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Sentient Computers and Machine Consciousness: Should We Be Worried? | Intel Business

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How different is human consciousness from machine consciousness?

In this What That Means video, Camille talks with Joscha Bach, research fellow and expert in AI and cognitive computing. They get into the difference between consciousness and sentience, the future of artificial intelligence, and ethical discussions on AI.

Consciousness vs. Sentience

Joscha notes there is a difference between consciousness and sentience. In his view, human and machine consciousness are already similar. Sentience is currently the main difference. He defines consciousness as relating to awareness and how we interact with that awareness, like how both humans and AI observe patterns and make sense of those patterns. However, machines still need to be given a purpose, while humans naturally observe and analyze. Joscha describes sentience as knowing what you are doing and how that relates to your environment. Since AI can’t sense its environment yet, it can’t have sentience.

Where Are We Headed with Machine Consciousness and AI?

AI doesn’t have sentience—yet. Joscha believes it’s within the realm of possibility that AI can develop deeper machine consciousness or sentience at some point in the future. Today, though, AI can only fake its sentience, such as with the LaMDA bot, because it can’t actually observe and sense its environment. The future of AI is very uncertain. Advancements in machine consciousness could lead to the merging of biology and machines, or it could turn out that the two are quite incompatible. According to Joscha, there’s no way of knowing until we get there.

The Ethical Side of AI

With all this uncertainty surrounding AI and machine consciousness, it’s important not to shy away from the hard conversations. There are rightly many ethical concerns about AI, how it’s being used, and where it’s being used. Joscha says these discussions on AI ethics need to take into account the full context of each scenario. He also emphasizes the need for experts to have these conversations in person and not on social media where empathy can often be lost.

Joscha Bach, Research Fellow and Expert in AI and Cognitive Computing

Joscha Bach machine consciousness artificial intelligence

Joscha Bach is one of the top experts in cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. He has more than two decades of experience in research and engineering, as well as a Ph.D. in cognitive computing from Universität Osnabrück. Joscha is currently Research Fellow with the Thistledown Foundation. Prior to this new endeavor, he was an Intel Labs Principal AI Engineer, Cognitive Computing.


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The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.


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