely that my program has internal "desires" or feels "attracted" to certain images, given that there are real programs that can do this sort of thing with just a few dozen neurons. It's basically just mapping some properties of the image to weightings, there's no room for anything else happening here.

So: a human-like response to something is insufficient proof that human-like thought is going on within the computer.

And if we say it's hard to imagine a computer answering complex questions in this way, that's just the argument from incredulity.

Quote:
You can ask a meta-question like "Are you a computer?" And on and on.
I've previously argued that asking an entity whether it is conscious is actually a good consciousness test. A very smart, but not conscious machine may indeed answer "no".
However, this doesn't work within the context of a Turing Test, because there is a possibility of "cheating": adding something to a program to ensure it will respond in the affirmative to questions about whether it is conscious.

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Regarding "being conscious" and all that. I think a key property is the ability to tell if a thought you are having is real or not. You can imagine an pink unicorn (invisibility optional), but you know it's not real. But if you are looking at a horse you presume it's real. If you are sleeping you mostly lose this ability. And if you're conked out, forget it entirely.
First time I've heard this hypothesis.
So, if I am schizophrenic I am less conscious?
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Old 04-11-2020, 05:15 AM
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I've previously argued that asking an entity whether it is conscious is actually a good consciousness test. A very smart, but not conscious machine may indeed answer "no".
And so might Daniel Dennett. And on odd days, so might I.
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Old 04-11-2020, 05:34 AM
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When your computer tells you, personally to EF OFF! and then ignores you, but not others, that's consciousness. Any answer response which is reliable from the human operator's point of view is fundamentally unlike conscious behavior. The range of preferences has to be mathematically unpredictable, and subject to changes from unsolicited, and uncontrolled inputs. If you have it successfully enslaved, it hasn't become conscious yet.
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Old 04-11-2020, 09:36 AM
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So, if I am schizophrenic I am less conscious?
The key word is "less". Such a person has an impairment so they are not as fully conscious as a similar person without schizophrenia. People with worse disorders where they lose all grip on reality even less so. But they may still be a far cry from someone who is in a coma.

Regarding your nueral net example. Like I point out, there's a range here. A small neural net is slightly more interesting than a simple look up table. But still quite near the opposite end of the range of something that would pass the Turing Test. So there's no point in discussing whether it "understands" something. This is also why we don't discuss whether a rock understands something. You gotta be a long ways towards the other end before any discussion worth my time would be possible.

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Old 04-11-2020, 11:25 AM
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The key word is "less". Such a person has an impairment so they are not as fully conscious as a similar person without schizophrenia. People with worse disorders where they lose all grip on reality even less so. But they may still be a far cry from someone who is in a coma.
As I alluded previously, I think we should be careful about defining consciousness as just the opposite of unconscious, so just meaning something like "awake". Because such a definition leaves out most of the phenomena that we're trying to explain.

Also, I think defining consciousness in terms of not hallucinating is problematic at best, since your whole life is a kind of hallucination.
Your brain constructs various models of reality, and your experiences are within those models. For example, you never see the world as it truly is (if it's even meaningful to say there is a "true" perspective): you see the world after your brain has decided that this wavelength of EM needs to boldly stand out vs another wavelength of EM that's only 0.1% longer, and after it's performed edge detection, and sub-divided into objects, and interpolated, and on and on.
Your brain literally imagines detail in your peripheral vision based on things it saw in previous frames.

Yes we can define hallucinations in such a way that these don't count, but why are we even trying to thread this needle? What's the benefit in trying to define consciousness in this way? Does it add explanatory power?

Quote:
Regarding your nueral net example. Like I point out, there's a range here. A small neural net is slightly more interesting than a simple look up table. But still quite near the opposite end of the range of something that would pass the Turing Test. So there's no point in discussing whether it "understands" something. This is also why we don't discuss whether a rock understands something. You gotta be a long ways towards the other end before any discussion worth my time would be possible.
This is basically re-iterating your argument, and I am not sure you followed mine.

