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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Will there ever come a day when an artificial consciousness exists? This fascinating addition to the literature on artificial intelligence argues that perhaps, one day, consciousness could emerge from machines we construct. And along the way, we might even learn something about how our own brains work by trying to build one.
Because so many people fundamentally reject the concept of a machine consciousness, Aleksander has taken the time to familiarize himself with the pertinent philosophical debates concerning consciousness. In this book, he intersperses an autobiographical account of his research with chapters containing imaginative encounters with philosophers (a dream sequence set in ancient Greece) and others whose opinions inform attitudes toward the origins of consciousness (a quite plausible TV roundtable with Francis Crick, Daniel Dennett, et al.). It's not surprising that Aleksander takes the view that consciousness arises as an emergent property of neurons interacting together.
As a scientist and engineer Aleksander has had a long-standing fascination with the possibility of using research in neuroscience to build more interesting computers. In the same sense that a human heart is a pump and is thus analogous to, say, a mechanical water pump, the neurons of a brain might possibly be artificially simulated. Aleksander's work led him to try to re-create the visual processing in the brain in a computer with projects such as WISARD, a recognition device. Aleksander believes that creating a means for a computer to have an internal representation of the external world is the beginning of a sense of self and also the ability to "imagine" things that do not exist. (Laura Wood)
Laura Wood is the Barnes & Noble.com Science & Nature Editor.