I will give a talk titled The Self Beyond Humans at Reykjavik University on May 16, 2013. The talk addresses the issue of the construction of the self from the perspective of machine consciousness.
Many current research trends point toward a technology of robot selfhood. The pursuit of selves for machines is motivated from a desire to equip robots with sophisticated human-like competences. Self and self-awareness constitute one of the cornerstones of consciousness, a whimsically peculiar aspect of our humanhood. While humans are the best “ground truth” we have in this respect, the best example to inspect and imitate, anthropomorphism is a procrustean path that shall be followed with care. Many attempts to create artificial selves are based on a shallow replication of biological behavioral traits; a true engineering technology of robot selves, however, must be based on a rigorous theory of consciousness, beyond humans.
A scientific, general theory of consciousness should be much more than just some “scientific progress towards understanding how consciousness can emerge form the activity of neurons and their interactions”. While the human brain is our best source of information about consciousness, the construction of a universal, general theory of consciousness is hampered by the almost absolute and excessive focus on the human brain, human cognition, and human neurophysiology. Human brains should not be the only systems we consider in work; a general theory should address at least the many other systems of interest: other kinds of animals, machines, and even social groups. In this talk I will address the emergence of a theoretical framework for Self Beyond Humans. This theoretical framework shall eventually lead to technological assets for robot selfhood to enable them to properly operate in ecological, medical, technical and economic terms in a variety of circumstances. A positive theory of self shall be centered on system functional architecture, sidetracking philosophical discussions on the nature of ‘content and self’ and leveraging the value of concrete topologies and measurements.
Future robots will have selves that may be enormously alien to humans; but, in a very precise sense, they will be quite similar to ours but with a deeper, purer essence, devoid of all that noise produced by biological evolution.