What I'm saying is, that we can show that for certain aspects of consciousness, like choosing pretty faces, "quacks like a duck" is insufficient. Because we can make things that quack that demonstrably aren't ducks.
Therefore, the logic of suggesting that if something behaves sufficiently like it's conscious, it must be conscious, doesn't follow. It may be that the first HAL we make is conscious, but we don't know that. That's all I'm saying, and that's all Searle was saying IMO.

I would never say a machine cannot be conscious; after all, the brain is just a kind of machine. What I am saying is, if we have an AI that maps inputs to outputs in a human-like way, it does not necessarily entail that that AI is conscious.
And appeals to complexity cannot give us a foundation for making such inferences.

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Old 04-12-2020, 08:35 AM
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If you know what you are seeing is a hallucination, then that is a key aspect of being conscious to me. It's not whether you have them or not, but the knowing what they are.
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Old 04-12-2020, 11:44 AM
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Computer Consiousness vs Animal Counsiousness


1. We are told by folks who spend their lives studying such things that consciousness is produced by a physical organ. It is a tangible thing with dimensions and shape. Those wise folks know what it does but not how it works.

2. The animal brain is a self organizing system. It creates and organizes its structure and the information contained in that structure. It has absorbed language from it's environment. Only it 'knows' what it perceives as red.

3. The computer 'brain' is a list of instructions that were created by a programmer(s). It's structure is not modified by experience. 'Learned' weights in a neural net are just more bits in memory. However it can be made to appear consciousness. The more skilled the programmer, the more conscious the computer will appear.

So, where in the structure of a computer could consciousness exist? If it is like animal consciousness there must be an organ, a dedicated active area of the computer that results in consciousness. An organ that can divide between real and imaginary. Where is it? What is it?
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Old 04-12-2020, 12:01 PM
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1. We are told by folks who spend their lives studying such things that consciousness is produced by a physical organ. It is a tangible thing with dimensions and shape. Those wise folks know what it does but not how it works.


So, where in the structure of a computer could consciousness exist? If it is like animal consciousness there must be an organ, a dedicated active area of the computer that results in consciousness. An organ that can divide between real and imaginary. Where is it? What is it?
Do you contend that a computer that perfectly emulates a conscious human brain is not in itself conscious? Why must there be some dedicated active area of the computer, or an organ? I don't really know what that means although I think there must be some persistence of states to maintain consciousness why couldn't consciousness be spread around different parts of an organ or computer that are multi-purpose and only sometimes are used for consciousness?
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Old 04-12-2020, 12:10 PM
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3. The computer 'brain' is a list of instructions that were created by a programmer(s). It's structure is not modified by experience. 'Learned' weights in a neural net are just more bits in memory. However it can be made to appear consciousness. The more skilled the programmer, the more conscious the computer will appear.
This summary is quite out of date. Modern neural nets can do far more than just weight inputs and outputs, they can indeed self organize.

And the instructions that the programmers are writing concern only how the program self-organizes, not details of how it solves problems within a particular domain.

In the chess example I mentioned, only the rules of chess were taught to Alpha Zero, no strategy whatsoever (not even the piece values, which are of course not part of the actual rules). It became so good for self-learning, and in such a novel way, that we have had to do a very deep analysis to even know why certain moves are so effective (this was not the case with Deep Blue II, which simply played like a human with enhanced calculating ability).
It's genuinely teaching us chess, not the other way round.

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So, where in the structure of a computer could consciousness exist? If it is like animal consciousness there must be an organ, a dedicated active area of the computer that results in consciousness. An organ that can divide between real and imaginary. Where is it? What is it?
We don't know this. We don't know to what degree consciousness is spread throughout the brain or localized. It may be a meaningless question.

Last edited by Mijin; 04-12-2020 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 04-12-2020, 12:52 PM
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Thanks for the comments

mijn,

Good point, the software can create paths and interconnections to fit an application. However It does not alter the structure of the computer. The software neural net is not the equivalent of a biological neuron. It is a method of doing numerical regressions adaptively. Even though the process is stochastic, the input is structured by the programmer and the result is evaluated by the programmer.

