Consciousness in Humanoid Robots

New ebook from Frontiers in Science. The blurb:

Building a conscious robot is a grand scientific and technological challenge. Debates about the possibility of conscious robots and the related positive outcomes and hazards for human beings are today no more confined to philosophical circles. Robot consciousness is a research field aimed to a unified view of approaches as cognitive robotics, epigenetic and affective robotics, situated and embodied robotics, developmental robotics, anticipatory systems, biomimetic robotics. Scholars agree that a conscious robot would completely change the current views on technology: it would not be an “intelligent companion” but a complete novel kind of artifact. Notably, many neuroscientists involved in the study of consciousness do not exclude this possibility. Moreover, facing the problem of consciousness in robots may be a major move on the study of consciousness in humans and animals.

The Frontiers Research Topic on consciousness in humanoid robots concerns the theoretical studies, the models and the case studies of consciousness in humanoid robots. Topics related to this argument are:
– the needs of a body for robot consciousness;
– robot self-consciousness;
– the capability of a robot to reason about itself, its body and skills;
– the episodic memory in a robot, i.e., the ability to take into account its operational life;
– design strategies versus developmental approaches in assessing consciousness in a robot;
– robot architectures candidates for consciousness;
– symbolic versus neural networks representations in robot consciousness;
– consciousness, theory of mind and emotions in a humanoid robot;
– measurements and assessments of consciousness and self-consciousness in a robot;
– ethical and trust issues in a conscious humanoid robot.

The Map and the Territory

Recent book by Wuppulari and Doria. F___ing Amen man. This would be a good one for discussion. From the Intro by Penrose:

“Is there a global map that can simulate every other map under some constraint? […] If two maps cannot be integrated, is this a limitation of our scientific cartography or is it the nature of the underlying territory itself that prevents us from such an attempt? […] It is safer to let the gaps remain as gaps while we let our maps remain as maps, rather than giving in to the seemingly seductive approach of trading in our understanding and intermingling maps with territory to fill in the conceptual gaps—however, much this may comfort us and appeal to our tastes!”

From the blurb at

This volume presents essays by pioneering thinkers including Tyler Burge, Gregory Chaitin, Daniel Dennett, Barry Mazur, Nicholas Humphrey, John Searle and Ian Stewart. Together they illuminate the Map/Territory Distinction that underlies at the foundation of the scientific method, thought and the very reality itself.

It is imperative to distinguish Map from the Territory while analyzing any subject but we often mistake map for the territory. Meaning for the Reference. Computational tool for what it computes. Representations are handy and tempting that we often end up committing the category error of over-marrying the representation with what is represented, so much so that the distinction between the former and the latter is lost. This error that has its roots in the pedagogy often generates a plethora of paradoxes/confusions which hinder the proper understanding of the subject. What are wave functions? Fields? Forces? Numbers? Sets? Classes? Operators? Functions? Alphabets and Sentences? Are they a part of our map (theory/representation)? Or do they actually belong to the territory (Reality)? Researcher, like a cartographer, clothes (or creates?) the reality by stitching multitudes of maps that simultaneously co-exist. A simple apple, for example, can be analyzed from several viewpoints beginning with evolution and biology, all the way down its microscopic quantum mechanical components. Is there a reality (or a real apple) out there apart from these maps? How do these various maps interact/intermingle with each other to produce a coherent reality that we interact with? Or do they not?

Does our brain uses its own internal maps to facilitate “physicist/mathematician” in us to construct the maps about the external territories in turn? If so, what is the nature of these internal maps? Are there meta-maps? Evolution definitely fences our perception and thereby our ability to construct maps, revealing to us only those aspects beneficial for our survival. But the question is, to what extent? Is there a way out of the metaphorical Platonic cave erected around us by the nature? While “Map is not the territory” as Alfred Korzybski remarked, join us in this journey to know more, while we inquire on the nature and the reality of the maps which try to map the reality out there.

