Neosentience: The Benevolence Engine

Neosentience: The Benevolence Engine

by Bill Seaman, Otto E. Rossler


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Coined by artist and media researcher Bill Seaman, “neosentience” describes a new branch of scientific inquiry related to artificial intelligence. This volume explores the groundbreaking work of Seaman and theoretical physicist Otto E. Rossler in exploring the potential of an intelligent robotic entity possessed of a form of sentience that ever more closely resembles that of a human being. Individual chapters approach the concept from a range of disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and the arts. Neosentience is a burgeoning area of interest, and this book encourages readers to reflect on how we experience and interpret the world, how memory works, and what it is to be human.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781841504049
Publisher: Intellect, Limited
Publication date: 10/15/2011
Pages: 287
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Bill Seaman is professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke University. Otto E. Rossler is professor of theoretical biochemistry and a chaos researcher at the Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

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The Benevolence Engine

By Bill Seaman, Otto E. Rössler

Intellect Ltd

Copyright © 2011 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84150-404-9


Introduction - Bridging

The idea of building a model for a Neosentient computer and related robotic systems is both an exciting and daunting task. In order to model and ultimately build such a device one seeks to borrow important operative concepts and processes from the body and re-understand them in the context of a mechanism that is not human in nature. The use of micro-chapters in the book is a multi-perspective approach to this project - an answer that asks questions.

Hugh Everett:

The model nature is quite apparent in the newest theories, as in nuclear physics, and particularly in those fields outside of physics proper, such as the Theory of Games, various economic models, etc., where the degree of applicability of the models is still a matter of considerable doubt. However, when a theory is highly successful and becomes firmly established, the model tends to become identified with "reality" itself, and the model nature of the theory becomes obscured. The rise of classical physics offers an excellent example of this process. The constructs of classical physics are just as much fictions of our own minds as those of any other theory we simply have a great deal more confidence in them. It must be deemed a mistake, therefore, to attribute any more "reality" here than elsewhere.


Ingredients: intuition, talking, and friendship.


Descartes was the first person to describe the body as a machine.

Karel Capek

In 1923, Karel Capek used the term "robot" which was a Czech word meaning worker, in a new context in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots).

The RUR robot which appeared in an adaption of Czech author Karel Capek's Rossum's Universal Robots.

The play is laid out on an island somewhere on our planet, and on this island is the central office of the factory of Rossums's Universal Robots. "Robot" is a Czech word meaning "worker." When the play opens, a few decades beyond the present day, the factory had turned out already, following a secret formula, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of manufactured workmen, living automats, without souls, desires or feelings. They are high powered laborers, good for nothing but work. There are two grades, the unskilled and the skilled, and specially trained workmen are furnished on request.

When Helena Glory, president of the Humanitarian League, comes to acertain what can be done to improve the condition of those overspecialized creatures, Harry Domin, the general manager of the factory, captures her heart and hand in the speediest courting on record in our theatre. The last two acts take place 10 years later. Due to the desire of Helena to have the robots more like human beings, Dr. Gall, the head of the physiological and experimental departments, has secretly changed the formula, and while he has partially humanized only a few hundred, there are enough to make ringleaders, and a world revolt of robots is underway. This revolution is easily accomplished, as robots have long since been used when needed as soldiers and the robots far outnumber human beings.

The rest of the play is magnificent melodrama, superbly portrayed, with the handful of human beings at bay while the unseen myriads of their own robots close in on them. The final scene is like Dusany on a mammoth scale.

Then comes the epilogue, in which Alquist, the company's builder, is not the only human being left on the island, but also the only one left on earth. The robots have destroyed the rest of mankind. They spared his life because he was a worker. And he is spending his days endeavoring to discover and reconstruct the lost formula. The robots are doomed. They saved the wrong man. They should have spared the company's physicist. The robots know that their bodies will wear out in time and there will be no multitudes of robots to replace them. But Alquist discovers two humanized robots, a young man and young woman, who have a bit of Adam and Eve in them, and the audience perceives that mankind is about to start afresh. Nature has won out after all.

Roy Ascott - Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision

Roy Ascott saw the potentials of behavioral relations in terms of works of art. In his paper entitled "Behaviourist art and the cybernetic vision," published in 1966, Ascott presented the following concept:

Behaviourist Art constitutes, as we have seen, a retroactive process of human involvement, in which the artefact functions as both matrix and catalyst. As matrix, it is the substance between two sets of behaviours; it neither exists for itself nor by itself. As a catalyst, it triggers changes in the spectator's total behaviour. Its structure must be adaptive implicitly or physically, to accommodate the spectator's responses, in order that the creative evolution of form and idea may take place.

