What makes something sentient? What does it take for an entity to be aware of its own existence and to want to interact with the world of its own accord? Is it a gift from God or hard science? Is it something fundamentally human or animal in nature or is it a simple technological principle based on brain size? There are many models, of course. But, if consciousness is simply a natural product of neural complexity then eventually, in theory, we might build something – a computer or a machine – that was actually big enough to wake up!
Oh, wait …!
The widespread ramblings, which have appeared on this blog over the years, now make a partial contribution to a novel: http://tinyurl.com/VicGroutConscious
Vic Grout’s Conscious is set a year or three into the future. The ‘Internet of Everything’ is making the world a more connected place than ever before. People’s lives are becoming increasingly automated. But something odd is happening … ‘Things’ are beginning to misbehave and no-one can work out why. What starts as an amusing inconvenience quickly becomes very serious indeed!
A ragged bunch of academics, scientists and philosophers are on the case – and may know the answer. But now they have to convince people that their crazy explanation is true. And that’s only the start. Against a backdrop of a world suddenly beginning to fall apart, they’re in a race against time to get someone to do anything about it. And not everyone is on their side!
Both the Shadbolt and Wakeham reports on CS and STEM Graduate Employability have now been published and, as predicted, they largely don’t say what the government was hoping they would.
Both reports point to the need to improve the quality of the data available, greater cooperation between all parties and a closer look at programme accreditation. Nowhere is to be found the university-bashing the reports’ commissioners probably expected. The full text for each report is available from the following links:
Professor Stephen Hawking provoked considerable debate recently by suggesting that we could have more to fear from the nature of capitalism in future than armies of intelligent robots. The response was immediate, robust, deeply personal and entirely predictable.
The basic premise of the discussion was Hawking noting that, if most of the work of a future society was performed by machines, then how we occupied ourselves instead was much more of a social, political, economic, ethical, demographic, etc. question than it was technological. The rebuttal was essentially:
- That’s silly: the old jobs will be replaced by new ones,
- Please don’t say nasty things about capitalism,
- Scientists should stick to science.
So how much of this criticism was justified and how much of it was simply The Establishment closing ranks?