Quotes_ Comments and Dialogues Concerning... Machine Consciousness

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					Quotes, Comments and
Dialogues Concerning…
Machine Consciousness
        Edited by

       Paul Budding
Note that content from the author is written in

Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity is Near: When
Humans Transcend Biology (2005)
“In fact these future [consciously aware] machines will be even more
humanlike than humans today. If that seems like a paradoxical
statement, consider that much of human thought today is petty and
derivative. We marvel at Einstein‟s ability to conjure up the theory of
relativity from a thought experiment or Beethoven‟s ability to imagine
symphonies that he could never hear. But these instances of human
thought at its best are rare and fleeting. […] Our future primarily
nonbiological selves will be vastly more intelligent and so will exhibit
these finer qualities of human thought to a far greater degree.

So how will we come to terms with the consciousness that will be claimed
by nonbiological intelligence? From a practical perspective such claims will
be accepted. For one thing, “they” will be us, so there won‟t be any clear
distinctions between biological and nonbiological intelligence.
Furthermore, these nonbiological entities will be extremely intelligent, so
they‟ll be able to convince other human (biological, nonbiological, or
somewhere in between) that they are conscious. They‟ll have all the
delicate emotional cues that convince us today that humans are
conscious. They will be able to make other humans laugh and cry. And
they‟ll get mad if others don‟t accept their claims. But this is
fundamentally a political and psychological prediction, not a philosophical
argument.” (p378 & 379).

Ray Kurzweil, YouTube Video: Ray Kurzweil:
Futurist (July 13th 2009)
There‟s going to be no clear distinction between machines and humans.
It‟s all going to be “mixed up”. […] You can have a biological human that‟s
got computers in their brain, [maybe] billions of them. There may be
more going on in the non-biological portion of their intelligence than the
biological portion. So are they machine? Are they human? The action
maybe with the non-biological part. It‟s not going to be a clear distinction
between human and machine the way it is today. My prediction is that we
are going to merge with these technologies. […] We are going to become
increasingly non-biological. […] If you look […] at what is infact going on,
our brains are just shuffling around neurotransmitter levels, and ion
channels and ions and those are just representing information. And if you
can shuffle around the information using a different substrate the same
thing is going on. You can do a thought experiment where you take just a
little piece of your brain and replace it with a machine. The machine is
operating on a completely different substrate. But it‟s still the same
person. We have actually done this experiment for example with
Parkinsons patients. They had a piece of their brain, it stopped
functioning and we replaced it with a computer. If you ask them do you
think that computer is part of you? [Kurzweil says that he‟s asked this
question] most of them say „Yes, it‟s definitely a part of me‟. If you carry
this thought experiment further and keep replacing more and more
portions of the brain with computers the person‟s personality never
changes, there‟s a continuity of identity [so] you would come to the
conclusion that it‟s always the same person/the same consciousness. […]
At the end of this process you would have a person that has no biology.”

I was converted to physicalism and consciousness emergence following
being pushed to reflect on the issue of dualism. I didn’t previously believe
in the soul or mysterious stuff creating mind/brain dualism or mind/body
dualism but I had not really thought through why I was unsure about
machine consciousness. So the reason that I think I was unsure about

machine consciousness was simply because I had been indoctrinated into
a non-thinking dualistic culture… which despite academics saying is old
fashioned still has a hold on many people… and no doubt those many
people contradict themselves by rejecting the soul and so forth… or
embracing physicalism in every other sense. Moreover this culture feeds
us images such as Frankenstein and infinite other less famous absurd
characterizations of machine consciousness. Hence while it is true that all
technologies are subjected to ridicule before they become reality…
machine consciousness has had more ridicule than most of those other
technologies. Some of this nonsense culture seeped into my mind. When I
started to reflect and spend some time looking into the issue my mind
was quickly made up and it was Ray Kurzweil who I credit with giving me
crystallized clarity on the issue. He made my mind up when he talked
about the future being all mixed up in terms of machines that were born
as machines and machines that were previously biologically human. He
said that we will replace a part of the biological brain with a piece of
technology that does exactly the same thing in the brain as the biological
component did… and that this technology will be part of who the person
is… it will be the same person… the same psychological continuity will be
experienced… it will be the same mind/same consciousness. And as we
replace another piece of the brain with technology this point about it
being the same person/same mind/same consciousness… will clearly
remain the case even though there will eventually be no more biological
brain left. Hence the person’s brain will consist of the same technology as
an AI that was born as a machine and never was a biological human. So
clearly it would be nonsensical for the previously biological human
machine to say to an AI that never was human that you are not really

