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Machine Consciousness and Free Will An overview Antonio Chella University of Palermo Riccardo Manzotti IULM University (Milan)

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Presentation on theme: "Machine Consciousness and Free Will An overview Antonio Chella University of Palermo Riccardo Manzotti IULM University (Milan)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Machine Consciousness and Free Will An overview Antonio Chella University of Palermo Riccardo Manzotti IULM University (Milan)

2 For a time I thought of the problem of the Freedom of the Will as the most suitable Gordian Knot; but in the end I opted for the Concept of the Mind Gilbert Ryle (1970), “autobiographical” in O.P. Wood and G. Pitchers. Eds. Ryle a Collection of Critical Essays. Garden City, New York, Double Day, Anchor.

3 Outline In human beings, consciousness is undoublty flanked by the feeling of ownerships of actions usually referred to as free will. Is it a contingent link or is it the hallmark of some architectural principle? What is the relation between consciousness and free will? Does a conscious machine have to be endorsed with free will too? Can free will be dismissed – as consciousness once was – when designing an autonomous intelligent agent?

4 Consciousness and free will? If we want to be inspired by biological cognitive systems, all their features have to be considered As it is a fact that human beings are conscious and have phenomenal experience So it is a fact that human beings’ experience as agents is an experience of being free agents. For decades consciousness has been dismissed as an epiphenomenon of no practical consequence. What about free will? Is it just an epiphenomenon?

5 “AI depends on a compatibilist view, but having taken it, there is a lot to be learned about the specific forms of free will that can be designed.” (McCarthy 2000, p. 342)

6 Some (arbitrary)reasons why free will has such a bad reputation! Free will smells of dualism Free will allegedly entails some sort of homunculus Free will assumes temporal atomism Free will entail holism Free will is based on the model of a centralized controller Free will runs afoul of physicalism Free will is incompatible with determinism and physical laws in general –O–Of course, all of the above are true for the traditional notion of free will, which is not necessarely the only one

7 If an autonomous agent has to be conscious And if a conscious agent has to be free It follows that An intelligent agent has to be free? Whatever free will is … Is there some deep connection between consciousness and freedom?

8 “we need not be conscious of our decision-making to be free. What matters is that actions are self-generated. Conscious awareness may help improve behavior, but it does not necessarily do so. Why should an action become free from one moment to the next simply because we reflect upon it?” (Heisenberg 2009, p. 164) Heisenberg, M., Is Free Will an Illusion? Nature, 459,

9 Free will is defined as a conscious version of relative freedom. The resulting notion is logically self- consistent and it describes an observable phenomenon that agrees with our experience. (p. 103) Hájícek, P., Free will as relative freedom with conscious component. Consciousness and cognition, 18(1),

10 Different types of choices Automatic yet sophisticated reaction Self-generated self-conscious deliberation Disinterested arbitrary course

11 The feeling of being free is a special feeling or rather a feeling of a special cognitive state? Either feeling free is an epiphenomenal phenomenal state – namely a particular sensation concocted by our brain but lacking any practical effect Or feeling free is the phenomenal experience corresponding to a particular cognitive state in which choices are taken by means of a certain architecture

12 Men believe themselves to be free, because they are conscious of their own actions and are ignorant of the causes by which they are determined (Spinoza 1664/2009)

13 Some historical background Determinism Vs Indeterminism Compatibilism vs Libertarianism –Compatibilist champion: Daniel Dennett Dennett, D.C., Freedom evolves, London: Penguin Books. Dennett, D.C., Elbow Room. The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting, Cambridge (Mass): MIT Press. –Libertarian champion: Robert Kane

14 Literature available Hájícek, P., Free will as relative freedom with conscious component. Consciousness and cognition, 18(1), Heisenberg, M., Is Free Will an Illusion? Nature, 459, Siong Soon, C. et al., Unconscious determinants of free will in humans. Nature Neuroscience, 11(5), Rosenthal, D.M., Consciousness and its function. Neuropsychologia, 46(3), Haynes, J. & Rees, G., Decoding mental states from brain activity in humans. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 7, Kane, R., A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, New York: Oxford University Press. Libet, B., Can Conscious Experience Affect Brain Activity? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(12), McCarthy, J., Free Will - even for Robots. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 12(3), Mele, A.R., Autonomous agents, New York: Oxford University Press. Dennett, D.C., Elbow Room. The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting, Cambridge (Mass): MIT Press.Ekstrom, Haynes, J. et al., Reading hidden intentions in the human brain. Current Biology, 17(4),

15 Any acceptable explication of free will 1.must entail that free person could have chosen otherwise 2.must explicate the control that free will requires, 3.must explicate the ‘‘sensibleness” or ‘‘rationality” that free will involves Hájícek, P., Free will as relative freedom with conscious component. Consciousness and cognition, 18(1),

