The future of the mind: Exploring machine consciousness

What if consciousness is just a blip in the universe, a momentary flowering of experience that is unique to life in early technological civilizations—but eventually vanishes?

  • The hard problem of consciousness, as coined by the philosopher David Chalmers, asks: Why must we be conscious? Given that the brain is an information processing engine, why does it need to feel like anything to be us?
  • The problem of AI consciousness is equally complicated. We know humans are conscious, but when it comes to AI, the question is: Could the AIs that we humans develop be conscious beings? Could it feel like something to be them? And how could we possibly know for sure, short of them telling us?
  • How might superintelligence render consciousness extinct? Over 6 chapters in this video, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider explores the philosophical problems that underlie the development of AI and the nature of conscious minds.
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Meet 5-MeO-DMT, the 'powerful' psychedelic that improves depression in one hour

A newly studied hallucinogenic substance has shown signs of treating mental health conditions more efficiently than psilocybin.

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  • A survey study found that around 80 percent of people using the psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT in a ceremonial setting said that their depression or anxiety improved following its use.
  • The "mystical" experience of drug trip might allow people to gain unique insight into themselves or their relationships and make positive life changes.
  • While substance is found in the poison of the Sonoran Desert Toad, researchers say there is no reason to disturb the toad because the synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT is identical in its effect.
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Conscious machines: How will we test artificial intelligence for feeling?

A review of the multifaceted questions we'll ask to determine whether robots have a felt quality of experience — an "inner feel."

  • The reason we entertain thought experiments such as reincarnation and an afterlife is because we're sentient beings. These concepts are innate to our experiences as conscious human beings.
  • The ACT test probes A.I. to examines whether it can grasp these questions — i.e., the mind existing separately from the body, or the system without the computer. If so, then there's reason to believe it's a conscious being.
  • For machines to develop consciousness, they will need to have the right architectural features. For instance, for humans we possess a working memory, attention, and brain stems — all of which serve as the neural basis of our conscious experience. If there is a machine analog to these things, then it may suggest that the machines are conscious as well.
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Michio Kaku: Feedback loops are creating consciousness

Our ability to make predictions about the future distinguishes our level of consciousness.

  • One of the great questions in all of science is where consciousness comes from.
  • When it comes to consciousness, Kaku believes different species have different levels of consciousness, based on their feedback loops needed to survive in space, society, and time.
  • According to the theoretical physicist, human beings' ability to use past experiences, memories, to predict the future makes us distinct among animals — and even robots (they're currently unable to understand, or operate within, a social hierarchy).
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Detecting patients’ pain levels via their brain signals

The system could help with diagnosing and treating patients that cannot communicate.

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Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have developed a system that measures a patient's pain level by analyzing brain activity from a portable neuroimaging device.

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