Time to ask again... what does it mean for AI to be conscious?

New paper out: “Consciousness in Artificial Intelligence: Insights
from the Science of Consciousness”
on Aug 17. The abstract:

Whether current or near-term AI systems could be conscious is a topic of scientific interest and increasing public concern. This report argues for, and exemplifies, a rigorous and empirically grounded approach to AI consciousness: assessing existing AI systems in detail, in light of our best-supported neuroscientific theories of consciousness. We survey several prominent scientific theories of consciousness, including recurrent processing theory, global workspace theory, higher-order theories, predictive processing, and attention schema theory. From these theories we derive ”indicator properties” of consciousness, elucidated in computational terms that allow us to assess AI systems for these properties. We use these indicator properties to assess several recent AI systems, and we discuss how future systems might implement them. Our analysis suggests that no current AI systems are conscious, but also shows that there are no obvious barriers to building conscious AI systems.

Principal contributions of this paper/work:

  1. Showing that the assessment of consciousness in AI is scientifically tractable because consciousness can be studied scientifically and findings from this research are applicable to AI;
  2. Proposing a rubric for assessing consciousness in AI in the form of a list of indicator properties derived from scientific theories;
  3. Providing initial evidence that many of the indicator properties can be implemented in AI systems using current techniques, although no current system appears to be a strong candidate for consciousness.
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“This is not to say that current AI systems are likely to be conscious—there is also the issue of whether they combine existing techniques in the right ways, and in any case, there is uncertainty about both computational functionalism and current theories—but it does suggest that conscious AI is not merely a remote possibility in the distant future. If it is possible at all to build conscious AI systems without radically new hardware, it may well be possible now.” --pp 47

“If it is possible at all to build conscious AI systems without radically new hardware, it may well be possible now.”

This is freaking cool. One of those sentences that is super weighty but just in amongst a bunch of normal sentences.

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