Paul's Here

Imagination vs. Reality

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So, if I might narrow the question, What is the moral/psychological fascination with creating an artificial, volitionally conscious man?

I think the main one is learning more about how volitional consciousness works in the process of building such a creature whether you succeeded in doing it or not.

Another reason is the same reason people who cannot have children adopt a child. They want to help a conceptual consciousness grow and develop with the understanding that the child will be volitional and may not provide any other reward other than engaging in the process of its care and education. They might find an artificial "child" especially challenging. If, in addition, the "child" were engineered to not have some of the physical weaknesses and limitations that human beings have, they might have the satisfaction of knowing the lessons they taught might benefit the human race for longer than if they raised a human child.

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To use your flight example: All beings capable of flight are based on carbon in certain chemical forms, yet man-made flying machines are not based on those forms even though they are based on the principles of lift and thrust.

But organic chemicals are not the basis for flight whereas it is the basis for life as we know it. You are equating actions of entities (flight) with the entities themselves.

Not quite. The actions of consciousness are the actions I refer to.

But consciousness is an action: it is awareness of reality, a process resulting from the properties of the brain (although not reducible to the brain). And the brain consists of chemical elements and compounds that would not function without carbon-based compounds.

There is evidence that non-carbon-based entities can fly, walk, make sounds, etc. There is none that they can be alive.

But, there is evidence that man-made entities can be alive. Using the definition of "life" as "a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action", then to build a man-made living thing, requires implementing certain things, such as, as you state, respiration and digestion. These are mechanical processes which could be implemented using other means than lungs or a stomach. Man-made devices have replicated some of the functions of biological organs, such as artificial hearts, using non-organic material, which is strong evidence that any of the body's functions could be replicated with sufficient technology with a wide array of materials.

But the implementation of those things, such as artificial organs, only serves its purpose when the organism is already alive. There is no technology that will implement respiration, digestion, etc. and then we have a living being. If that's all it took, then we could dig up a corpse and implement those processes and we'd have a created a living being.

Please, show me a man-made (artificial) entity (not children) that is or can be alive.

Where is the evidence that certain functions of living things rely on certain chemical elements and that there is no possible replacement? I don't consider the results of evolution to be such evidence, because the processes of evolution are far more limited than the processes of the development of technology using man's conceptual faculty. That evolution did not produce a certain result is not evidence that man cannot do it. It's the only evidence there is, and it doesn't support the claim!

Was I referring to "functions" or to the living being?

I did not say that the evidence supports the claim that man cannot do it. I said it was evidence that there is no other evidence that man could do it. If you think that man can create life, let alone consciousness, from material for which no entity exists is alive, then please offer some evidence for your claim that it is possible. I stated that if man wants to create life and consciousness, I'd have some expectation of success if he were to begin with material that we do know actually supports life and consciousness.

The non-progress in the AI field is not because researchers are using computers instead of carbon-based components--it's because they hold the wrong ideas. Dispensing with the idea that the mind is reducible to computation, or that mimicking certain "abilities" of man like recognizing faces or playing chess is a significant achievement on the direct road to creating a conceptual intelligence (even though computer programs to do these things work nothing like the human mind does such things), would be a start.

That may be the case. It is one of the things I was hoping to learn about in this thread. Could you expand upon these wrong ideas?

If "AI" (man-made intelligent entities) is to be developed, it must imitate the way the human mind actually works: that is, re-create the ability to form and process concepts.

Many specific tasks that computer programs have been created to perform that seem "intelligent" can actually be reduced to mathematical algorithms.

For example, computers play chess not by reasoning and intuition, but by numerically analyzing billions of possible sequences of moves. Some computer systems recognize faces without reference to facial body parts at all (though some do), but merely by calculating mathematical properties of the entire image being recognized and that of a database of faces (Eigenface). Although, on further consideration, this isn't as good of an example, as face recognition in humans is primarily based on perception, an automatic (deterministic) process.

