The lunacy of 'machine consciousness'

Conscious AI is a fantasy

Does consciousness only arise in biological beings? Or, is it possible that a computer that observes, interacts, and represents its own internal state to itself might also give rise to consciousness? These were some of the questions posed to Bernardo Kastrup, Susan Schneider and Donald Hoffman in a recent debate for the IAI, ‘Consciousness in the machine’. Bernardo Kastrup reflects on the debate and his disagreement with Susan Schneider.  


I recently took part in a debate organised by the IAI—featuring Donald Hoffman and Susan Schneider, next to yours truly—on the question of whether silicon computers running Artificial Intelligence (AI) software will ever become conscious. As a metaphysical idealist, I believe consciousness isn’t generated by any substrate—biological or otherwise—for it is primary. But private conscious inner life, seemingly separate from the rest of nature and delineated by the boundaries of a physical entity, is c

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TiborZ Koos 5 July 2023

Yes, Mr. Kastrup, "...sometimes, it is imperative to scream ‘lunacy!’ when lunacy starts to infiltrate our culture in a seemingly innocent way". It applies perfectly to the silly science fiction that you are trying to sell as philosophy or even science. It seems innocent but presenting your views to the public without disclosing the fact that no serious practitioner of theoretical physics, biology or neuroscience considers your ideas to be of any interest to their work is deceptive and disgraceful. It's not that your loony ideas are doing any harm (nobody takes them seriously), what is harmful is your contribution to the normalization of intellectual dishonesty - the culture of believing that being truthful does not require critical evaluation of one's own ideas, just a declaration that: "well this is MY truth!". And I think I can show easily that you are operating in bad faith. If your ideas were correct they would represent the most significant insight into the nature of reality ever made, worthy of many Nobel prices. Do you really claim you made such a contribution ? And if you don't, doesn't that mean that at some level you understand that you are just blowing smoke ?

TiborZ Koos 5 July 2023

The kidney simulation analogy is the kind of silliness that we came to expect from Mr. Kastrup. I wonder what he thinks about a dialysis machine, it works as a kidney without any "biological" substrate, no proteins, no cells etc.

More to the point, it is an undisputed fact that in principle the retina could be replaced by a machine that would respond to visual images with electrical signals that can generate the same action potential patterns in the axons of the optic nerves that occur during normal vision. Since the only way the brain receives information from the retina are action potentials in these axons, the person equipped with this computer eye would have the exact same experience as a person with a biological eye. And yes, that would include the "redness of the red". There is of course zero reason to think that in principle the same process could not be used to substitute successive stages of the visual system, and eventually the entire brain. This machine brain would have the same mental processes as a biological one, and therefore it would have the same experiences, feelings, qualia, perceptions, intentions thoughts and the rest. In case this seems far fetched consider the fact electrical stimulation of specific locations in the temporal lobe in awake humans elicits vivid, fully life-like experiences, like hearing specific pieces of music, etc.