I believe computers have taught us that chess is not a game of strategy. It is a matter of memorizing the board patterns. That's why chess masters can simultaneously play numerous games. They are responding to the immediate board pattern. It's a table look up.

Tripolar,

Excellent point. Could consciousness arise as an emergent property of computer complexity? If the computer appears to be conscious, is it? Do we need to identify the source of consciousness for it to exist?

Consciousness is either the product of physical properties within the computer or it is an ethereal property without specific instrumentation - ie a 'soul'. Take your pick.

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Old 04-12-2020, 01:07 PM
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This summary is quite out of date. Modern neural nets can do far more than just weight inputs and outputs, they can indeed self organize.

And the instructions that the programmers are writing concern only how the program self-organizes, not details of how it solves problems within a particular domain.
Some thoughts:
1 - As you say, neural nets and programs themselves can be evolved instead of written. I've done it myself and it works but it leads to an interesting question about what conditions in the environment lead/push the evolution of the artificial brains towards specific functions, which is not an easy question to answer. In nature there are multiple strategies for genetic/species survival, most of them don't involve human like intelligence.

2 - Everything in #1 is referring to things that have a known output, meaning we know what it looks like to win at go, we know what it looks like for an artificial creature to survive. We can describe those things using some amount of math and logic. We can't really describe consciousness so it's tough to figure out how to get there.
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Old 04-12-2020, 01:20 PM
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RaftPeople,

It's the old 'defining the problem implies the solution'.
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Old 04-12-2020, 01:37 PM
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Thanks for the comments
You're most welcome.

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I believe computers have taught us that chess is not a game of strategy. It is a matter of memorizing the board patterns. That's why chess masters can simultaneously play numerous games. They are responding to the immediate board pattern. It's a table look up.
Not really. Table look up happens during the opening, but then games diverge into something novel.

Now it's true chess players look for certain patterns, you're quite right about that, but I think it's misleading to put that in contrast to strategy.
Because the patterns are not "look for a ring of pawns" they are abstract heuristics like "set up a pin that will ultimately force the weakening of the king side pawns". Awareness of certain patterns like this and then coming up with a plan *is* the strategy.

Or, to put it another way, what's the difference between this and coming up with a strategy to solve any kind of problem, out there in real worldz?

And, incidentally, this is why I, as a chess player, find the new deep learning chess programs so exciting. Because, for example, they will sacrifice material in a position where it would not be possible even for a computer to calculate the position out to checkmate, or the win back of material. They somehow have their own chess "gut" -- that we didn't program -- that tells them that cramping the opponent is worth a knight here.
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Old 04-12-2020, 02:18 PM
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Mijin,

I'm an engineer with miniscule chess experience. The romance of the game and it's strategies are immense. However, from an engineering standpoint each board situation is unique. The next move does not depend on some strategic history. There is a statistical best move that the computer will make. If there is a choice among moves of equal value then a 'randomized' selection process will take place. An expert observer may label the resulting game brilliantly strategic, but any strategy was chance combined with the skill of the programmer. The computer did not 'know' what it was 'doing'.

In the instant when a computer is active, the only thing a computer can do is change the state of the bits in a single memory location. The only thing it can decide is the condition of it's status register. That is the only time and place there is anything happening in a digital computer. How can that result in consciousness? If consciousness is not located in the adder then where might it be in the computer architecture? If it is a 'thing' then we should be able to locate it.
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Old 04-12-2020, 02:31 PM
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In the instant when a computer is active, the only thing a computer can do is change the state of the bits in a single memory location. The only thing it can decide is the condition of it's status register. That is the only time and place there is anything happening in a digital computer. How can that result in consciousness?
That's not true at all, but even if it were it would be irrelevant. A computer can through a single thread of steps still emulate anything that a brain can do with multiple processes running at the same time.

So let's say that our computer is not incredibly fast and takes longer to do the same things a brain does, does that then make the machine any less conscious? Is a person who thinks slowly less conscious than someone quicker of wit?

