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Running into consciousness

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Lars Kunze.

This talk is part of the "AI and Consciousness" workshop

Abstract: It is proposed that phenomenal consciousness consists at bottom of a special, complex form of the very `running’ of physical processes. Here running is the unified unfolding of a process through time, and is claimed to be an additional quality of physical processes beyond their sheer state trajectories. (It may even be identifiable with time itself.) The type of running needed for phenomenal consciousness is reflexive in physically affecting and responding to itself. More intuitively, running is essentially the flow of causation, and the self-affecting/responding is a matter of causation bearing a causal relationship to itself: that is, causation can itself have causal power (so there is meta-causation), and furthermore be in a sense reflexive in this (an instance of causation can be at least partially self-causing). This is, however, only an intuitive characterization, as the author is sceptical of the physical reality of causation as such. The proposal is neutral as to whether a conscious process occurs in a natural organism, in a physically implemented computational system, or in some other physical substrate, as long as the substrate involves the special reflexively-acting runningness. The proposal secondarily but naturally leads to the suggestion (made in various forms by others) that one or more temporal qualia are the most fundamental qualia, with others derivatively arising. However, the nature of this arising remains murky. The proposal shares certain important qualities with others of contemporary interest, such as those that emphasize peripheral inner awareness the core of consciousness, those that emphasize pre-reflective, non-conceptual self-consciousness, those that centre on some especially intimate form of self-representing (using representing in a broad sense), and those that champion an ur-quale [Perlis 1997] as the basis of other qualia. More broadly, the talk’s proposal is locatable as an instance of Process Philosophy.

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Host: Prof. John Barnden

This talk is part of the Artificial Intelligence and Natural Computation seminars series.

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