The book also includes a foreword by Sir Roger Penrose and an afterword by Dagfinn Follesdal.

Decentralized collective intelligence

Jordan Hall of the Neurohacker Collective on decentralized collective intelligence. Sounds a lot how our group works, our collaborations creating something greater than our individual contributions, even though the latter are part and parcel of the process. What happens when we node thyself.

Bezos projects capitalism into space

Yes, space exploration is critical but we need to do it for the right reasons. And Bezos and other futurists want it without awareness or regard for the socio-economic system that has created hell on earth. So dump the earth and take our destruction into space? How about we change our worldview and socio-economic system and do it for the right reasons? And invest most of our time, energy and money into saving this world?

“The saying ‘it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism’ is very clear in Bezos’ future imaginings. He is unable to challenge the capitalist system from which he’s derived so much wealth. Thus the only positive future he can imagine involves leaving the only planet habitable to human beings. […] We don’t need space colonies; we need to get rid of billionaires and let the future be decided collectively, instead of letting a few powerful men rule the world.”

Their are alternatives to capitalism consistent with the above. As but one example see “From capitalism to the collaborative commons” in this journal issue.

Rapid Personality Change and the Psychological Rebirth

Informative video on this process. Ofttimes we need to descend into hell before we can ascend into a new life. And this seems the overall process of human development, that for each stage we must go through this spiraling process of dissolution and reorganization. Hence we are far more than twice-born; we are multiply born anew at each stage. It seems though that the further we go in this process the greater the risks and rewards.

Speaking of which, the inaugural issue of Phi Mi Sci will address this issue:

“The inaugural issue of PhiMiSci will be a Special Topic on Radical Disruptions of Self-Consciousness (see the Manifesto of the Selfless Minds workshop). The call for papers for this Special Topic was closed on May 1. Submissions are currently under review. The guest editors of this Special Topic are Thomas Metzinger (Mainz) & Raphaël Millière (Oxford). The expected publication date of this Special Topic is late 2019.”

Book: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

In his new book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David J. Epstein investigates the significant advantages of generalized cognitive skills for success in a complex world. We’ve heard and read many praises for narrow expertise in both humans and AIs (Watson, Alpha Go, etc.). In both humans and AIs, however, narrow+deep expertise does not translate to adaptiveness when reality presents novel challenges, as it does constantly. 

As you ingest this highly readable, non-technical book, please add your observations to the comments below. 

Philosophy and the Mind Sciences

New open access journal, the blurb from their home page.

