Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Can we engineer consciousness into a robot?

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Michael Egnor thinks not:

The assertion that we can do so is based on functionalism, which would seem to be Graziano’s theory of mind, to the extent that he has a coherent one. It posits that the mind is generated by the organizational state of the brain. Colloquially, one might say, the mind is what the brain does.

Functionalism is not the only materialist theory of the mind on offer. There is also identity theory (the mind is the brain), behaviorism (“let’s ignore the mind”), eliminative materialism (“the mind doesn’t exist”), and mysterianism (“who the hell knows!”—yes, that’s a real theory). Functionalism, in contrast to the others, is usually expressed in terms of computation. The brain is a computer and the mind is what it computes. The brain is to the mind as hardware is to software.

Functionalism is an error.

If the timing strikes you as a revealing coincidence—we just discover that the mind is computation in the same era that we discover computation—you’d be right. Ancient philosophers thought the mind was fire (not too long after the discovery of fire). Early modern philosophers thought the mind was a machine (just as the machine age got started). Humans have an amusing tendency to attribute the mind to whatever dominates the technology chatter of the era. Perhaps in the next few decades, the mind will be an iPhone or a Tesla autopilot. “Neuroscientists finally discover how mind works—read about it in Popular Science!”

But metaphors are lousy metaphysics. …

Michael Egnor, “[article title]” at Mind Matters News

We actually don’t know what consciousness is, so it feels odd to speak of “engineering” it.


See also: Here are neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s three earlier articles on Michael Graziano’s approach to consciousness:

Neuroscientist Michael Graziano should meet the p-zombie. A p-zombie (a philosopher’s thought experiment) behaves exactly like a human being but has no first-person (subjective) experience. The meat robot violates no physical principles. Yet we KNOW we are not p-zombies. Think what that means.

Did consciousness “evolve”? One neuroscientist doesn’t seem to understand the problems the idea raises. Darwinian evolution must select physical attributes. If consciousness evolved as a mere byproduct of physical brain processes, it is powerless in itself. Thus Graziano’s theories of consciousness are themselves mindless accidents.

and

Did consciousness evolve to find love? It’s an attractive idea but it comes with a hidden price tag
If consciousness is a mere tool of human sexual selection, it is mere plumage, a pretty enticement, of no meaning or import otherwise. But then what becomes of Dr. Graziano’s own intellectual labors?

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6 Replies to “Can we engineer consciousness into a robot?

  1. 1
    Ed George says:

    If ID is truly real, then we have to accept that consciousness can be designed into a robot.

  2. 2
    ET says:

    Ed George:

    If ID is truly real, then we have to accept that consciousness can be designed into a robot.

    If so, and to me it doesn’t follow, then only by the One who can design consciousness and allow it to exist in a non-living, human simulation object.

  3. 3
    Ed George says:

    ET

    If so, and to me it doesn’t follow, then only by the One who can design consciousness and allow it to exist in a non-living, human simulation object.

    But if ID is based on an inference from human and other design (all material beings) to biological systems, then excluding the possibility that consciousness can be designed into a robot is concluding that the only possible designer is God. Something that ID vehemently disagrees with.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    Ed George:

    But if ID is based on an inference from human and other design (all material beings) to biological systems, then excluding the possibility that consciousness can be designed into a robot is concluding that the only possible designer is God.

    That doesn’t follow. Furthermore, ID is an inference from our knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships. Is your toaster conscious, Ed? 😀

    Something that ID vehemently disagrees with.

    No, Ed Acartia spearshake George, ID is OK with an immaterial, intelligent entity, capable of producing matter, energy and all that is required for this physical universe to exist. ID is also OK with there being absolutely no connection with said entity and salvation. ID is OK with the Bible being a total work of fiction or totally correct. And even any and all variations between the extremes.
    ID is about the DESIGN. The DESIGN exists here and now and as such is able to be studied. The fact that ID is NOT about any designer or multiple designers in no way means ID “vehemently disagrees with” God, any God or gods, did it.

    But anyway, how many circuits, and of what type, would be required for the emergence of consciousness? I ask because if ID is truly real then consciousness is NOT reducible to hardware. And it is not a program.

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    A tyre-lever and an adjustable spanner ought*to do it, at a pinch.

    *I’v replaced the indicative verb with the conditional, pending further trials.

  6. 6
    Trumper says:

    I have to wonder if my thoughts could be programmed, similar to my words on this post which are merely a result of my programmed education. It could be reasonable to assume … if reason could be programmed (vs. logic). I suppose one could argue that thoughts are just the un-typed words (or yet typed words)….hmm now I am starting to question my own wondering – this is about as hard as measuring light from a source that no-longer exists…..or has never existed.

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