Patent Pending for Philosopher and Astrophysicist-Designed Artificial Consciousness Test


Susan Schneider, professor of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Connecticut, and Edwin L. Turner, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University, have developed “a behavior-based artificial consciousness test (ACT), and related tests for AI safety.”

Princeton is pursuing a patent for the test, and is seeking industry collaborators to help develop the test, according to a statement from the university. Here’s what it says about the project:

As artificial intelligence becomes more integrated into our lives, there is an increasing need to probe whether it can be conscious. If a given type of AI is conscious (i.e., if it feels like something to be an AI) ethical considerations can halt its marketability. Further, testing is key to determine how AI consciousness impacts AI intelligence, safety, empathy and goal content integrity.  The Turing test does not probe whether an AI is conscious, it only judges whether the output can pass for that of human. It cannot determine whether the synthetic minds we create have an experience-based understanding of the way it feels to be conscious. To explore these fundamental questions, researchers at Princeton University, together with Susan Schneider, have proposed a behavior-based artificial consciousness test (ACT), and related tests for AI safety.

Humans intuitively understand what it means to be conscious. Every adult can quickly and readily grasp concepts such as reincarnation or the soul leaving the body, scenarios that are difficult to understand without conscious experience. An ACT test would challenge an AI with a series of increasingly demanding behavioral and natural language interactions to see how quickly and readily the AI can grasp and use concepts based on the internal experiences we associate with consciousness. To prevent AIs from assembling answers using knowledge of human consciousness they can be “boxed in,” i.e., isolated from the outside world.

Professors and Schneider and Turner discuss the ACT in a post at Scientific American, “Is Anyone Home? A Way to Find Out If AI Has Become Self-Aware.”

Leonardo Ulian, “Technological Mandala No. 2”

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