We have always been interested in the notion of consciousness fact, which is, for us, the fact that an individual endowed with a brain can think of something related to his position in the world right here right now. It is not about the continuity, or the performance, nor the profoundness of the thought, but it is about thinking of something in a knowable manner and which can be specified from a linguistic or mathematical angle, without it being an automatic and predefined response to a given situation.
By analogy to the notion lengthily investigated by philosophers, psychologists, neurobiologists, we will pose the question of artificial consciousness: how can one transpose the fact of “thinking of something” into the computable field, so that an artificial system, founded on computer processes, would be able to generate consciousness facts, in a viewable manner. The system will have intentions, emotions and ideas about things and events related to it-self. The system would have to have a body that it could direct and which would constrain the system. It would also have to have a history, and intentions to act and, most of all, to think. It would have to have knowledge, notably language knowledge. It would have to have emotions, intentions and finally a certain consciousness about itself.
We can name this system, by sheer semantic analogy, an artificial brain. However we will see that its architecture is quite different from living brains. The concern is transposing the effects, the movements; certainly not reproducing the components like neurons and glial cells. We should keep in mind principally one characteristic of the process of thinking unfolding in a brain: there is a complex neural, biochemical, electrical activation movement happening. This movement is coupled to a similar but of a different mode in the nervous system deployed in the whole body. This complex movement generates, by selective emergence and by reaching a particular configuration, what we call a thought about something. This thought rapidly leads to actuators or language activity and descends then in the following thought which can be similar or different. This is the very complex phenomenon that has to be transposed into the computable domain.
Hence, we should approach the sudden appearance of thoughts in brains at the level of the complex dynamics of a system building and reconfiguring recurrent and temporized flow. We can transpose this into computer processes architectures containing symbolic meaning and we should make it geometrically self-controlled. Two reasonable hypotheses are made for this transposition:
• analogy between the geometrical dynamics of the real brain and of the artificial brain. For one, flows are complex images, almost continuous; for the other, these are dynamical graphs which deformations are evaluated topologically.
• combinatory complexity reduction of the real brain in the computable domain by using symbolic and pre-language level for this approach. The basic elements are completely different; they are not of the same scale.
However, once these hypotheses made, one should not start to develop an architecture that will operate its own control from the aspects of its changing geometry. One needs to ask the proper question about consciousness fact generation. A philosopher, a couple of decades ago, M. Heidegger, asked the proper question: what brings us to think about this thing right here right now? The answer, quite elaborate, to this question will conduct to a system architecture choice that will take us away from reactive or deductive systems. The system will generate intentionally its consciousness facts, intention as P. Ricoeur understood it. There are no consciousness facts without intention to think. This settles the question, considered as a formidable, of freedom to think. One thinks of everything according to his memory and his intuition on the moment, but only if it is expressible as a thought by the system producing thoughts. Some might see something infinite in this process; however it is not our case. A finite set of component which movements occur in a finite space has only a finite number of states in which it can be. Also, as the permanence of the physical real apprehensible by the sense is very strong, the preoccupation to think by man is quite limited, in his civilizations. Let us point out that artificial systems that will think artificially will be able to communicate directly at the level of forms of the ideas, without using a language mediator, and hence, would be co-active as well as being numerous in space.
For different reasons, numerous people think that the path of artificial consciousness’ investigation should not be taken at all. I feel differently, because, discoveries have been the very root of our existence, from fire to the mighty F-16s. The mind is a work of art moulded in mystery, and any effort to unlock its doors should be encouraged because, I am sure, that its discovery is only going to help us respect the great architect more.
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