Other such tasks, such as robotic navigation of an obstacle course (or real environments like buildings), natural language processing, or control of characters in video games, while imitating human actions which are based on intelligence, are not components of conceptual processing. For a machine to acquire general intelligence in the form of conceptual processing, the fundamentals of concept formation must be implemented.

But concept formation and intelligence are processes that are related to consciousness not to physical systems. No matter what algorithms maybe developed, the machine will not be conscious or alive. I hope we agree on that.

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JeffT, you say above that "Volition...is an emergent property of the brain." How do you define "emergent"? One common meaning which I have found is---that which arises unexpectedly.

I mean that the properties of the mind are not properties of the brain, and that processes in the mind do not resemble processes in the brain. One cannot take a mental act and say "these neurons firing at these times, but not before or after, and not those other neurons, were a part of it". Or, you cannot, using purely physical processes (like a surgical operation), erase certain memories from the mind simply by analysis of parts of the brain.

Contrast this to the operation of a complex computer program, like an operating system. If you drag a window on-screen, even though the actions underlying this are complex, you can exactly isolate the memory and the instructions which are executed which made up that action. You could pause a computer, and an expert, by direct analysis of the contents of memory, could remove a running program without affecting other running programs (provided they did not have a direct dependency).

I did not say that the evidence supports the claim that man cannot do it. I said it was evidence that there is no other evidence that man could do it. If you think that man can create life, let alone consciousness, from material for which no entity exists is alive, then please offer some evidence for your claim that it is possible. I stated that if man wants to create life and consciousness, I'd have some expectation of success if he were to begin with material that we do know actually supports life and consciousness.

My evidence consists of my primary evidence in favor of, and the lack of evidence against:

My primary evidence for: The process of technology suggests there is no limit on the level of complexity or functionality (within physical laws, available resources, and the available effort) that can be implemented in a man-made machine. Human cognition allows the development of arbitrarily complex devices.

The technology and research is not yet here, so I cannot point to one in existence. I am thinking about what is possible, in the future.

Citing the lack of evidence against:

I don't see any evidence suggesting physical laws forbid creating life with non-carbon-based materials, or man-made materials. I don't see the link between the chemical properties of carbon and carbon-based chemicals and the high-level functions of life that make the former necessary for the latter.

I don't see any evidence suggesting that the resources needed (time, materials, money) and the willingness of people to devote effort to the problem are insurmountable. As technology grows, more can be done with the same number of people.

I have provided evidence for. The strongest evidence against, I would think, if it exists, would be the finding of something unique linking carbon-based chemicals to the processes of life. I already explained why I thought the result of evolution was not conclusive evidence.

No matter what algorithms maybe developed, the machine will not be conscious or alive. I hope we agree on that.

I don't agree on that. Consciousness and life are both processes which could be replicated artificially. If the algorithms define the very functioning of consciousness, then the machine can be conscious. If the machine is made to be capable of self-sustaining, self-generated action, then it can be alive.

Such a machine would have the same characteristics as the mind of a human (or even an animal)--if built on a computer, actions of the computer would not be isolable to certain instructions, because the entirety of the algorithm would make up the consciousness as a whole. Concepts (or percepts) learned by the entity could not be isolated to certain physical fragments of the stored memory.

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[...] The strongest evidence against, I would think, if it exists, would be the finding of something unique linking carbon-based chemicals to the processes of life.

This statement reinforces the title of this thread. Suppose one aims to create a self-sustaining, self-directed silicon organism within the human body for rejuvenation or janitorial purposes. Carbon-based life results in respiration. Silicon-based life results in silicon dioxide production. Unless one can demonstrate some way for heme reoxygenation to occur, the solid waste to be excreted, or anything to maintain silicate viability as an independent organism, one isn't even considering science fiction, but fantasy. There are sufficient threads on the Forum dealing with the nature of consciousness aspects of the posts, so I will only mention that the contemplation of creating life based on atoms other than carbon is dependent only on the number of electrons in the outer shell without consideration of the stability of the formed compounds under various conditions, or the reactivity with such compounds with water, even if one discounts oxygen.