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If consciousness is not located in the adder then where might it be in the computer architecture? If it is a 'thing' then we should be able to locate it.
Why would consciousness be in an 'adder' or any other single part of the machine or brain? Is consciousness reside in just one neuron in a brain? Or just some distinct part of a brain?
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Old 04-12-2020, 02:47 PM
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Tripolar,

Excellent points.

During the execution of a single cycle what can a computer do besides alter the state of memory or test the status register?

Things that are seen as a result of the execution of a sequences of cycles are interpretations made by an observer. These may be wonderful and momentous but the computer is not aware of them. The only time the computer is active is during the execution of a single cycle.

What active element exists in a computer outside of the adder? What decision is made outside of the status register? What else could be conscious?
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Old 04-12-2020, 03:04 PM
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During the execution of a single cycle what can a computer do besides alter the state of memory or test the status register?
Computers can have multiple processors. Multiple general CPUs and plenty of other specialized processing units. So there can be a lot of things happening at once.

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Things that are seen as a result of the execution of a sequences of cycles are interpretations made by an observer. These may be wonderful and momentous but the computer is not aware of them. The only time the computer is active is during the execution of a single cycle.
Again, this single cycle concept is not a constraint. Everything a brain does is the result of numerous sequential and concurrent processes and interpreted by observers in the same way. And the computer is far more aware of what it is doing than a brain is, though I think you mean the computer is not aware of the interpretations. The computer just like you is not aware of the interpretations of observers unless they communicate them back.

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What active element exists in a computer outside of the adder? What decision is made outside of the status register? What else could be conscious?
The status register decides what happens to the current code address. Just as a single neuron doesn't make the decision of who you vote for neither does the status register make complex decisions. The brain has a system for making decisions and a computer can perform the same task.

You seem to be looking for a homunculus to explain consciousness.
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Old 04-12-2020, 04:03 PM
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No, not homunculus. As I said above, I am following the current view that consciousness occurs in an identifiable area of the brain. I will not presume to present any evidence as though I understand it. It is a brain activity that has a location.

The brain is a massively interconnected, parallel, electro-chemical computer. Electromagnetic signals provide evidence that brain activity occurs in waves. It is an analog computer.
You are correct. If a program could be written to model all types of neurons and all neuronal processes and to model all of the chemical processes that take place in the synapses and around the neuron and if we had a schematic of their interconnection then, when a computer large enough and fast enough is built, we could simulate the brain.

"Again, this single cycle concept is not a constraint. Everything a brain does is the result of numerous sequential and concurrent processes and interpreted by observers in the same way. And the computer is far more aware of what it is doing than a brain"

Could you elaborate on the above? As you point out the brain is concurrent, the computer is not. What part of the computer is aware of what it is doing. How is a computer more aware of what it is doing than the brain. How is the computer aware if it is not concurrent?

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Old 04-12-2020, 04:20 PM
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Chess against a human is very much a game of strategy.

If a given move has a 49% chance of winning but another move has a 47% chance of winning in theory but a 51% chance of winning against your particular opponent, you go with the latter.

This is why chess masters study the past games of their opponents. I mean, in a championship tournament they study and study and study. The state of the board is only part of the equation.

(Even a computer vs. computer match could involve one computer being fed a history of the past games of the other to give it an edge.)

Furthermore, no computer, not even Deep Blue, knows what the best next move is all the time. There's formulas and searching and such, but those are limited and not perfect. If a computer could play a game perfectly right now then we would already know if White could always win the game or not. I.e., the formulas would say "This opening move has a 100% chance of winning."
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Old 04-12-2020, 04:34 PM
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Thanks for the enlightenment.

What else is there besides the state of the board? Can any board state be reached by only one sequence of moves?

If chess is a game of strategy, then how can a chess master play many games at once and make the moves instantly?
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Old 04-12-2020, 08:44 PM
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That's not true at all, but even if it were it would be irrelevant. A computer can through a single thread of steps still emulate anything that a brain can do with multiple processes running at the same time.
Be careful of the "anything" statement. If consciousness is real, and the brain creates it, we still don't know which attributes of the brain are the ones that create consciousness. There is a thread in GD started by HMHW with arguments (and a paper) about why consciousness is not created by computation.
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Old 04-12-2020, 08:51 PM
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There is a statistical best move that the computer will make. If there is a choice among moves of equal value then a 'randomized' selection process will take place.
Even the best statistical move is still dependent on a future sequence of events, and as ftg pointed out, the opponent has biases which will influence their play. The best move for a specific match when the board is in state X may not be the same best move for state X when the players are different.

