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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Soul Science God Philosophy > Science and Spiritual Quest > Section 2 Machine, Mind and Consciousness > SOME RECENT TRENDS IN CONSCIOUSNESS STUDIES > 2. Consciousness in Machines

2. Consciousness in Machines


In Artificial Intelligence (AI) there is a general tendency to consider that information processing in the brain causes intelligent human behavior, and that such information processing can be  simulated in a computer and hence produce intelligent behavior artificially. In a computer, information at the processor level is processed by on/off switches. In a digital computer the two binary  digits 1 and 0 could correspond to the 'on' and 'off switches. Hence digital computers are designed to process data using binary digits. In AI there is an assumption that "the brain processes  information in discrete operations by way of some biological equivalent of on/off switches"[l]. They also tend to view mind, "as a device operating on bits of information according to formal rules"  [2].John von Neumann, one of the inventors of the modern digital computer, commented, "The available evidence, though scanty and inadequate, rather tends to indicate that the human nervous  system uses different principles and procedures (than the digital methods and processes)" [3]. According to Hubert Dreyfus, "The difference between the "strongly interactive" nature of brain  organization and the non-interactive character of machine organization suggests that so far as arguments from biology are relevant, the evidence is against the possibility of using digital  computers to produce intelligence" [4].


At the Artificial Intelligence laboratory of MIT, the creation of Cog, the 'most humanoid' robot, was attempted under the direction of Professors Rodney Brooks, Lynn Stein and Daniel Dennett. Cog  had two human size arms and two eyes, each equipped with both a foveal high-resolution vision area and a low-resolution wide-angle parafoveal vision area. "The computer-complex that has  been built to serve as the development platform for Cog's artificial nervous system consists of four back planes, each with 16 nodes; each node is basically a Mac-II computer - a 68332  processor with a megabyte of RAM. In other words, you can think of Cog's brain as roughly equivalent to sixty-four Mac-IIs yoked in a custom parallel architecture" [5]. Cog is designed for face  recognition. When different faces are produced before it, Cog is supposed to 'recognize' the familiar faces and develop its own worldviews of faces. Current research at MIT is aimed at designing  and fabricating a humanoid face. There are also future plans to design lips, ears, eyebrows, etc.In artificial intelligence, efforts are made to endow human intelligence to computer programs.  Efforts are also made in Robotics to make intelligent machines. Human intelligence has the exclusive characteristics of intentionality, understanding and other subjective qualities. The effort to  endow subjective qualities in machines raises serious interest in the study of consciousness.