How to Tell Whether an AI Is Conscious (guest post)

“We can apply scientific rigor to the assessment of AI consciousness, in part because… we can identify fairly clear indicators associated with leading theories of consciousness, and show how to assess whether AI systems satisfy them.” In the following guest post, Jonathan Simon (Montreal) and Robert Long (Center for AI Safety) summarize their recent interdisciplinary report, “Consciousness in Artificial Intelligence: Insights from the Science of Consciousness“. The report was led by Patrick Butlin (Oxford) and Robert Long, together with 17 co-authors.[1] How to Tell Whether an AI is Conscious by Jonathan Simon and Robert Long Could AI systems ever be conscious? Might they already be? How would we know? These are pressing questions in the philosophy of mind, and they come up more and more in the public conversation as AI advances. You’ve probably read about Blake Lemoine, or about the time Ilya Sutskever, the chief scientist at OpenAI, tweeted that AIs might already be “slightly conscious”. The rise of AI systems that can convincingly imitate human conversation will likely cause many people to believe that the systems they interact with are conscious, whether they are or not. Meanwhile, researchers are taking inspiration from functions associated with consciousness in humans in efforts to further enhance AI capabilities. Just to be clear, we aren’t talking about general intelligence, or moral standing: we are talking about phenomenal consciousness—the question of whether there is something it is like to be an instance of the system in question. Fish might be phenomenally conscious, but they aren’t generally intelligent, and it is debatable whether they have moral standing. Same here: it is possible that AI systems will be phenomenally conscious before they arrive at general intelligence or moral standing. That means artificial consciousness might be upon us soon, even if artificial general intelligence (AGI) is further off. And consciousness might have something to do with moral standing. So there are questions here that should be addressed sooner rather than later. AI consciousness is thorny, between the hard problem, persistent lack of consensus about the neural basis of consciousness, and unclarity over what next year’s AI models will look like. If certainty is your game, you’d have to solve those problems first, so: game over. For the … Continue reading How to Tell Whether an AI Is Conscious (guest post)