Words Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1 — William Shakespeare:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

In this, the most popular and most searchable of Shakespeare’s quotes, Hamlet is thinking about life and death. He is pondering about a state of being versus a state of not being. In essence, being alive and being dead. Consciousness and self-awareness or nothing. Is the lack of consciousness which in a way is the absence of self-awareness represents death?

Humans have been pondering these thoughts for many millennia.

Rene Descartes, the French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, dubbed the father of modern western philosophy said “cogito ergo sum” in English; “I think, therefore I am”. What Descartes is saying is that thought exists and since thought cannot be separated from me, therefore, I exist. Consciousness is the proof of existence.

Consciousness which is being aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts and surroundings; is that one of the definition of being human? Is it the notion of sentience, of awareness, of subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, of wakefulness, of having a sense of selfhood, of having a mind that we can control? Perhaps then we can say that consciousness is the state or quality of awareness of oneself, of something within oneself or of an external object.

But today, in the 21st Century we have other terms that we are also dealing with. Some of these are “Artificial Intelligence” and “Artificial Consciousness”.

Oftentimes people think of AI as a robot, machine or computer that thinks for itself. An “intelligent” machine capable of being a flexible rational agent, able of perceiving its environment and taking actions that guarantee or in the least maximize its chances of success at whatever task or goals it undertakes. It can do this through the usage of deduction, reasoning, and problem solving.

However, a smart machine or any other form of AI lacks one thing; consciousness.

Artificial or machine consciousness is a synthetic or artificially engineered artifact endowed with human-like cognition and consciousness. In other words a synthetic consciousness.

Alan Turing who was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie “The Imitation Game” developed a test in which a machine can be evaluated on its ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. This test would be conducted by a human evaluator who would judge the machines ability to have a conversation with a human while generating human-like responses. The machine is said to have passed the test if it is indistinguishable from a human 70% of the time.

However this test cannot measure in any way shape or form how much consciousness an artificially constructed artifact possesses or even determine whether it has consciousness at all.

Obviously, in today’s terms, an intelligent machine must be artificially endowed with consciousness in order to take its decision making capabilities to the next level. Neuroscientists hypothesize that consciousness is generated by the interaction or inter-operation the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). Scientist working on AC believe it is possible to construct computer systems that can emulate NCC inter-operation.

Must papers and articles concerning artificial consciousness seem to deal in the subject of what this capability is. They describe what it is to be endowed with artificial consciousness, how it would work, and what it will do, however none of them describe or report on a device that can accomplish this feat.

The good news is that currently in Gainesville, Florida there is a company that is working on a device that will generate artificial consciousness. The CEO, inventor and creator of many successful products over the last 30 years, Scott Wilber has recently patented a device that he claims can be adapted to endow consciousness on an artificially engineered machine. (Go to link for all of Scott Wilber’s patents)

Scott has been testing this device by having an operator move an object on a computer screen through the influence of the mind alone, without any physical or manual guidance or influence. Obviously, there is additionally testing to be done but so far the results of tests that have been conducted have yielded surprisingly positive outcomes.

Scott Wilber would like to meet other companies involved in the development of any sort of artificial intelligent machine or artifact. He would like to conduct experiments that will determine to what degree will his device endow artificial consciousness on an artificially intelligent machine.

If you or anyone you know would like to contact Scott Wilber and start a conversation that can possible change the world, please email him at swilber@comscire.com or Betsy Wolf at bwolf@comscire.com.

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ComScire Technology — Gainesville, Florida