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[...] The strongest evidence against, I would think, if it exists, would be the finding of something unique linking carbon-based chemicals to the processes of life.

This statement reinforces the title of this thread. Suppose one aims to create a self-sustaining, self-directed silicon organism within the human body for rejuvenation or janitorial purposes. Carbon-based life results in respiration. Silicon-based life results in silicon dioxide production. Unless one can demonstrate some way for heme reoxygenation to occur, the solid waste to be excreted, or anything to maintain silicate viability as an independent organism, one isn't even considering science fiction, but fantasy. There are sufficient threads on the Forum dealing with the nature of consciousness aspects of the posts, so I will only mention that the contemplation of creating life based on atoms other than carbon is dependent only on the number of electrons in the outer shell without consideration of the stability of the formed compounds under various conditions, or the reactivity with such compounds with water, even if one discounts oxygen.

Perhaps some combination of silicon carbide and silicon dioxide would create some form of respiration.

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[...] The strongest evidence against, I would think, if it exists, would be the finding of something unique linking carbon-based chemicals to the processes of life.

This statement reinforces the title of this thread. Suppose one aims to create a self-sustaining, self-directed silicon organism within the human body for rejuvenation or janitorial purposes. Carbon-based life results in respiration. Silicon-based life results in silicon dioxide production. Unless one can demonstrate some way for heme reoxygenation to occur, the solid waste to be excreted, or anything to maintain silicate viability as an independent organism, one isn't even considering science fiction, but fantasy. There are sufficient threads on the Forum dealing with the nature of consciousness aspects of the posts, so I will only mention that the contemplation of creating life based on atoms other than carbon is dependent only on the number of electrons in the outer shell without consideration of the stability of the formed compounds under various conditions, or the reactivity with such compounds with water, even if one discounts oxygen.

If I remember correctly, silicon dioxide (sand on the beach) is a waste product of certain organisms.

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If I remember correctly, silicon dioxide (sand on the beach) is a waste product of certain organisms.
It is a waste product after ingestion, but not as a result of biochemical processes utilizing sand.

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If I remember correctly, silicon dioxide (sand on the beach) is a waste product of certain organisms.

A walk on the beach will never feel the same way again. :)

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[...] The strongest evidence against, I would think, if it exists, would be the finding of something unique linking carbon-based chemicals to the processes of life.

Perhaps some combination of silicon carbide and silicon dioxide would create some form of respiration.

I didn't reply earlier to this - such a form of respiration ignores how important chiralty is to self-sustenance. What would be "something unique" is if processes of life could be formed without concern for chiralty, and there is no evidence in the known universe that I am aware of that could support that possibility.

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[...] The strongest evidence against, I would think, if it exists, would be the finding of something unique linking carbon-based chemicals to the processes of life.

Perhaps some combination of silicon carbide and silicon dioxide would create some form of respiration.

I didn't reply earlier to this - such a form of respiration ignores how important chiralty is to self-sustenance. What would be "something unique" is if processes of life could be formed without concern for chiralty, and there is no evidence in the known universe that I am aware of that could support that possibility.

Sorry, but I don't understand the point you are making here. Could you simplify it, please?

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I didn't reply earlier to this - such a form of respiration ignores how important chiralty is to self-sustenance. What would be "something unique" is if processes of life could be formed without concern for chiralty, and there is no evidence in the known universe that I am aware of that could support that possibility.

Sorry, but I don't understand the point you are making here. Could you simplify it, please?

Life only stems from bioactive molecules which have particular orientations, and that is possible with carbon-based molecules. Silicon compounds do not have the same orientation requirement that is necessary for life.

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I didn't reply earlier to this - such a form of respiration ignores how important chiralty is to self-sustenance. What would be "something unique" is if processes of life could be formed without concern for chiralty, and there is no evidence in the known universe that I am aware of that could support that possibility.

Sorry, but I don't understand the point you are making here. Could you simplify it, please?

Life only stems from bioactive molecules which have particular orientations, and that is possible with carbon-based molecules. Silicon compounds do not have the same orientation requirement that is necessary for life.

