Why Some Machines May Need Qualia and How They Can Have Them: Including a Demanding New Turing Test for Robot Philosophers

Aaron Sloman

This paper extends three decades of work arguing that instead of focusing only on (adult) human minds, we should study many kinds of minds, natural and artificial, and try to understand the space containing all of them, by studying what they do, how they do it, and how the natural ones can be emulated in synthetic minds. That requires: (a) understanding sets of requirements that are met by different sorts of minds, i.e. the niches that they occupy, (b) understanding the space of possible designs, and (c) understanding the complex and varied relationships between requirements and designs. Attempts to model or explain any particular phenomenon, such as vision, emotion, learning, language use, or consciousness lead to muddle and confusion unless they are placed in that broader context. in part because current ontologies for specifying and comparing designs are inconsistent and inadequate. A methodology for making progress is summarised and a novel requirement proposed for human-like philosophical robots, namely that a single generic design, in addition to meeting many other more familiar requirements, should be capable of developing different and opposed viewpoints regarding philosophical questions about consciousness, and the so-called hard problem. No designs proposed so far come close.

Subjects: 9.4 Philosophical Foundations; 2. Architectures

Submitted: Sep 13, 2007