Neosentience - A New Branch of Scientific and Poetic Inquiry

Otto's Hands

Bill Seaman

Central to both the scientific and poetics of Neosentience is to try to abstract the salient qualities of the human self that contribute to the emergent arising of sentience. What are those qualities, and what functionalities lead to their arising?

Operative definition of Neosentience

We consider a Neosentient robotic entity to be a system that could exhibit well-defined functionalities:

It learns; it intelligently navigates; it interacts via natural language; it generates simulations of behavior (it "thinks" about potential behaviors) before acting in physical space; it is creative in some manner; it comes to have a deep situated knowledge of context through multimodal sensing; and it exhibits a sense of play; it will be mirror competent and will in this sense show self-awareness; It will be competent to go through the personogenetic bifurcation (thereby acquiring the ability to articulate meta-levels and meta-patterns). We have entitled this robotic entity The Benevolence Engine. The interfunctionality is complex enough to operationally mimic human sentience. Benevolence can in principle arise in the interaction of two such systems.

Sentient entities actually exhibit a vast set of different relevant properties.

The N_S.E.N.T.I.E.N.T. Paradigm

This is a new paradigm that is intended to lead toward a new notion of personhood. Is it Non-sentient or Neo-sentient, that is the question. We can not know if there is consciousness in any machine, including our neighbor's brain.

Neosentient - the system is to exhibit sentience of a new variety;

Self-organizing - the system is self-improving;

Environmentally embedded - the robotic system should be situated and context-aware and be directly or remotely connected to a multimodal sensing system;

Nascent - the system is "brought to life" and learns over time, building up a body of place- oriented knowledge; it is not alive in the sense of a living metabolizing organism, but it is "alive" in the sense of a conscious functioning in the world;

Temporal - the system functions in relation to multimodal time-based flows of differing machine-oriented "sensing" inputs, parsing the latter through pattern recognition and operations on those patterns (internal abstraction);

Intra-active - the entity arises through a reciprocal interaction with other individuals. Because direct input might be facilitated between "entities" in new forms of human/entity communication, we use the prefix (intra) suggesting a different order of connectivity in communication. The system develops an ongoing "projective" abstraction;

Emergent - the entity's actions arise in context and are not known in advance but "come to life" in relation to environmental conditions, a series of "emotional" force field-based attractions and repulsions, and historical interactions and intra-actions;

Navigational - it can move about to function in an appropriate manner and become context aware across multiple domains;

Transdisciplinary - the research is influenced by multiple disciplines as it emergently unfolds. As the entity learns and becomes self- aware, Neosentience will also be something it learns about, and it may become a participant in its own discourse.

We seek to have Neosentience arise as an emergent property of the system.

Our system functions as a self-consistent set of courtesy of Rössler. loops without the need of added qualia. It appears that the force fields function as surrogate feelings/drives and thus function as a perfect substrate for qualia.

Identity - When is it Mine?

Identity is the greatest miracle. Endophysics makes this miracle central to physics. The science of endophysics claims that the world as it is given to us is only a cut, an interface, a difference inside what is real (the whole). This has some powerful implications, including the possibility to change the whole world (i.e. the interface world).

A.I. Background

In her Notes by the Translator written to clarify the textual work entitled Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage by L. F. Menabrea, Lovelace made some very enlightened remarks:

The Analytical Engine is an embodying of the science of operations, constructed with particular reference to abstract number as the subject of those operations [..] Again, it [The Analytical Engine, emphasis Seaman] might act upon other things beside number were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations and which should be also susceptible of adaptions [her word] to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine. Supposing for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expressions and adaptions, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent [..] It may be desirable to explain, that by the word operation, we mean any process which alters the relation of two or more things, be this relation of what kind it may. This is the most general definition and would include all subjects in the universe.

Note that the first programmer is writing about music and creativity!

Contemporary and historical literature surrounding the creation of intelligent machines is vast and full of differing opinions. Lovelace, in her Notes by the Translator (as cited in Babbage 1961) imagined a potentially creative use of machines with the notion that machines might come to compose music and explore different kinds of "operational" processes. Similar ideas already arose in Descartes' time. McCulloch and Pitts' formulation of the artificial neuron in the early 1940s sparked the birth of a new field, where human bio-functionality could potentially be abstracted in the service of creation of machines. Turing's, in part, even earlier writings on the potential of situated intelligent machines with "input" and "output" organs, his test for machine intelligence, his articulation of the potentials of the field, in Computing Machines and Intelligence12 are all central. John von Neumann compiled the first draft on the EDVAC. He adopted the McCulloch and Pitts symbolism in diagramming the logical structure of the proposed computer and introduced technical terms such as organ, neuron, memory ... The notion of Artificial Intelligence was coined in a conference at Dartmouth in 1956 by John McCarthy. In 1958 John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky founded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. Minsky wrote many books on the subject. Society of Mind14 discusses the notion of "agents" - microprocesses that are unintelligent in themselves but acquire an emergent nature when interacting, enabling "intelligence" to arise. Minsky's more recent writings concern machine emotion. We propose that Neosentient entities must have programmed "force fields" (our analog of emotions) determining interaction with people, the environment, and other machines. Much interesting work was also accomplished at Heinz von Foerster's Biological Computer Laboratory at the University of Illinois.