Can you give an example of how this applies to let's say a protein molecule based upon carbon versus a silicate such as asbestos?

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Can you give an example of how this applies to let's say a protein molecule based upon carbon versus a silicate such as asbestos?
That's too many reaction categories to consider, and we don't have a blackboard. Both C and Si can have four different groups bonded to it, they're both tetrahedral. Imagine C is the centre of a molecular umbrella with 4 spokes where the different groups are attached. If you were to invert the umbrella, the groups are the same ones, but they are in different positions than they were previously and are non-superimposable. Sugars react with groups attached to the C in certain positions only, and amino acids are particular in that respect as well. It is not just the steric interactions between groups or the planes of symmetry that are limiting factors in creating more or more complex compounds that might end up as something self-sustaining. Suppose you kept the C umbrella in its normal position but change the position of two of the groups to each other. That molecule will no longer react in the same way, if at all. Multiply that specificity for as many carbon atoms as you have in any given molecule. Si, without ready pi-bonding, has a difficult time even getting to the stage of a molecule where its lack of life-supporting conformations would be an issue.

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(This was written by ifatart)

is there any scientific basis for holding that a machine or electronic device could be conscious?

As far as I know there isn't. But the way to know for sure is understanding the physical basis of consciousness. Evidence shows that there is something physical in the brain that gives rise to consciousness. Once you know what it is (what is the physical correlate of consciousness) you can know if it can be recreated in machines or not. Suppose the correlate of consciousness is a certain pattern of electrical activity. then it could be recreated in a machine as well. But in my opinion, electricity is not the full answer. I don't think machines can ever be conscious (just imitate human behavior and analysis). Consciousness seems to be unique to something in a nervous system.

I actually changed my mind completely on this topic. I used to think that no doubt, if a machine can be designed to process information like a human, learn etc' (which is possible IMO), then of course, it can also be conscious. But information processing and awareness are two different things.

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is there any scientific basis for holding that a machine or electronic device could be conscious?

As far as I know there isn't. But the way to know for sure is understanding the physical basis of consciousness. Evidence shows that there is something physical in the brain that gives rise to consciousness. Once you know what it is (what is the physical correlate of consciousness) you can know if it can be recreated in machines or not. Suppose the correlate of consciousness is a certain pattern of electrical activity. then it could be recreated in a machine as well. But in my opinion, electricity is not the full answer. I don't think machines can ever be conscious (just imitate human behavior and analysis). Consciousness seems to be unique to something in a nervous system.

I actually changed my mind completely on this topic. I used to think that no doubt, if a machine can be designed to process information like a human, learn etc' (which is possible IMO), then of course, it can also be conscious. But information processing and awareness are two different things.

But consciousness is not just the physical factors that give rise to it. Consciousness is, contextually, an action and an attribute, and it is purposive in that only living organism have the attribute because it is required for the organism's survival. Creating the electrical-chemical conditions in an inanimate object would not make it conscious. If one could create a living organism and then infuse it with the electro-chemical processes of consciousness, then one would have a basis for arguing the possibility of creating consciousness in an entity that doesn't have it. But, in my opinion, consciousness in robots or androids is pure science fiction or imagination with no basis in scientific reality.

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is there any scientific basis for holding that a machine or electronic device could be conscious?

As far as I know there isn't. But the way to know for sure is understanding the physical basis of consciousness. Evidence shows that there is something physical in the brain that gives rise to consciousness. Once you know what it is (what is the physical correlate of consciousness) you can know if it can be recreated in machines or not. Suppose the correlate of consciousness is a certain pattern of electrical activity. then it could be recreated in a machine as well. But in my opinion, electricity is not the full answer. I don't think machines can ever be conscious (just imitate human behavior and analysis). Consciousness seems to be unique to something in a nervous system.

I actually changed my mind completely on this topic. I used to think that no doubt, if a machine can be designed to process information like a human, learn etc' (which is possible IMO), then of course, it can also be conscious. But information processing and awareness are two different things.