If dualism is nonsense (which it surely is), if there is no mysterious stuff
or soul… then there’s nothing in the laws of physics preventing machine

consciousness being created following the reverse engineering of the
human brain.

Ray Kurzweil, Humanity+ (Website)

“I believe that within the next 20 years we will have thousands of nanobot
computer machines in our blood that will heal our bodies, improve our
performance, and even be able to back-up all the contents of our brains,
just as you back-up your files on a computer […] That means they would
back-up every thought, every experience, everything that makes us an
individual. […] It may sound far-fetched, but in the early 1980s, people
thought I was crazy for predicting the emergence of the world-wide web
by the middle of the 1990s. But it happened, and on the schedule I

On the issue of consciousness from the psychological perspective… the
Singularity community is surely right to argue that consciousness is
emergent and is derived from the brain.

In Jungian theory there is a term referred to as ‘participation mystique’.
Participation mystique is a kind of consciousness without thinking…
without rigor, without language. Hence Jungians call it ‘Unconscious’. (See
page 6). Nevertheless a being whose psychological make-up is
characterized by participation mystique is still ‘sentient’. Therefore your
dog possesses participation mystique based on sentience. This means
that he or she feels devoted to you… it’s just a non-thinking
consciousness. There is lack of differentiation. The liking and disliking that
your dog feels then… could be said to be archetypal because it is not
dependent on language and thinking. I am saying this so that we can get
a feeling for different types of consciousness. Artificial Intelligence
researchers dialogue on this issue concerning different types

of potential consciousness in machines. Indeed Bill Gates seems to
believe that machines will be conscious albeit not in the human sense.

On page 374-376 of The Singularity is Near (2005), Kurzweil
imagines a dialogue between himself and Bill Gates. At one point
Gates refers to Silicon Intelligence (p375) and distinguishes it
from biological intelligence. The dialogue then becomes about
machine consciousness:

Ray: Well, yes, we‟re going to transcend biological intelligence. We‟ll
merge with it first, but ultimately the nonbiological portion of our
intelligence will predominate. By the way, it‟s not likely to be silicon, but
something like carbon nanotubes.

Bill: Yes, I understand – I‟m just referring to that as silicon intelligence
since people understand what that means. But I don‟t think that‟s going
to be conscious in the human sense.

Ray: Why not? If we emulate in as detailed a manner as necessary
everything going on in the human brain and body and instantiate these
processes in another substrate, and then of course expand it greatly, why
wouldn‟t it be conscious?

Bill: Oh, it will be conscious. I just think it will be a different type of

Ray: Maybe this is the 1 percent we disagree on. Why would it be

Bill: Because computers can merge together instantly. Ten computers –
or one million computers – can become one faster, bigger computer. As
humans, we can‟t do that. We each have a distinct individuality that
cannot be bridged.

Ray: That‟s just a limitation of biological intelligence. The unbridgeable
distinctness of biological intelligence is not a plus. “Silicon” intelligence
can have it both ways. Computers don‟t have to pool their intelligence

and resources. They can remain “individuals” if they wish. Silicon
intelligence can even have it both ways by merging and retaining
individuality – at the same time. As humans we try to merge with others
also, but our ability to accomplish this is fleeting.

(p375 & 376).

Returning to Jungian theory…Jungian theorists tend to be immersed
purely in the psychological aspect of mind and brain… i.e., ‘psyche’ as the
Jungian community like to term it. For them most of the psyche is
unconscious. The bigger picture is overlooked by many Jungians… and
that is that the unconscious arises with consciousness… it is therefore
emergent deriving from the brain.

