Friday, March 6, 2015


So here comes a whole new raft of novels and movies about artificial intelligence machines taking over the world, clamoring for their civil rights and falling in love with or rebelling against their human creators. Oh, God, what disheartening nonsense!  It is disheartening because it belies the absymal lack of understanding in our society of just what it means to be a human being, in fact, to be a living being.

A living being is consciousness.  By that I do not mean that that being has the ability to recognize pictures of herself or picture or articulate any particular thing about herself or the world around her.  I simply mean that living beings experience the world around them and desires things in that world.  They do not necessarily (I am talking about all of life at the moment) know they are conscious, know they are experiencing anything, know anything, in fact, in the sense of their ability to articulate that knowledge either to others or to themselves. Yet they all know, without articulating it or having any thoughts about it,  they all know the things  they are attracted to, and things they want to avoid, what food sources they prefer, what temperatures they feel comfortable in, when it is too hot; when it is too cold; and they all know pain which leads them to want to stop that experience and avoid it in the future, and they all know pleasure which leads them to want to continue that experience and re-experience it in the future.

Artificial intelligence machines, robots, computers, anything that humans create and manufacture, except when they are procreating and giving birth; anything else does not have consciousness, knows absolutely nothing about anything, experiences absolutely nothing and desires absolutely nothing.  They are all electronic machines running on an electronic code.  They are programmed patterns of electricity that work when they fit, or are compatible with other patterns of electricity.  The electricity does not know that it is part of a code.  The electricity does not know that it is recognizing patterns.  The electricity does not know that it is electricity.  It is a stream of electrons.  What could it possibly know?  What could an electron know?  We learn things when we observe the machine and see which patterns are recognized and which patterns are not, but the electrons themselves,  not the human interacting with the electronic machine, but the machine itself, knows nothing. What could a billion electrons know?  What could an electron be conscious of?  What could an electron desire?  Yes, the electrons can be programmed so that when they have more success with a certain pattern of electrons they use that pattern more.  But there is nothing in that electron that is thinking, "Wow, I had some success with this program, so I'll try it some more."  There is no 'I' in this electronic equipment that experiences anything.  There is no pleasure when it solves a problem; there is no defeat or frustration when it fails to solve a problem.  An electronic machine does not care whether it is on or off, whether it is functional or broken.  An electronic machine does not care about anything.

An electronic machine has no interest in its human masters.  An electronic machine does not know that it has human masters.  An electronic machine does not know that it is an electronic machine.  It is patterns of electrons; and electrons, whether arranged in patterns or not, know nothing.

Now once the patterns have meshed and a problem is solved, the machine may include an audio device which comes on when it receives a certain electrical pattern and says, "I did it" in a proud sounding voice.  It may even, if it has a face, have another electronic gismo that turns the corners of that face upward into a smile when it says "I did it."  But again, there is nothing in that machine that knows it succeeded, or that takes pride in its success,.  In fact the machine is not even an 'it', which is a unitary consciousness, which all living beings are and which all non-living machines are not.  Everything that a robot is programmed to do is a simulation to give the impression that the robot is experiencing something or desiring something when it is not.  A robot could even say, "I need a charge."  It says that when its battery is low, but it does not need a charge.  You need to charge it because you may want that robot to keep serving you and keep you company, but the robot has absolutely no interest in doing either of those things.  The robot will do them, simply because it is programmed that way, but not because it wants to.  The robot has the same experience if it is on or off, if it is used constantly or has never been removed from the box that it arrived in; and that experience is no experience. So the robot does not need a charge.  You need to charge your robot because you want it to do things for you.

Consciousness is the background, the non-physical bowl within which you experience your experience and desire your desires.  It is not a thing.  You are not a thing.  You are context, not content.  You are not a 'that' but a 'that which'.  You are that which experiences and desires.  I have written a lot more about this in other posts.  The important thing here is that you are consciousness, you are an experiencer and a desirer, and a machine, any machine, even an artificial intelligence machine, even your own biological brain/body machine (although it has a consciousness, an experiencer, a desirer, a Self, attached to it); the brain/body without the Self, as in a non-conscious comatose body/brain on life support, like all the other machines, electronic or otherwise, experiences nothing, knows nothing and desires nothing.

Why doesn't someone make a film about that?

So what do you think of this?  Is this stupid?  Is this crazy?  Is it brilliant?  And why do you think that?  Please let me hear from you.


Squeegie60 said...

Positively brilliant, mainly because it sounds like something I'd say...The following discussion takes place at the edge of the sixth circle of hell and is colored by the fact that I am one of those individuals who has had a sizable chunk of gray matter removed.

"Perhaps consciousness is a by-product of the electrical activity within the brain?"

"If consciousness was dependent upon the activity of the brain, what would happen to people who have had large portions of the brain removed? Wouldn't their consciousness be adversely affected?"

"Well, there was the case of that railroad worker who had a steel rod run through his brain when a charge of dynamite launched a tamping bar through his forehead…"

"Ah, Phineas Gage. That incident informed neurologists that the frontal lobes, previously thought to have little to do with personality, in fact played a major role in behavior and qualities of character. But the damage done did not affect his consciousness. It merely affected behavior. So consciousness must be something that takes place separate from the brain, though it has an effect upon the brain, interfacing with it in a way that allows it to direct the voluntary functions of the body. So in a sense the brain is an interface unit which allows the consciousness to interact with a physical world."

"Good to know, I suppose. But what does it matter?"

"It goes back to viewing the world as nothing more than matter. Do you have thoughts?"

"Obviously I do."

"What do they look like? What color are they? Does your head get larger to accommodate more complex thoughts which take up more space in your brain?"

"Okay, I admit that thoughts are real yet do not take up space or have dimensions and could not be measured by any means available when I was alive. I'll presume the same is true now. So there is more to the world than the materials that make up the world."

Matt Chait said...

May I call you Squeegie, or do you insist on Squeegie60 to distinguish you from all the other Squeegies that you must interact with?

Your thoughts don't take up any space, you say. Just look at your comment directly above this one and see how much space your thoughts take up. Only kidding!

So, good, there are two of us. But are we two crazy people in a sane world, or two sane people in a crazy world? I hope to get some more comments so that we can determine which is true.

Sha'Tara said...

OK, you have my attention now. This comment, I hope, is on the article about consciousness. Do either of you happen the read JON RAPPOPORT at
He also has good ideas about consciousness; the mind and the fake science of psychiatry. I have my own "theories" on what consciousness is. For one, it isn't physical; for another, it isn't destructible, i.e., it does not "die" along with a physical body. Are you personally, convincingly, aware of past lives, future lives? Whether created or evolved, as physical beings, the "force" or energy that determines the physical form comes from consciousness, in my opinion. Something horrible happens to people on this world that disconnects them from their real selves and that distracts them for their entire lives. I have theories on what that is also. Enough for now.