Nokia Workshop on Machine Consciousness 2008

A personal summary of the
Nokia Workshop on Machine Consciousness 2008

{mosimage} For someone like me, seriously interested in Machine Consciousness, the Nokia Workshop on Machine Consciousness 2008 was definitely the place to be. Celebrated this month in conjunction with the Finnish AI Conference and held in Nokia Research Center in Helsinki, this two-day international workshop brought together the most renowned international experts in this field. Keynote speakers included all the leading researchers in the area, from philosophers to engineers (click here for the list of invited speakers and workshop program), so I found that the mere fact of being in that conference room having the opportunity to listen in person to their views really was a fascinating experience. I am indebted to Dr. Pentti Haikonen, who diligently chaired and hosted the Workshop, for the opportunity to participate in such an interesting event.

Being fairly new to the scientific study of consciousness (I’ve just dedicated the last two years to my research in Machine Consciousness), and having more experience in other classical AI areas, I never had the chance to be involved in a real scientific and rigorous discussion about such a captivating topic as the creation of consciousness in machines. I have been to other Artificial Intelligence conference and forums, but never had the feeling of how real science is done and how the progress in a particular field of knowledge is achieved. Now, after the Nokia Workshop, I can say that I’ve seen how a small scientific community is able to seriously ponder their own principles and openly debate current advances in the sought of a common goal. From my point of view, this atmosphere is something that most of AI researchers have lost, leading current AI research to forget the spirit of GOFAI (Good Old Fashined AI). Participants of the Nokia Workshop were fully aware of the enormous challenges that Strong AI involves, but they have decided to pursue the real big challenge instead of being captured by the narrow vision which predominates in current AI scientific and engineering communitites. 

{mosimage} Two words summarize the character of this workshop: “Big Visions”, this is the title of the proceeding foreword by Pentti Haikonen, but it was also the attitude of many of the workshop participants. While analyzing current contributions and approaches, the controversial question “Could a machine possess mental capacity and awareness that could parallel that of humans?” was seriously debated during the workshop. The contributions covered from philosophical accounts to practical realizations of Machine Consciousness architectures. Significant aspects like synthetic phenomenology, imagination, qualia, formal models, practical applications in robotics, hardware implementations, testing for consciousness, and emotions were addressed by the participants and vividly discussed with many of the attendants.

The presentations and round table discussions revealed that while the philosophical approach to consciousness remains active and controversial, functional approaches and applications are now becoming a reality. Although the experts reckon that vast effort and much more resources are required in this research field, the general feeling was quite positive in terms of the promising future of the Machine Consciousness paradigm. From my perspective, the exceptional ability of this research community to question their own principles, escaping from narrow views, and their enthusiasm for real scientific challenges will produce remarkable results in the short term.

Note from the chair:

Special thanks to Raúl

I want to thank Raúl Arrabales Moreno for his valuable help in the organization and practical matters of the Nokia Workshop on Machine Consciousness. You helped a lot and it was a pleasure to have you here at Nokia Research Center.

Pentti O A Haikonen


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