16 Free will?IndeterminismDetermism Simplicity NO Complexity* NOMAYBE

17 IndeterminateDeterminate Predictable Classical Statistics Classical mechanics Unpredictable Quantum Mechanis Cognitive Systems Information integration Complexity theory Chaos theory Externalist models

18 No responsability No continuity with the agent’s past Does the cognitive dice belong to the agent? Depending on causal events is it really much better than depending on deterministic cognitive wheels? Why indeterminism is not a good friend of freedom

19 Responsability is conceivable The agent’s past has an obvious role in shaping current actions The agent is driven by its structure Yet what is the agent? Why determinism is not a so bad

20 Yet why determinism is not so good? The only reason why indeterminism has been invoked as a possible is the fact that once you embrace mechanism + reductionism + determinism free will is ruled out According to Kim  All causation is drained by microphysical levels (Kim, J., Mental Causation in a Physical World. Philosophical Issues, 3, ) Micro-reductionism holds both from a temporally and a spatial/substantial perspective Cognitive wheels are not the same as the agent! The parts drain the volitional power from the whole

21 Dennett, D.C., Freedom evolves, London: Penguin Books. First, many thinkers assume that determinism implies inevitability. It doesn’t. Second, many thinks it is obvious that indeterminism – the denial of determinism – would give us agents some freedom, some manoeuvrability, some elbow room, that we just couldn’t have in a deterministic universe. It wouldn’t. Third, It is commonly supposed that in a deterministic world, there are no real options, only apparent options. This is false.

22 We will see – talk about paradox! – how a whole can be more free than its parts. P. 48 Dennett, D.C., Freedom evolves, London: Penguin Books.

23 Temporal atomism and Libet No matter what has happened before (even internally), when the agent chooses, nothing is going to determinate its future outcome. “The initiation of the freely voluntary act appears to begin in the brain unconsciously, well before the person consciously knows he wants to act? Is there, then, any role for conscious will in the performance of a voluntary act?” (Libet 1999, p. 49) p. 231

24 “If we are responsible … then we have a prerogative which some would attribute only to God: each of us, when we act, is a prime mover unmoved. In doing what we do, we cause certain events to happen, and nothing – or no one – causes us to cause those events to happen (Chisholm 1964, p. 32) “If there is indeterminacy in free will, on my view, it must come somewhere between the input and the output” (Kane 1996, p.27) Temporal atomism II

25 A refutation of Temporal Atomism Cognitive processes are clearly extended Philogenetic, ontogenetic and epigenetic factors are clearly influencing our choices. The causes of our cognitive processes and indeed the existence itself of our cognitive processes is rooted in our past How long a cognitive process could be? Instantaneus? Very short? Arbitrary long?

26 Free will and externalism We can try a minimum of formalization. Suppose to have an agent and the events occurring in its surroundings. Events are divisible into three possible categories: that are not causally influent with the agents (for instance, radio-waves for a worm), that are causally processed by the agent but that not alter its causal structure (for instance keystrokes for a laptop), that are going to be embedded in the causal structure of the agent either as representations or as goals (for instance, the first glance at Juliet by Romeo).

27 As to the agent, we suggest it to be a collection of casual relations such that they were introduced in the past by some triggering events. In this way, hard-wired casual relations are put aside – the agent is the result of the individual history.

28 Given the agent A, three possible cases could hold 1.If an event of type 1 occurs, nothing happens 2.If an event of type II occurs, ; in other words, because of the agent A, the event produces some outcome. Yet the causal structure of A remains unaltered. 3.If an event of type III occurs, either one or more new causal relations r k are added to the causal structure of A, or one or more existing causal relation r i are modified, or both.

29 The agent, according to the above definition, is made of what had been gobbled up during its individual history. There are already different ways to estimate the kind of integration and indeed of liveliness of a choice (Tononi’s Information Integration, Aleksander & Gamez’s liveliness) However, instead of considering internal links among computational unit, it could be more fruitful to consider whole causal processes between the agent’s body and its past individual history

30 Conclusions Free will could be a necessary ingredient of an agent Consciousness and free will are probably the result of some underlying architectural structure Free will, wathever it is, is probably implemented in terms of classical deterministic mechanics – it does not entail any fancy physics Machine free will is indeed conceivable (as is carbon implemented free will in biological agents) Free will requires extending in time and space the agent Free will is probably related with some kind of cognitive unification that steps from Clooney-like automatism to Wilder- Like conscious deliberation


32 ROMEO O, I am fortune's fool! (3.1.11) Romeo and Juliet

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