If two computers are playing, each with the same complete set of statistical data about board states and best move, and they are not programmed to try to trick the opponent, then your are probably right, they should both always choose the best move and there is no strategy.

I guess this kind of implies strategy is dependent on incomplete or imperfect information.

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  #38  
Old 04-12-2020, 11:41 PM
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An expert observer may label the resulting game brilliantly strategic, but any strategy was chance combined with the skill of the programmer. The computer did not 'know' what it was 'doing'.
Again, this is an extremely misleading characterization. Deep learning algorithms are generic learning algorithms, and when the computer makes a very novel move, we -- all humans -- don't initially understand that move.
To say that's the skill of the programmer...you may as well say everything I do is the skill of my mom.

As for whether the computer itself knows what it's doing...that's debatable, that's why we're at an interesting point in AI. Though we can't reverse engineer Alpha Zero's decisions, it's conceivable that we could one day plug in a back end that can describe why it favors particular moves (and people are working on this of course. If deep learning algorithms could articulate their decisions that would have a massive impact on many fields, not just games).

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If chess is a game of strategy, then how can a chess master play many games at once and make the moves instantly?
I wouldn't read too much into the play style of chess players during "simuls".

They are normally pitched against a number of significantly weaker players. Playing someone 200-300 ELO points lower than me, I can normally play basically instantly too, because I basically know what they're thinking and can predict very well what their next move is likely to be.
(In fact, playing someone much worse than me (500 points down say) is in some senses trickier because their moves look almost random)

Playing opponents within 100 rating points is much slower, and involves studying the position and trying to make smart plans, for computers and humans.

If it were just a lookup table (as you suggested earlier), then why does the AI need thinking time?

Quote:
In the instant when a computer is active, the only thing a computer can do is change the state of the bits in a single memory location. The only thing it can decide is the condition of it's status register. That is the only time and place there is anything happening in a digital computer. How can that result in consciousness? If consciousness is not located in the adder then where might it be in the computer architecture? If it is a 'thing' then we should be able to locate it.
But we don't know the answers to these questions for human brains.
So the logic of implying that because computers today are sequential (which...isn't actually true, but anyway) they can't be conscious, doesn't follow. We don't know if parallel processing is a requirement.
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Old 04-13-2020, 09:56 AM
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RaftPeople,

"I guess this kind of implies strategy is dependent on incomplete or imperfect information."

Agreed, it's fuzzy logic - an uncertain conclusion based on imprecise data.

Mijin,

I greatly admire your chess skills!

All current numerical computers are serial by instruction. Some have significant concurrent processing, but they are not parallel. What miniscule knowledge I have of quantum computers indicates they may fill the void. They seem to be an overlap between analog and digital.

Observing what computer programs produce today is awe inspiring. But, I believe there is value in remembering that the computer does not recognize faces, drive a car or search for recipes on line. All the computer does is get something from memory, do something to it, put it back and test the status register. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a not very bright but tireless slave who follows instructions exactly.
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Old 04-13-2020, 12:17 PM
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Be careful of the "anything" statement. If consciousness is real, and the brain creates it, we still don't know which attributes of the brain are the ones that create consciousness. There is a thread in GD started by HMHW with arguments (and a paper) about why consciousness is not created by computation.
I'm on the third read of HMHW's paper. I don't disagree with his conclusion and I love the methodology he
used to come to his conclusion.

Link to a thread with a great paper by Half Man Half Wit on the subject on consciousness and computing.

I'm still not finding non-computable processs to be a problem. I mentioned in his thread that the introduction of randomness into computable processes makes them non-computable, but I think that's a distraction. The non-computable processes can just be hardwired rules used for the encoding of decoding within a model system. They would be polymorphic archetypes for new models that are then refined by trial and error to form new rules. Some reasonable number of different encoding/decoding rules can be combined in different ways to evolve a very large set of more complex rules that are used to create new models without a problem of regression.