For Jungians… consciousness in the human sense is based on the ability
to invest energy into thinking. You might need to do this if you wish to
work something out that is troubling you. The scientist who cannot find
the idea he or she needs to solve a puzzle may think for days (even
years) before discovering it… that is thinking. The author who has written
most of a fictional book and wants to entertain the readers with a
fascinating twist may similarly invest much time and energy ‘thinking’
about how to do this. Similarly again, Kurzweil’s philosophy seems
to be based on thinking… he writes in The Singularity is Near…

… “To this day, I remain convinced of this basic philosophy: no matter
what quandaries we face – business problems, health issues, relationship
difficulties, as well as the greatest scientific, social, and cultural
challenges of our time – there is an idea that can enable us to prevail.
Furthermore, we can find that idea. And when we find it, we need to
implement it. My life has been shaped by this imperative. The power of an
idea – this is itself an idea.” (p2).

Kurzweil says that machine intelligence will be based on the human brain
but at the advanced human-levels (i.e., never seen before levels). All of
this technology will revolutionize medical and healthcare. Dick Pelletier
picks up on Kurzweils writings concerning nanobots in the brain. The
following comment is extracted from:

Dick Pelletier, Positive Futurist Website
“The most important benefit of our new brain could be its ability to
survive disaster. Should we suffer a fatal accident, our body may be a
total loss, but the moment the accident happened, nanobots would
quickly repair our brain, if damaged. Information is then transmitted to a
processing center where a new body is cloned, identical to our old body,
except with all the latest features; ready for transfer of our brain”.

"The key lies in decoding and simulating the cerebral cortex, the seat of
cognition" (Kurzweil in Pelletier)

Ray Kurzweil, YouTube Video: Ray Kurzweil:
Futurist (July 13th 2009)
Kurzweil regards the reverse engineering of the brain as maybe the most
important human work ever undertaken. He points out that “The most
important part of the brain is the neo-cortex” and that it is responsible for
our language, tools, understanding, and thinking. However Kurzweil says
it is still limited and that the neo cortex can be increased in size and
computation can be added to it.

News Medical Website
“The cerebral cortex in humans is so large that it overshadows every
other part of the brain”. Hence, the physical reason why dogs and other

animals do not evolve a brain with the ability to think at human levels is
because they lack the large cerebral cortex that humans possess.

Robert Friedman: Biomedical Computation
Review Website (2009)
Dharmendra Modha is the manager of Cognitive Computing at IBM‟s
Almaden Research Center in San Jose. His “favorite saying is that the
mind arises from the wetware of the brain. Therefore Modha believes that
the mind is an emergent phenomena. “The quickest and cheapest way to
engineer mind-like intelligence into machines is to reverse engineer the
structure, function, and dynamics of the brain” with its low power
consumption and compact size, Modha says. “This is our quest.”
Many brain scientists are now eagerly striving for machine intelligence.
Eventually, brain scientists hope to simulate the effect of strokes, tumors,
or neurological disorders such as Alzheimer‟s or Parkinson‟s disease to
understand how they derail brain dynamics. Gerald Edelman (Director of
the Neurosciences Institute & Chair of Neurobiology at the Scripps
Research Institute in San Diego, California) states frankly his intention: to
craft a conscious artifact. “Philosophers have owned the field of
consciousness research from time immemorial. What could be more
romantic, remarkable or valuable,” Edelman says, “than to take on their
quest? Right now, you might say, I am going for broke.”


Friedman, R, (2009) Reverse Engineering the Brain: Biomedical
Computation Review

Kurzweil, R, (2005) The Singularity is Near: When Humans transcend
Biology (Penguin)

Kurzweil, R, (July 13th 2009) Ray Kurzweil: Futurist YouTube Video
Uploaded by Computer History:


Kurzweil, R, (November 4th 2010) I‟m Just going to back-up my Brain:
Humanity+ Website (

News Medical Website, Human Brain Structure (

Pelletier, D, Artificial Brains: Radical Technology could become Reality by
2050: Positive Futurist Website:


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