Aims and scope

Philosophy and the Mind Sciences (PhiMiSci) focuses on the interface between philosophy of mind, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. PhiMiSci is a peer-reviewed, not-for-profit open-access journal that is free for authors and readers.
Editorial policy
The inaugural issue of PhiMiSci will be a Special Topic on Radical Disruptions of Self-Consciousness, edited by Thomas Metzinger (Mainz) and Raphaël Millière (Oxford). Manuscripts submitted to this issue are currently under review.
Independently of this Special Topic, PhiMiSci is now open for submission of stand-alone articles. The first stand-alone-articles will only be published after the inaugural issue on Radical Disruptions of Self-Consciousness (publication of this issue is planned for late 2019). After this point, accepted articles will be published whenever peer-review and revisions have been successfully completed. If you would like to propose a Special Topic for PhiMiSci, please take a look at our guidelines for special topics.
PhiMiSci is an independent publication, but builds on the success and experience of the Open MIND project (2015; Metzinger & Windt, eds.; also published by MIT Press) and the PPP project (2017; Metzinger & Wiese, eds.). Both were peer-reviewed, open-access edited collections published independently of commercial publishers.
Editorial team
The editors-in-chief of PhiMiSci are Sascha Benjamin Fink (Magdeburg), Wanja Wiese (Mainz), and Jennifer Windt (Monash).
The editorial board includes Michael Anderson (Western), Ned Block (NYU), Tyler Burge (UCLA), Olivia Carter (Melbourne), Monima Chadha (Monash), David Chalmers (NYU), Andy Clark (Sussex), Daniel Dennett (Tufts), Ophelia Deroy (LMU), Martin Dresler (Donders), Frances Egan (Rutgers), Steve Fleming (UCL), Karl Friston (UCL), Philip Gerrans (Adelaide), Jakob Hohwy (Monash), Bigna Lenggenhager (UZH), Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh), Fiona Macpherson (Glasgow), Thomas Metzinger (JGU Mainz), Laurie Paul (Yale), Antti Revonsuo (Turku, Skövde), Anil Seth (Sussex), Peter Singer (Princeton, Melbourne), Heleen Slagter (UvA Amsterdam), Evan Thompson (UBC), Dan Zahavi (Copenhagen, Oxford).
Open access policy
We are dedicated to publishing high-quality articles with maximum accessibility and visibility. We believe that the results of academic research should be made available to the public for free, with no costs for readers or authors, especially as in most cases, the research is already supported by public funding. PhiMiSci encourages authors to publish their papers under a CC-BY license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided appropriate credit is given to the original author(s), and the original source and a link to the Creative Commons license are provided. If a different Creative Commons license is preferred by an author, they must indicate this during the submission of their manuscript. Other suitable Creative Commons license additions include that any repurpose must be non-commercial (NC) or that it must not be cut or altered (ND). PhiMiSci does not publish under anything but a Creative Commons license.
Commercial publishers provide an important service to the academic community, but they also aim to maximize profits. In practice, this means that many scientific books are exorbitantly expensive and subscription fees for scientific journals as well as publication fees for open-access articles are excessively high. Big academic institutions in industrialized countries can afford to cover such costs and fees. However, a large number of traditionally published scientific works remains inaccessible for many and options for publishing work open access are limited. PhiMiSci offers an alternative: Fully free, open-access peer-reviewed science.
Archiving and long-term availability
All papers published in PhiMiSci are stored on servers in Germany. Long-term availability is guaranteed through additional archiving at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library), which also has the task of collecting, cataloguing, indexing and archiving online publications.

Syntegration: The key to innovation

This TED talk discusses how tech innovation is driven by those with diverse experience that syntegrate a variety of genres instead of specialists that are limited to a few. They call it ‘lateral’ thinking but that term sets up a dichotomy with hierarchical thinking, which the syntegral approach is certainly much more than. The hierarchical complexity approach would limit that way of thinking merely to what it calls horizontal complexity, again missing the boat entirely of the sort of cross-paradigmatic thinking involved in syntegration, aka hier(an)archical synplexity.

History of complexity science

Here’s an interesting infographic of the main concepts and thinkers in complexity science across time. Notice S. Kauffman is slated in the 1980s column, suggesting the graphic depicts when influential thinkers first make their marks.

Beyond free will: The embodied emergence of conscious agency

Article by Mascolo, M. F., & Kallio, E. (2019). Philosophical Psychology, 1-26. Abstract follows:

“Is it possible to reconcile the concept of conscious agency with the view that humans are biological creatures subject to material causality? The problem of conscious agency is complicated by the tendency to attribute autonomous powers of control to conscious processes. In this paper, we offer an embodied process model of conscious agency. We begin with the concept of embodied emergence – the idea that psychological processes are higher-order biological processes, albeit ones that exhibit emergent properties. Although consciousness, experience, and representation are emergent properties of higher-order biological organisms, the capacity for hierarchical regulation is a property of all living systems. Thus, while the capacity for consciousness transforms the process of hierarchical regulation, consciousness is not an autonomous center of control. Instead, consciousness functions as a system for coordinating novel representations of the most pressing demands placed on the organism at any given time. While it does not regulate action directly, consciousness orients and activates preconscious control systems that mediate the construction of genuinely novel action. Far from being an epiphenomenon, consciousness plays a central albeit non-autonomous role in psychological functioning.”

Albuquerque Brain, Mind, and Artificial Intelligence Discussion Group