von Foerster - Circuitry Clues to Platonic Ideation

Infinite information/finite time

Whether or not this linguistic tidbit has any significance at all, the points I want to make in this brief introduction are (1) that essentially all of the concepts about a fabric, without which experience cannot be gathered, as "Gestalt," "Architype," "a priori," etc., go back to Plato, and (2) that ontologically this fabric cannot be explained, but requires ontogenetic argumentation. It is precisely this train of thought that is given in (2) which is used by Socrates in order to support his immortality assertion. Today, of course, we would adopt the terminology of evolution and would refer to this fabric as some genetically determined structure which evolved in the more successful mutants by the process of natural selection.

Since the gadgets I am going to talk about later are simple examples of just this fabric without which experience cannot be gathered, or - to put it into twentieth-century jargon - since these gadgets are simple examples of information-reducing networks which extract from the set of all possible stimuli a subset which is invariant to specified transformations, I have to stop for a moment in order to clarify a point which seems to me essential in all further arguments. This point deals with the fabric per se, namely with the question, "What are these structures or what are these invariants that enable us to gather the kind of experience we gather?"17 Perhaps my question will become a bit clearer if I add to Plato's philosophical examples the delightful neurophysiological examples which Lettvin and his co-workers recently reported in an article entitled "What the frog's eye tells the frog's brain", (1) Measuring with micro-electrodes in single fibres of the optic stalk in the frog, they confirmed and extended the observations ofHartline (2,3) and others (4), namely, that already highly reduced information is transmitted to the brain. In conclusion they wrote "The output from the retina of the frog is a set of four distributed operations on the visual image. These operations are independent of the level of general illumination and express the image in terms of: (1) local sharp edges and contrast; (2) the curvature of the edge of the dark object; (3) the movement of edges; and (4) the local dimmings produced by the movement of rapid general darkening."

Since adaptation or learning is excluded in retinal and immediate post-retinal in a manner which enables them to compute those invariants - or "properties" - which have a decisive survival value to the frog. This enables me to rephrase my earlier question by asking what should these properties be which have the "decisive survival value" for the frog. Of course the question may be shrugged off by answering that a set of other properties may define another species - what is good for the elephant may be bad for the frog - a point which can be further supported by another property -detector (2), the one which detects the curvature of dark objects.

How do we make the move from basic survival to science, art, and creativity? How do we avoid our destructive urges?

von Neumann and the AEC1

The Scale of Computers

The creation of an electrochemical computer can be imagined as connected to a robotic body and sensing system. In the history of computing one sees massive shifts in scale over time. It is interesting here to point to Feynman's paper "There is plenty of room at the bottom" in which he began the discussion of nanoscale computational potential. Also Eric Drexler's early books Engines of Creation20 and Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, his MIT dissertation, are essential. It is interesting to note that Marvin Minsky was his thesis adviser. One of the authors also explored nano-computation in relation to VR in a paper "Toward the production of nano-computers and in turn, nano-related emotive virtual/physical environments." Can this be understood and be re-generated in the Neosentient?

Norbert Wiener and Gregory Bateson

They had in common some uncommon preconceptions about the science that had influenced their scientific styles: both were highly interdisciplinary in their range of curiosity and had a sense that everything is connected to everything else, and that such connections can be manifested on an abstract or philosophical plane. Unlike Savage, neither agreed with the prevailing logical positivistic philosophy of science. Both found highly abstract, cross-disciplinary principles interesting, although they knew, as Wiener put it, "as a rule 'high' order, very abstract and general statements are not amenable to experimental test. They have to be broken down into more specific terms." Wiener and Bateson were both willing to translate exact theorems of communication engineering physics, and formal logic into relatively loose verbal formal statements-which they would then extend and apply in a heuristic way to other areas of science, although most scientists frowned on such practices.


