Conscious Machines: Memory, Melody and Muscular Imagination

Susan Stuart

At first glance the question, Will conscious machines perform better than unconscious' machines?, seems innocuous or, at least, to elicit a straightforward positive response, but it also prompts the question, Perform what?. If the aim is to produce a machine that will perform as a human being or other phenomenally conscious agent in an intersubjectively-demanding social and moral environment, then there can be little doubt that a conscious machine would out-perform an 'unconscious' machine. But there are also circumstances in which a conscious, empathetic, decision-making, risk-taking agent would be a distinct disadvantage; I will allude to circumstances of this kind only briefly towards the end of this paper. Following on from Damasio's [1991, 1994, 1999, 2003] claims for the necessity of pre-reflective conscious, emotional, bodily responses for the development of an organism's core and extended consciousness, I will argue that without these capacities any agent would be significantly less likely to make effective decisions and survive. Moreover, I will argue that machine phenomenology is only possible within a distributed system that possesses a subtle musculature and a nervous system such that it can, through action and repetition, develop its kinaesthetic memory, individual kinaesthetic melodies, and an enactive kinaesthetic imagination. Without these capacities a potentially conscious machine would remain unconscious. It would be without the necessary nuanced somatosensory awareness of its active engagement, even if that action is to some extent goal-directed, and would be incapable of developing the sorts of somatic markers or saliency tags that enable affective reactions, and which are indispensable for effective decision-making.

Subjects: 9.4 Philosophical Foundations.

Submitted: Sep 7, 2007