7th March 2005 – Can Machines Imagine?

Can machines imagine? Not just think – can they be conscious?


In this session we were joined by one the foremost researchers into electronic consciousness who very kindly came up from Imperial College London to lead our discussion, Emeritus Professor Igor Aleksander.

Professor Aleksander is also researching an electronic version of the mammalian visual system using neural networks. His book “Impossible Minds” outlines his ideas for building a “conscious” machine.

Can only humans be conscious? What about dogs? Insects? Bacteria? Robots? Silicon chips?

Five underlying principles required for consciousness were discussed, together with questions like “conscious of what?”, “how would you know it was conscious?”, “what about ‘feelings’?”, what about ‘qualia’ e.g. the experience of ‘redness’ or ‘greenness’?”.

The session was probably our best discussion yet, with a lot of wide ranging views expressed.

Prof Aleksander’s new book – “The World in my Mind, My Mind in the World” will be published in April 2005.

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