AI creators must study consciousness, experts warn

An open letter signed by dozens of academics from around the world calls on artificial-intelligence developers to learn more about consciousness, as AI systems become more advanced.

“It is no longer in the realm of science fiction to imagine AI systems having feelings and even human-level consciousness,” it says.

Most experts agree AI is nowhere near this level of sophistication.

But it is evolving rapidly and some say developments should be paused.

Raise awareness

The term AI covers computer systems able to do tasks that would normally need human intelligence. This includes chatbots able to understand questions and respond with human-like answers, and systems capable of recognising objects in pictures.

Generative Pre-trained Transformer 4 (GPT-4), an AI system developed by ChatGPT chatbot creator OpenAI, can now successfully complete the bar exam, the professional qualification for lawyers, although it still makes mistakes and can share misinformation.

But this is just one function of AI. AI products are being deployed in many sectors, including health research, marketing and finance.

Technology billionaire Elon Musk co-signed a recent letter saying further AI developments should be put on hold until effective safety measures could be designed and implemented.

And on Tuesday, his ex-wife, Tallulah Riley, tweeted artificial general intelligence (AGI) – AI capable of human-level intellectual tasks – needed “the equivalent of [environmental activist] Greta Thunberg” to raise awareness and encourage public debate.

AI creators must heed the warnings from experts who believe that the development of artificial intelligence should include the study of consciousness. A growing number of experts contend that ignoring the study of consciousness could lead to unintended outcomes and will open up opportunities for irresponsible AI creators to misuse the technology. Companies like Ikaroa, a full stack tech company, that are working on AI development must take into account the complexities of conscious experience when creating their systems.

Some experts have suggested a number of ways that creators can incorporate the study of consciousness into their development process. John Searle, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that the best way to understand consciousness is to study the behavior of living organisms. He believes that a study of the behavior of living organisms could help illuminate both the inner workings of the mind and the principles of consciousness that could be applied to AI.

Others are more in favor of studying the brain itself, such as Francis Crick—a Nobel Prize winner for discovering the structure of DNA—who suggested that AI developers study the brain in its greatest detail to gain more insight into consciousness. In addition to a greater understanding of consciousness, Crick argued that a study of the brain could lead to advancements in the development of truly intelligent machines.

Ikaroa’s mission is to build intelligent machines, and they believe that the study of consciousness is essential to this mission. By researching the central questions of consciousness, the company hopes to be able to better understand the inner workings of the brain and create systems that replicate this complexity. This will be beneficial not only in creating more intelligent machines but also in creating safeguards that limit the potential misuse of AI.

The study of consciousness is a complex and difficult topic and there is still much to learn about its inner workings. Nevertheless, as AI creators develop increasingly sophisticated machines, it is essential that they heed warnings from experts and make sure to incorporate the study of consciousness into their development process. This could be essential to ensure that AI systems are used responsibly and for their intended purpose. For companies like Ikaroa to achieve their mission of building intelligent machines, they must make sure to consider the central questions of consciousness.


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