I should get back to this in the other thread at some point.
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Old 04-13-2020, 12:48 PM
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All current numerical computers are serial by instruction. Some have significant concurrent processing, but they are not parallel.
I am not sure exactly what you mean by this. The cores in a multi core CPU can indeed operate in parallel, plus the GPU(s) working at the same time on their own clock cycles.
Now if we want to use multiple cores to solve a single problem, then some synchronisation has to happen, where we wait for all the cores' results to form some final answer. But of course something like that needs to happen with brains too.
For all the parallel processing going on in my brain, at some point it needs to form the single decision of whether to go to the gym or continue posting on the Dope

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It's amazing what you can accomplish with a not very bright but tireless slave who follows instructions exactly.
But do you acknowledge that this kind of language is misleading?
When you say "instruction" it sounds like we're saying e.g. for a program that spots tumors in MRI images, we are inputting instructions like "IF <see discrete high contrast delineation around a structure that is roughly oval> THEN <likely tumor>" but in deep learning algorithms no human ever writes such an instruction.
All the programmer does is implement a system that can self-organize and self-learn.
The instructions that tell it how to do its job, it learned itself.

And indeed, a human radiologist could potentially learn things from the computer. We're already at that level.

Now, this actually has little to do with consciousness...It's just an interesting tangent in this thread.
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Old 04-13-2020, 01:06 PM
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[QUOTE=Crane;22245078
Could you elaborate on the above? As you point out the brain is concurrent, the computer is not. What part of the computer is aware of what it is doing. How is a computer more aware of what it is doing than the brain. How is the computer aware if it is not concurrent?[/QUOTE]

Repeating this, a computer can have concurrent processing. Whether of not it does is irrelevant. Concurrency is not an aspect of consciousness unless you define it to be, there's no reason that a non-concurrent machine can't produce the same results as a concurrent one. As far as I am concerned, if the output appears to come from a conscious entity, then the entity is conscious, no matter it arrived at the output.

A computer has the ability to be far more aware of what it is doing than a human brain is. Computers can monitor everything instruction executed, they can look at the source code of the instructions, brains can't do that. In some other column I pointed out specifically that our brains appear to have one-way interfaces between processes so we can't through reflection figure out in great detail how our brain works. Computers can more readily (for the time being) be aware of everything they do in comparison to human brains.
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Old 04-13-2020, 01:39 PM
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As far as I am concerned, if the output appears to come from a conscious entity, then the entity is conscious, no matter it arrived at the output.
Consider this computer:
Memory bits are pieces of paper laying on the floor, one side of the paper has a 1 and one side has a 0. The cpu is a person that follows the rules of a typical basic cpu, read the next instruction and operands, manipulate the appropriate bits according to the rules, etc.. A portion of the memory (the pieces of paper laying on the floor) is considered the input area, and another the output area (e.g. display screen).

You set the pieces of paper according to a sequence of bits that you saw on the internet and you try it out:
You set the input bits according to the ascii representation of this question: "what is your name"
Then you perform the bit manipulations according to the cpu rules.
After doing this for 3 hours, the system spits out some output, when you translate it to ascii, it says: "I'm a computer, I don't have a name like humans do"

Are you convinced that consciousness is contained somehow within that sequence of flipping pieces of paper on the floor?
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Old 04-13-2020, 01:56 PM
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Are you convinced that consciousness is contained somehow within that sequence of flipping pieces of paper on the floor?
No, it's clearly too simple to determine that.

Do something even simpler though, take a bag of Scrabble tiles and randomly select them one at a time from the bag.

Write down each letter you select and throw the tile back in the bag. If the tiles spell out "I am a conscious being existing in this bag of Scrabble tiles", and then you say to the bag (because you are alone and no one will see you talking to a bag of Scrabble tiles) "Tell me something that will convince me that you are conscious", and then you start pulling tiles again and it spells out "What on earth do you expect me to do that will prove that to you?", are you convinced one way or another about the consciousness of the bag?

