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How will we know if AI becomes conscious?
Researchers are now studying whether conscious AIs are in our near-term future.
Conscious AI models have been the stuff of science fiction for decades. But with the emergence of AI large language models such as ChatGPT and Google Bard, researchers are now studying whether conscious AIs are in our near-term future.
So when will we know if artificial intelligence reaches consciousness? According to an article by Melissa Heikkilä for MIT Technology Review, proving when AI becomes conscious will be a difficult task.
Knowing when or if AI can grasps certain concepts such as dreaming or self identification is challenging because we can’t use the same methods we use to understand human consciousness—the brain.
It’s not like we can just ask the machines if they’re conscious. We have to remember that AI models are being trained using millions or even billions of different data sources, so while it may at times seem conscious, it’s just responding to it’s training.
Sarah Hooker, director of the nonprofit research center Cohere for AI tells The Wall Street Journal that what some think is reasoning by AI models is actually just things they’ve memorized. “This could explain the fact that as these models grow bigger, they gain new capabilities—not because teaching them language gives them the ability to reason,” she says.
So of course researchers are attempting to determine whether AI can, or already has, become conscious. As Heikkilä notes, we must show that AI models can grasp certain concepts that typically only humans do.
There have even been attempts to create tests for AI consciousness. Susan Schneider, director of the Center for the Future Mind at Florida Atlantic University, and Princeton physicist Edwin Turner have developed one, which requires an AI agent to be isolated from any information about consciousness it could’ve picked up during its training before it’s tested. This step is important so that it can’t just parrot human statements it’s picked up about consciousness during training, as a large language model would.
The tester then asks the AI questions it should only be able to answer if it is itself conscious. Can it understand the plot of the movie Freaky Friday, where a mother and daughter switch bodies, their consciousnesses dissociated from their physical selves? Can it grasp the concept of dreaming—or even report dreaming itself? Can it conceive of reincarnation or an afterlife?
So far, researchers have yet to determine if AI models have the potential for consciousness.
“None of today’s systems tick any boxes, and it’s unclear if they ever will,” writes Heikkilä. “Until we know more about exactly how and why these systems come to the conclusions they do, it’s hard to say that the models' outcomes are not just fancy math.”
Mastodon is the social network to use
I was giddy when I read 404 Media’s post about why Mastodon is “the good one.” Why was I giddy, you might ask? Because I already know this to be true and I was excited someone else acknowledged it.
I joined Mastodon back in April and slowly began using the platform. But in August, I deleted all of my other social media accounts and committed fully to Mastodon. I knew it was the right decision!
And now Jason Koebler at 404 Media confirms that Mastodon is the best platform for social.
I didn’t join Mastodon until after we launched 404 Media. I joined, frankly, because lots of people told me that we should. Mastodon had been decried by many (me, previously), as a social media platform that is too complicated or weird to sign up for. I had also convinced myself that people on Mastodon would be mad at me if I made jokes, which has (mostly) not been the case.
I’ve now been using it for about two months and I am here to tell you that it is, in principle, what we should want the internet to be. If you have been remotely interested in Mastodon but had reservations about joining because you thought it would be difficult, confusing, or otherwise annoying, it is not.
For those who don’t understand what a decentralized social network like Mastodon is, I explain it by comparing it to cell phone carriers. I doesn’t matter if your carrier is T-Mobile, Verizon, ATT, or some other brand, you can still call and text others no matter what network they’re on.
This is how decentralization works with Mastodon. There’s no single company and anyone can create their own server to host accounts.
This gives you the flexibility to move to a new server and to take your followers and posts with you, as Koebler notes.
If you are at all worried about how complicated Mastodon is or can be, you can ignore this part, join Mastodon.Social, and never think about the rest of this article. Anyways, portability is good and important because, let’s say that hypothetically Mastodon.Social were to be taken over by some maniac billionaire. I could choose to take my account and port it somewhere else, and bring my followers with me. What a concept!
Catch up quick
How social media companies are responding to Israel-Hamas war misinformation. Companies including TikTok, Meta, and X are all responding to misinformation and hate speech. “Meta is tightening security measures amidst an increase in content violating its rules, while TikTok has also committed to stepping up its moderation in the wake of the attacks,” notes The Verge. The European Commission is also pressuring social media companies to prevent the spread of illegal content.
It’s time to ditch your passwords. Google and Apple have begun implementing passkeys, the password alternative that offers a secure login through your fingerprint or other biometric on your smartphone or computer. “The new passkey availability and compatibility mean it’s a good time to set up a few,” writes Nicole Nguyen for The Wall Street Journal. “Passwords—and all their failings—will be here for a while, but the long-term goal is to eliminate them in favor of more secure logins.” Nguyen includes instructions for setting up passkeys and offers advice for your old passwords. And while I’m loving passkeys, there aren’t enough sites using it.