Artificial consciousness and the consciousness-attention dissociation

Consciousness and Cognition 45:210-225 (2016)
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Artificial Intelligence is at a turning point, with a substantial increase in projects aiming to implement sophisticated forms of human intelligence in machines. This research attempts to model specific forms of intelligence through brute-force search heuristics and also reproduce features of human perception and cognition, including emotions. Such goals have implications for artificial consciousness, with some arguing that it will be achievable once we overcome short-term engineering challenges. We believe, however, that phenomenal consciousness cannot be implemented in machines. This becomes clear when considering emotions and examining the dissociation between consciousness and attention in humans. While we may be able to program ethical behavior based on rules and machine learning, we will never be able to reproduce emotions or empathy by programming such control systems—these will be merely simulations. Arguments in favor of this claim include considerations about evolution, the neuropsychological aspects of emotions, and the dissociation between attention and consciousness found in humans. Ultimately, we are far from achieving artificial consciousness.

Author Profiles

Carlos Montemayor
San Francisco State University
Harry Haladjian
Université Paris Descartes


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