In the cognitive sciences, it is "a shared and empirically supported belief that humans are the only
creatures to have developed, in addition to primary consciousness" (which they share with other
animal species), “a more developed form of the same, a higher-order consciousness, that is, the
consciousness of being conscious". This would be formed, "thanks to the neural connections
produced by organised language and the linguistic symbols developed in social interactions"
(Gerald Edelman). Consciousness thus arose as an epiphenomenon of language, a distinctive
feature of the human species.
Questioning human self-awareness means exploring physiological, perceptual and, at the same
time, immaterial, spiritual meanders. In this journey of knowledge, we use not only of the concepts
and skills acquired in the course of the reflections that unite human beings in so many different
cultures, but also of the research techniques developed in scientific fields such as psychiatry and
neuroradiology, with sophisticated research instruments that allow increasingly precise functional
magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.
Moreover, to delve into the mystery of human self-awareness is to explore the most sensitive point
of contact in the relationship between man and machine.
Recent developments in conversational AI have quickly brought the debate back to the centrality
of language in the creation and use of knowledge and its links to consciousness. The question will
soon be whether, as part of the paradigm of machine simulation of human thought (cognitive
computing), it is precisely the development of artificial language models that might in the future
give rise to a sentient AI (artificial sentience) with consciousness and self-awareness (artificial
consciousness - AC). The emergence of such a scenario would not only lead to a “strong AI”, but
also to the potential realisation of artificial life (Artificial Life, Alife, A-Life).
Meeting moderated by David Orban.
An event to follow in live streaming & VR mode with the SingularityU Milan web application