Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Kurzweil, AI and Sometimes I think Maybe Consciousness is a Misnomer
Sam Ghandchi

کرزوایل، هوش مصنوعی و گاهی فکر می کنم شاید آگاهی یک میسنومر است

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I was just watching an interview of Ray Kurzweil in a CHIP interview dated a month ago (Dec 22, 2022). The discussion was very deep and touched on different subjects but I followed Kurzweil's new ideas in his train of thought on consciousness and AI which we had a major discussion when Ray made the following comment to me more than 12 years ago on November 15, 2000 , saying:


It is remarkable how much people identify with their visual appearance. When I changed myself into Ramona for my 2001 TED presentation, even though the technology was fairly crude by today’s standards, it did give me the idea that my true identity is not my visual appearance, that we can and will change that. We need deeper mirrors.*


Our discussions about the topic which centered around consciousness and AI continued which I last noted less than a year ago in an article entitled "Does 'Turing Test' Work Better if 'Attention' is at Center of Mind Model." In my article, I noted Graziano's Theory of Mind, who not only considers *attention* as the building block of our 'subjective experience,' he wants to use it to build what he calls the 'artificial consciousness.' And later I followed up with discussing the work of Physicist David Deutsch about whom I had learned from Ray and mentioned my own observations about a goose in a park discussing the consciousness of the goose!


Recently I have been thinking that maybe this whole concept of consciousness in philosophy and science is a misnomer! Let me tell you a brief discussion I had with Dr. Willis Harman on Sept 21, 1988, a little time more than 8 years before he passed away, when I had invited him to my Nova Bookstore for a panel discussion on metaphysics. Willis Harman was a famous futurist and a well-known scientist who was on the Board of Regents of UC Berkeley but in latter part of his life he had turned away from rational thought and in his book Global Mind Change he actually thinks of Cartesian scientific method as where everything starts to go wrong in his view, and tries to turn all science we have had after Descartes, turned upside down and he considers primacy of 'consciousness' over matter in the universe. Actually when talking to me at the time of that lecture, he told me that he believes after he dies, it will be a very democratic decision for him to choose where to go just as we see in our material world. He did not state these things as such at the Institute of Noetic Sciences which he started but this was really his view when privately talked to me at that time. He was a great man and spoke very candidly about anything including his diet:) Now what am I trying to get at in this discussion? I believe regardless of what we think of Harman's views in his Global Mind Change, one thing is obvious that even for Harman, still 'consciousness' is like a thing, and I believe this is what we all think of consciousness, whether we are Cartesians or those like Willis Harman, who reject the Cartesian view of Modern Science!


Then you may ask if consciousness is not a thing and even using it as a known may not be appropriate and as I have said in the title of this article, 'consciousness is a misnomer,' then what is consciousness? I think whether we are living our daily life or considering self-consciousness of the goose I noted in my other article, once we make a conscious decision, we repeat it later as if we are on autopilot and until some unexpected thing happens we do not go back in our head trying to make another conscious decision about a similar situation. In other words the intelligent beings just do conscious actions when needed but there is nothing called consciousness in the world and it is a fiction we have invented even when we accepted Modern Science as Descartes did and maybe psychologists like to think of it as *some*thing when adding *ness* to conscious! Does this all really make a difference? I believe it does. If we view consciousness this way, AI's intelligent activity would be *conscious* activity but once anything it discovers, it will be added to its repertoire the same way humans and other sentient beings live and enhance their auto-pilot activities till some new situation comes up and another conscious decision by AI and subsequently the AI adds it to its repertoire for future autopilot actions! So there is really nothing called consciousness for the AI either just as there is no such thing for us humans and AI does conscious activity and auto-pilot activity just like humans and other sentient beings and it is really useless to ask if AI has consciousness as it is useless to ask if we have consciousness. We can ask if a particular AI is smarter the way Ray Kurzweil says about it in his interview by measuring it for example as to how fast it arrives at solving problems as compared to others!


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,

Sam Ghandchi
January 23, 2023

























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متون برگزیده سام قندچی



For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran