Coyote. A Tale of Unexpected Consequences

Coyote. A Tale of Unexpected Consequences. An intelligent robot coyote longs to be free…
Elisabeth Rhett Woods
Ekstasis Editions, Sep. 2011. 
This science fiction novel is not about consciousness, but one of the most remarkable problems intimately related with it: free will. Written by the poet and writer Elisabeth Rhett Woods, the book uses a close and non technical language, flavored with some poetry, appealing to anyone interested in the subjects of AI and free will. No special knowledge is required to enjoy this story about life, where you, as a human being or as an intelligent sentient machine, can easily identify your fears, wishes and dreams with those of the characters. 
The story is based on the development of a new intelligent robot coyote who longs to be free. Wealthy poet, Zoe Neville, decides to make, with the help of friends, both a robot coyote and a film about this robot coyote being used to smuggle a small quantity of marijuana into the United States in a private protest against the invasive spy equipment the U.S. has set up along the border with Canada. Setting the main plot aside, the actual purpose of this work is to explores the development of consciousness, self and personhood, friendship between women and men, freedom, and what it means in practice to be free.


Vol. 1 of the World Scientific Series on Machine Consciousness
Aristotles Laptop
The Discovery of our Informational Mind
by Igor Aleksander (Imperial College London, UK) & Helen Morton (Imperial College London, UK)

Aristotle’s convincing philosophy is likely to have shaped (even indirectly) many of our current beliefs, prejudices and attitudes to life. This includes the way in which our mind (that is, our capacity to have private thoughts) appears to elude a scientific description. This book is about a scientific ingredient that was not available to Aristotle: the science of information. Would the course of the philosophy of the mind have been different had Aristotle pronounced that the matter of mind was information? This “mind is information” assertion is often heard in contemporary debates, and this book explores the verities and falsehoods of this proposition.

Information: The New Kid on the Block
Shannon (1916–2001)
Little Boxes that Reason and Learn
Networks with Internal States
Information Integration: The Measure of Consciousness
Automata and Information Integration
The Philosophy of Information
The Structure of the Informational Mind
Language and Information
The Secret State: Freud and Automata
Detractors and Open Minds
Conclusion: Aristotle’s Laptop

Readership: Philosophers, scientists and those interested in consciousness and machine consciousness; readers of multidisciplinary books on machine analyses of consciousness.



World Scientific
Series on Machine Consciousness – Vol. 2

by Pentti O.A. Haikonen

Available now for pre-order at World Scientific and Amazon!

Robots are becoming more human, but could they also become sentient and have human-like consciousness?

What is consciousness, exactly?

It is a fact that our thoughts and consciousness are based on the neural activity of the brain. It is also a fact that we do not perceive our brain activity as it really is — patterns of neural firings. Instead, we perceive our sensations and thoughts apparently as they are. What kind of condition would transform the neural activity into this kind of internal appearance? This is the basic problem of consciousness.

The author proposes an explanation that also provides preconditions for true conscious cognition — the requirement of a direct perceptive system with inherent sub-symbolic and symbolic information processing. Associative neural information processing with distributed signal representations is introduced as a method that satisfies these requirements.

Conscious robot cognition also calls for information integration and sensorimotor integration. This requirement is satisfied by the Haikonen Cognitive Architecture (HCA).

This book demystifies both the enigmatic philosophical issues of consciousness and the practical engineering issues of conscious robots by presenting them in an easy-to-understand manner for the benefit of students, researchers, philosophers and engineers in the field.


The Real Problem of Consciousness
Consciousness and Subjective Experience
Perception and Qualia
From Perception to Consciousness
Emotions and Consciousness
Inner Speech and Consciousness
Qualia and Machine Consciousness
Testing Consciousness
Artificial Conscious Cognition
Associative Information Processing
Neural Realization of Associative Processing
Designing a Cognitive Perception System
Examples of Perception/Response Feedback Loops
The Transition to Symbolic Processing
Information Integration with Multiple Modules
Emotional Significance of Percepts
The Outline of the Haikonen Cognitive Architecture (HCA)
Mind Reading Applications
The Comparison of Some Cognitive Architectures
Example: An Experimental Robot with the HCA
Concluding Notes; Consciousness Explained

Readership: Enthusiasts in cognitive robot research (including not only experts but also hobbyists), as well as university students, researchers and engineers on robots and/or cognitive machines.

250pp (approx.)    Pub. date: Jun 2012
ISBN:   978-981-4407-15-1

Available now for pre-order at World Scientific and Amazon.

Book Review: Robot Brains

Robot Brains: Circuits and Systems for Conscious Machines

By Pentty Haikonen
Wiley. September 2007.
ISBN: 978-0-470-06204-3

The first thing that I would like to say about this book is that this is one of the few cases in which the exiting title of the book is not just a catchy slogan that has little to do with the real content. I must admit that when I read for the first time such an amazing title I never thought about really finding inside real circuit designs for conscious machines. However, after having read the entire book (I had had a look to some chapters earlier but never had the time to go through it from the first page to the last) there is no way I can deny that this book is really providing a design of a possible conscious machine. Of course, this claim has to be put in context. In one hand, the term conscious machine does not necessarily refer to human-like machines; on the other hand, there would not be enough space in one book to describe in deep details such a complex machine. So what we have here is a rather complete description of the Haikonen cognitive architecture for conscious machines, alongside with a proposal for its implementation using uncomplicated circuits.

Another point that I inferred from the title of the book is that you really need advanced knowledge of electronics and analog and digital circuit design in order to understand author’s proposals. Again, I was wrong, as anyone with basic notions of electronics can understand the circuits and schemes described in the book. It is amazing how some cognitive processes that are presumed quite complex to imitate in artificial machinery are addressed with fairly simple designs.

In conclusion, I think this book is a must for anyone interested in the branch of Machine Consciousness or Strong AI in general. The Haikonen cognitive architecture provides many fascinating ideas for currently challenging issues like artificial emotions, imagination, and language understanding and production. There is only one thing I miss about this book: a real implementation of the proposed architecture in a physical robot. But I guess that would require a big budget.

The soul is in the brain

(El alma está en el cerebro – Spanish Edition)
Written by Eduardo Punset
Publisher: Aguilar, 2006, Madrid.
344 pages.
ISBN: 84-03-09737-9

Rather than a book on Consciousness, this is a popular science book about neuroscience. The phenomenon of consciousness is not really discussed in any deep detail, but other related aspects like emotions and other human cognitive abilities are described from the point of view of neuroscience. This is definitively a book for anyone interested in the field but not expecting any exhaustive explanation. In fact, I would recommend this book to the reader without hardly any background on neuroscience, as a smooth introduction into the science of the brain. However, this would likely be too popular science and too boring for anyone else with a background on neuroscience and looking for a treaty on any of the topics that seems to be suggested by the book title.

The book is based on a number of interviews with renowned international scientists, like Antonio Damasio and Oliver Sacks, so it is also helpful in discovering who are some of the most famous and leading scientists in some areas of neuroscience and what their main ideas are (again, without in depth details).


Book Review: Calculating God

Calculating God

By Robert J. Sawyer
Tor Science Fiction. 2001
English. 352 pages.
ISBN: 0812580354

First of all, let me explain why I am posting a science fiction novel review to For those of you who are familiar with this website, you know CR is a strictly academic and scientific site, so there is usually no room (actually, no time) for other aspects related to consciousness and Machine Consciousness, like Sci-Fi or aesthetics. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the only examples we currently know of fully developed Machine Consciousness implementations are those created by science fiction writers. Actually, we should admit that they constitute a great source of inspiration for some scientific research projects. At least, that is my case. Of course, the flow of inspiration is bidirectional, and I think also science fiction writers are also inspired by current advances in AI.

Many Sci-Fi works are important from the point of view of Machine Consciousness, consider for instance the robotics laws proposed by Asimov. Calculating God is relevant to this field because the origin of intelligence and consciousness is analyzed and discussed from opposing points of view:  Creationism and Darwinism. The key point of the book’s debate is the fact that these two views are not as different as they might appear. God could be not only the creator of this universe as the designer of the fundamental physical constants which appeared with the Big Bang, but also interact with it directly in order to drive evolution in his desired direction. This is the believe of Hollus, an alien from Beta Hydri III who has come to Earth in a scientific mission to discover why several mass extinctions have occurred simultaneously in three different worlds. Hollus will work together with Tom Jericho, a human paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in order to find an answer.

The book is centered on the continuous discussion between Hollus and Tom about creationism, Darwinism, evolution, and God. Furthermore, the protagonists end up considering the possibility of uploading minds to computers, and how that capability could have affected already other civilizations. A good point about the book is that all these scientific and philosophical topics are described without unnecessary technical terns or unreadable musing. On the contrary, the book is quite readable for anyone and easy to understand independently of your academic background.

The arguments covered in the book are well related to the field of Machine Consciousness, as the possibility of transferring consciousness from a human to a machine is one of the open questions. I consider this book a quite enjoyable way to get an introduction to the implications of the creation of conscious machines. We (scientists) are very prone to forget about implications while working on a project, but that’s something to be carefully taken into account.



