X-Message-Number: 17911
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 19:54:39 -0800
From: Dave Shipman <>
Subject: Intelligence is not the same as consciousness

Hello Cryoneters,

	I've enjoyed being just a lurker on cryonet for some time, but at last I 
feel I must jump in. I'm basically a computer guy, with a long background 
in the AI arena. I often find myself talking with humanities-oriented 
folks, vigorously defending the claims of AI. On the other hand, when 
talking with technology types, I usually find them dogmatically dismissive 
of any arguments against AI and naive in their thinking about the nature of 
the mind. At such times, as now, I find myself arguing the other side of 
the fence.

	My main beef is failing to distinguish between intelligence and 
consciousness. Yes, we will build intelligent machines, with human-like 
behaviors, and they will pass the Turing Test. But will they be conscious? 
That is a completely separate question.

	Consciousness has to do with what your experiences "feel like". What does 
a banana smell like? Close your eyes and think about it, or better, go peel 
open a banana and sniff. I'm not talking about the neuro-electro-chemical 
machinations of the nervous system that correlate with that smell, but the 
smell itself as you know it. Now chemical engineers could build a "banana 
detector" that would detect the presence of banana molecules in the air, 
but does the machine have the same banana smell experience you have? It 
seems unlikely.

	And what of pain? From a behavioral and evolutionary standpoint, pain 
might be considered an avoidance reaction to harmful stimuli. OK, but then 
why does pain have to feel like that? Why does pain "hurt"? We could build 
a robot that says "ouch!, ouch!, ouch!" when it sticks its hand in the 
fire, but is it necessarily in pain? Does it hurt the way you or I would if 
we put our hand in the fire?

	Smells, colors, pains, etc., are what the philosophers call qualia 
(singular, quale), indicating they refer to the "quality" of our 
experiences. Qualia are the distinguishing characteristic of consciousness. 
The modern materialistic worldview demands that all our qualia have neural 
correlates, and so far that seems to be the case. If the appropriate point 
on the cortex is electrically stimulated, the patient will smell banana. 
But the induced neural activity and the smell experience are two separate 
things. Why one should produce the other is a mystery. The truth is, we 
really have no understanding at all of what this world of qualia is all 
about (Dennett, the Churchland's, etc., notwithstanding). It seems to lie 
outside our current physics. My own opinion is that understanding 
consciousness is the major challenge of twenty-first century science.

	Will we someday be able to build conscious, as opposed to merely 
intelligent, machines? Surely we will. The human brain is physical and is 
also conscious. So once we figure out how consciousness works in humans, we 
can duplicate it in our intelligent artifacts. But the Turing Test will not 
be helpful here. Intelligent behavior does not imply a conscious mind. 
Building conscious machines is a separate milestone in the development of 
artificial minds, beyond mere intelligence and human-like behavior.

	-- Dave Shipman

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