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What It Will Take For Computers to Be Conscious


Christof Koch.

After years studying and writing about the nature of consciousness, Christof Koch was it is possible people will some day create conscious machines, but they may not appear as expected.

Credit: Christof Koch

Christof Koch has spent years studying and writing about the nature of consciousness and now serves as chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, which wants to map the mammalian brain in an effort analogous to the Human Genome Project. Koch says it is possible people will some day create conscious machines, but they may not look as expected.

In particular, Koch pushes back against the notion that all it will take to create artificial consciousness will be a complete software simulation of the human brain. Koch says consciousness is a physical property of matter that likely emerges through a process relying on a structure capable of both storing information and having a critical density of interconnections. In the same way a software simulation of a storm cannot ever be "wet," Koch says a software-only simulation of the human brain would not be conscious.

However, he says it is possible human beings could create computer hardware that could achieve consciousness, although it would take technology radically different and more complex than the transistors that underlie current computers. He also says determining that consciousness will be difficult, requiring something more rigorous than the Turing Test.

From Technology Review
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