Book Review: Brainmakers

BRAINMAKERS: How scientists are moving beyond computers to create a rival to the human brain.

By David H. Freeman.
Touchstone. 1995.
224 pages. English.
ISBN: 067151055X

This is a somewhat old book that I found some time ago in a small book store (in fact, what I found was the Spanish translation “Los Hacedores de Cerebros“, which is the one that I have actually read). Although almost 15 years have passed since this book was edited, I found it really interesting for those who want to start with an easy introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Consciousness.

Even though the book is not specifically dedicated to the field of Machine Consciousness, the last chapter is devoted to this issue, and strong AI arguments are discussed. Hence, I think this book is a very neat entry point for someone who wants to get introduced both to AI and finally Machine Consciousness. The good think is that this is not just a descriptive book; instead it covers the bio-inspired approaches to AI through historical review, which I think is nice because it provides the reader with the required background to really understand the big problems behind current scientific advances in the field.

The book should not be taken as a comprehensive review of AI approaches and advances. In fact, it is quite focused in bio-inspired approaches, being Artificial Neural Networks, Semi-artificial Neural Networks, and Evolutionary Computation the main focus of the book. Other paradigms, like Cellular Automata and Swarm Computing are also briefly discussed, but many other AI approaches are simply ignored.

In sum, this is not the latest review of AI bio-inspired techniques, nor a comprehensive historical review of the AI field, but it worth reading if you are interested in some of the remarkable particular advances of the last decades that have lead us to the current state of the art. Nevertheless, it should be combined with other sources in order not to have a biased perception of the evolution of strong AI.



Artificial Consciousness

Artificial Consciousness

ed. Antonio Chella & Riccardo Manzotti
280 pages
January 2007
ISBN: 9781845400705

The book is interdisciplinary and focuses on the topic of artificial consciousness: from neuroscience to artificial intelligence, from bioengineering to robotics.

It provides an overview on the current state of the art of research in the field of artificial consciousness and includes extended and revised versions of the papers presented at the International Workshop on ‘Artificial Consciousness’, held in November 2005 at Agrigento (Italy).

Vincenzo Tagliasco, John G. Taylor, Tom Ziemke, Igor Aleksander, Helen Morton, Andrea Lavazza, Salvatore Gaglio, Maurizio Cardaci, Antonella D’Amico, Barbara Caci,  Antonio Chella,  Ricardo Sanz, Owen Holland, Riccardo Manzotti, Domenico Parisi, Alberto Faro, Daniela Giordano,  Piero Morasso, Peter Farleigh.


Consciousness Explained

Consciousness Explained book cover Post edited by: Raúl, at: 2006/11/13 13:13

I’m about to finish reading the book Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett (1991). Although I have seen some critics against Dennett’s approach I think this book is a really valuable resource for those who aim to better understand the nature of consciousness. The multiple draft model presented in the book is quite interesting and it seems that latest advances in neuroscience prove the basics assumptions of the model. The Cartesian Theatre approach is confronted to the multiple draft model, and I think the distributed nature of consciousness is well supported.

As usual, the phenomenal dimension of consciousness is the controversial point. Dennett introduces the term “heterophenomenology” in this book. The heterophenomenological approach is the tool used by Dennett to explain the proposed model.

An interesting interview with the author of the book, Daniel Dennett, is available here.

Theatre of the Mind

Theatre of the Mind. Raising the curtain on consciousness book coverTheatre of the Mind. Raising the curtain on consciousness. Jay Ingram (2005).

Reviewed: 2007/09/18 13:13. This book by Jay Ingram is published by Harper Collins Canada (2005).
This is the last book I’ve read about consciousness, and I can recommend it to anyone interested in the field as an introductory journey into the matter. As Jay Ingram is a science broadcaster the book is written for the broad public, and…

it can be easily understood. Books about consciousness can be sometimes too difficult to understand for the non-expert in the field, as they tend to use too many philosophical terms and usually the writer assumes previous knowledge in cognitive sciences and/or neurobiology. But, this is not the case of Theater of the Mind. It is written in a direct and easy way, thus creating a comfortable and enjoyable summary of latest advances in the search for an explanation of consciousness.

Other strong point I see in this book is that it covers a wide range of issues related with consciousness, from its definition, the problem of free will, dreams, animal consciousness, and even cosmic experiences. This will make you to wonder many new questions about your consciousness. Also, some of the most remarkable neurological syndromes are also described, like split brains, giving the reader the chance to appreciate how neurologists and psychologists infer some assumptions regarding the nature of consciousness.