But consciousness is not just the physical factors that give rise to it. Consciousness is, contextually, an action and an attribute, and it is purposive in that only living organism have the attribute because it is required for the organism's survival. Creating the electrical-chemical conditions in an inanimate object would not make it conscious. If one could create a living organism and then infuse it with the electro-chemical processes of consciousness, then one would have a basis for arguing the possibility of creating consciousness in an entity that doesn't have it. But, in my opinion, consciousness in robots or androids is pure science fiction or imagination with no basis in scientific reality.

If one defines consciousness as awareness, I see no reason to doubt that a machine with that property could be created. Some arrangement of existence gives rise to consciousness, and I am not about to claim that man can never duplicate it.

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If one defines consciousness as awareness, I see no reason to doubt that a machine with that property could be created. Some arrangement of existence gives rise to consciousness, and I am not about to claim that man can never duplicate it.

I assume by "Some arrangement of existence" you mean some arrangement or system of physical entities such as particles or fields.

Is this correct?

ruveyn

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is there any scientific basis for holding that a machine or electronic device could be conscious?

As far as I know there isn't. But the way to know for sure is understanding the physical basis of consciousness. Evidence shows that there is something physical in the brain that gives rise to consciousness. Once you know what it is (what is the physical correlate of consciousness) you can know if it can be recreated in machines or not. Suppose the correlate of consciousness is a certain pattern of electrical activity. then it could be recreated in a machine as well. But in my opinion, electricity is not the full answer. I don't think machines can ever be conscious (just imitate human behavior and analysis). Consciousness seems to be unique to something in a nervous system.

I actually changed my mind completely on this topic. I used to think that no doubt, if a machine can be designed to process information like a human, learn etc' (which is possible IMO), then of course, it can also be conscious. But information processing and awareness are two different things.

But consciousness is not just the physical factors that give rise to it. Consciousness is, contextually, an action and an attribute, and it is purposive in that only living organism have the attribute because it is required for the organism's survival. Creating the electrical-chemical conditions in an inanimate object would not make it conscious. If one could create a living organism and then infuse it with the electro-chemical processes of consciousness, then one would have a basis for arguing the possibility of creating consciousness in an entity that doesn't have it. But, in my opinion, consciousness in robots or androids is pure science fiction or imagination with no basis in scientific reality.

If one defines consciousness as awareness, I see no reason to doubt that a machine with that property could be created. Some arrangement of existence gives rise to consciousness, and I am not about to claim that man can never duplicate it.

Where did I say it could never be duplicated? I'm just arguing that the identity of the entity will determine whether it is possible to create consciousness in it. And life is an attribute of the identity of conscious entities.

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If one defines consciousness as awareness, I see no reason to doubt that a machine with that property could be created. Some arrangement of existence gives rise to consciousness, and I am not about to claim that man can never duplicate it.

One more point. If your claim is that it is simply a matter of man's ability to create conditions of existence that make consciousness possible, then if it is possible to make a machine conscious, then it should be just as possible to make a rock conscious or create conceptual awareness in goldfish.

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If one defines consciousness as awareness, I see no reason to doubt that a machine with that property could be created. Some arrangement of existence gives rise to consciousness, and I am not about to claim that man can never duplicate it.

One more point. If your claim is that it is simply a matter of man's ability to create conditions of existence that make consciousness possible, then if it is possible to make a machine conscious, then it should be just as possible to make a rock conscious or create conceptual awareness in goldfish.

I don't see where you get this from. The arrangement of machines differs. Just because one can put matter into a form that results in a car, doesn't mean all arrangements he makes results in transport. A rock is not suitable for transport, or consciousness. A rock is not medical equipment, but medical equipment can be created. Whatever form a conscious machine takes, it is not going to be a rock either. Of course it's identity is what will determine whether it is conscious or not, who argues otherwise? The point is, what facts do you have to rule out artificial consciousness? Note that I don't claim to know facts either way, only that I don't think anyone does at the moment.

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I assume by "Some arrangement of existence" you mean some arrangement or system of physical entities such as particles or fields.