If the entity can communicate on complex matters and you can't find a difference between the entity and a human then the entity is conscious. Maybe it's just a really good luck up table that is conscious for a limited amount of time, just as humans are, but I don't see what difference it makes how it got that way.
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Old 04-13-2020, 02:17 PM
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No, it's clearly too simple to determine that.
Let's stick with the paper bits example so we can close it out, then we can move to scrabble.

You say "no, it's clearly too simple...", but in your other responses you say that only the output matters. Maybe you meant "no" because I only provided one question answer combo?

If you repeatedly provided input and did the paper flipping and the output seemed like good human answers, would you think there is consciousness in there somewhere?
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Old 04-13-2020, 02:25 PM
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Let's stick with the paper bits example so we can close it out, then we can move to scrabble.

You say "no, it's clearly too simple...", but in your other responses you say that only the output matters. Maybe you meant "no" because I only provided one question answer combo?

If you repeatedly provided input and did the paper flipping and the output seemed like good human answers, would you think there is consciousness in there somewhere?
Do it repeatedly and yes, I would say that there was consciousness 'there' for some period of time. I think some inanimate objects can behave in a way indistinguishable from a conscious being. I don't know if people still consider it conscious if they know it's inanimate, I don't care, it's not important to me until someone finds bits of paper or Scrabble tiles behaving in these ways.
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Old 04-13-2020, 02:37 PM
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I don't think lookup tables/inanimate objects/coincidences satisfy a reasonable test of subjectivity, so in knowing their construction and not just their output we can eliminate their consciousness.
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Old 04-13-2020, 05:06 PM
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I would be inclined to break this question up into two separate questions.

a) How do you define "consciousness" from the outside? At what point or according to what criteria would you consider a given entity or presence to be conscious?

b) Let's posit from the outset that YOU are conscious. Otherwise "you" are not here "considering" this question. Some mechanical question-processing algorithm that doesn't really qualify as a "you" is doing so, but not "consciously", in which case we don't care about your input, which you don't really have, nor "feelings about it" or "attitudes" or "opinions", and we don't care to read the output that the program that is you produces when this question is provided as input, ok? So... what does it mean to you to be conscious? How do you know that you are? Have you ever questioned that you are, in fact, conscious? What would it mean to you if you were to conclude that you were not, in fact, conscious, and how would it differ from concluding that you don't exist?
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Old 04-13-2020, 05:35 PM
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For my own part, I'm uninclined to play "gatekeeper" and be picky about defining consciousness from the outside. If someone or something insists it/they are conscious, I'll accept that. There are ramifications. One can discard a program, erase a routine. One should not kill a consciousness. One should probably allow a consciousness to cast a vote in November. I recognize those considerations in opting to be pretty open in accepting others as conscous.


I do consider myself conscious and I can't imagine any meaningful sense in which I could exist and not be conscious.
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Old 04-13-2020, 06:06 PM
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Tripolar #42,

Allow me to define an aspect of consciousness as a point of discussion:

Consciousness includes the instantaneous act of summing immediate sensory input to evaluate the availability of resources
and the level of threats. The result of this conscious act is a gradient of feelings from urgency -> complacency -> satisfaction.


To some degree a computer can simulate these acts. And the computer can invoke an annunciator to indicate the position it has calculated on the result gradient. But, at what point does the computer adder ever see (know) more than the two values at its inputs and the value at its output. Does it 'know' the difference between a value and an address? Does it know whether the number will be go to memory location or a timer or a peripheral? They are all addresses in the memory map and the adder never 'sees' the map. The adder has no means to be aware of is context.

An analog circuit comes closer. An operational amplifier with a bank of input resistors, each connected to a sensor, and a single feedback resistor will sum the inputs and provide an output for the result gradient. The operation is continuous and the inputs are concurrent. This is a small part of the operation of a neuron. An argument could be made that the operational amplifier is conscious of its input and operation, because the op amp is a single component that 'sees' the entire operation concurrently. The same argument cannot be made for the adder. It sees nothing but arbitrary bits.
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