Is this correct?

What else is there? And aren't fields attributes of physical entities?

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If one defines consciousness as awareness, I see no reason to doubt that a machine with that property could be created. Some arrangement of existence gives rise to consciousness, and I am not about to claim that man can never duplicate it.

One more point. If your claim is that it is simply a matter of man's ability to create conditions of existence that make consciousness possible, then if it is possible to make a machine conscious, then it should be just as possible to make a rock conscious or create conceptual awareness in goldfish.

I don't see where you get this from. The arrangement of machines differs. Just because one can put matter into a form that results in a car, doesn't mean all arrangements he makes results in transport. A rock is not suitable for transport, or consciousness. A rock is not medical equipment, but medical equipment can be created. Whatever form a conscious machine takes, it is not going to be a rock either. Of course it's identity is what will determine whether it is conscious or not, who argues otherwise? The point is, what facts do you have to rule out artificial consciousness? Note that I don't claim to know facts either way, only that I don't think anyone does at the moment.

I don't need to have facts to rule out aritifical consciousness. Those who assert the possiblity must provide the evidence that it is possible (of which I have seen none but some sci-fi fantasy and assertions). What I am saying is that the nature of consciousness, as I understand it, does not support it being created in a non-living, non-self-generated-goal-directed being.

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I assume by "Some arrangement of existence" you mean some arrangement or system of physical entities such as particles or fields.

Is this correct?

What else is there? And aren't fields attributes of physical entities?

Their are dualists who claim the existence of non-physical entities.

There is a school of thought that holds fields exist as entities as much as particles do. They claim that in the neighborhood of a charged particle (say) the electric field exists even in the absence of nearby charged particles on which the field acts. Then there are those for whom a field is a convenient mathematical abstraction. They hold that only the interaction (at a distance) between charged particles is real. Wilheim Weber's theory of electromagnetism was based on this assumption.

ruveyn

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I assume by "Some arrangement of existence" you mean some arrangement or system of physical entities such as particles or fields.

Is this correct?

What else is there? And aren't fields attributes of physical entities?

Their are dualists who claim the existence of non-physical entities.

There is a school of thought that holds fields exist as entities as much as particles do. They claim that in the neighborhood of a charged particle (say) the electric field exists even in the absence of nearby charged particles on which the field acts. Then there are those for whom a field is a convenient mathematical abstraction. They hold that only the interaction (at a distance) between charged particles is real. Wilheim Weber's theory of electromagnetism was based on this assumption.

And Faraday's interpretation of the fields won in the end! (The fields are real)

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If one defines consciousness as awareness, I see no reason to doubt that a machine with that property could be created. Some arrangement of existence gives rise to consciousness, and I am not about to claim that man can never duplicate it.

One more point. If your claim is that it is simply a matter of man's ability to create conditions of existence that make consciousness possible, then if it is possible to make a machine conscious, then it should be just as possible to make a rock conscious or create conceptual awareness in goldfish.

I don't see where you get this from. The arrangement of machines differs. Just because one can put matter into a form that results in a car, doesn't mean all arrangements he makes results in transport. A rock is not suitable for transport, or consciousness. A rock is not medical equipment, but medical equipment can be created. Whatever form a conscious machine takes, it is not going to be a rock either. Of course it's identity is what will determine whether it is conscious or not, who argues otherwise? The point is, what facts do you have to rule out artificial consciousness? Note that I don't claim to know facts either way, only that I don't think anyone does at the moment.

I don't need to have facts to rule out aritifical consciousness. Those who assert the possiblity must provide the evidence that it is possible (of which I have seen none but some sci-fi fantasy and assertions). What I am saying is that the nature of consciousness, as I understand it, does not support it being created in a non-living, non-self-generated-goal-directed being.

I am not asserting the possibility. I am saying that I have seen no reason given to rule it out. There is a difference between saying something is possible, and not knowing if it is possible. You are the one making a positive claim and thus need to present the facts it is based on. My position is that no one has presented facts that rule out (or in) the possibility, and I am not about to claim I have them.

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