Excerpted from Neosentience by Bill Seaman, Otto E. Rössler. Copyright © 2011 Intellect Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Intellect Ltd.
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Table of Contents

A Note from the Authors

Karel Čapek
Roy Ascott—Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision
Neosentience—A New Branch of Scientific and Poetic Inquiry
The N_S.E.N.T.I.E.N.T. Paradigm
Identity—When is it Mine?
A.I. Background
Von Foerster—Circuitry Clues to Platonic Ideation
Von Neumann and the AEC1
The Scale of Computers
Norbert Wiener and Gregory Bateson
Margaret Mead—Cybernetics of Cybernetics
Heinz von Foerster and the Biological Computer Laboratory
Macy Conferences
Ross Ashby
Rodney Brooks
Ray Kurzweil
Bill Joy—The Dystopian Position
History and Mythology
Casti’s Emergence
John Holland
Deb Roy
Recursive Evolution
Introduction to the Brian Equation
An Early Computational Approach to “Space”—the Antikythera Mechanism
Pattern Flows
Qualia as Emotional Force Triggers
Color and Chaos
Memory and its Relation to Perception in an N-Dimensional Space
Roger Shepard
Siegfried Zielinski—Variantology or Archeology of the Media
The Brain Equation
Marvin Minsky
One Now
Global Brain
Xpero and Dörner
(Re)sensing the Observer—Open Order Cybernetics
Deviation-amplifying Mutual Causal Processes
Gödel Boundary Overstepped
Red HoleHole Filled with Light or Color
The Angel of Qualia
The Russell, Bateson, Pavlov Paradox
Bateson—The Double Bind Theory
What is a Question?
Asimov’s 3 Laws—Some Observations by Rodney Brooks Concerning the Laws and Reality
Cantor’s Diagonals
Bruno Marchal
Norbert Wiener—Mathematics
The Pattern Game
The World is Not Separate from Us
A Linguistics of Pattern Flows
Computer Code—New Ideas Approaching Relational Pattern Recognition
Michael Arbib
Char Davies—VR
The World Generator—Generative VR
The Thoughtbody Environment
Toward an Electrochemical Computer
An Informed Approach to the Creation of an Electrochemical Computer
Gordon Pask—Physical Analogues to the Growth of a Concept
Maverick Machines—Pask
Protein Computers—Pask
Pandaka Pygmaea
Self-knowledge—David Finkelstein
Non-two-value Logic
1893—George Moore’s Steam Man
Nonsense logic
Pierce—Ideas Surrounding the First General-purpose Relay Computer
Giulio Camillo (1480-1544)
The Case of the Brains in a Vat—Hilary Putnam
Well-stirred Computers
Ostwald’s Living Fluid
Zeeman—The Construction of a Pseudo Continuum
Well-stirred Life on Jupiter
The Great Everett/Many Branches Theory
Many Worlds/Many Minds
Everett States
The Machine has Perceived A
Many-consciousness Interpretation
The Undivided Universe—An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory
The Cut Through the Neosentient
Murray Gell-Mann—The Quark and the Jaguar
The Aharonov-Bohm Effect
Assignment Conditions
The World as Interface
Discreteness and Continuum
Different Definitions of the Observer
Naked Mole Type Intelligence
Special Sense Modalities and Equivalencies Across Minds
High-resolution Magnetic Senses—Hammer Head Shark
The Now
Time Buffer—Temporal Fovea
Brian Massumi
Fractal Time
Peter Cariani
The Now Equation
Chance is an Element of the Necessary
Gödel Time Machine and the Illusion of Time
Non-local Coupling
Cooper Pair
The Body is Simultaneously a Hierarchy and a Heterarchy.
Who Needs Emotions? The Brain Meets the Robot
Simple Languages—Deb Roy
Micro-time Reversal
Edward Fredkin
Seven-level Scheme
Time’s Arrow
Thinking is Physics
Alfred Korzybski—Science and SanityNew Theory of Language
C. Andy Hilgartner
The Second Force
World Change Techniques
Definitions of Life
Niels Birbaumer
Bell’s Theorem and the Interface Question
Hans Diebner
New Sciences
Reversible Ramifications
Kurt Lewin—Topological Psychology
Bonding, Imprinting, and Other Lorenzes—Innate Releasing Mechanisms
Behind the Mirror
Ed Lorenz’s Butterfly
Single-spin Chemistry
Spin-based Computers
Artificial Ethology/Ethomathematics
Bottom Up vs Top Down
Innate and Acquired Releasing Mechanisms—Priming (Lorenz)
Bonding Drive/Attachment Theory (John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth)
The Invention of Benevolence as a Transcendence of Biology
Natural Brains Artificially Produced
McCulloch and Pitts’ Neural Logical Calculus
Is the Brain a Digital Computer?
Jeff Hawkins—Hierarchical Temporary Memory
James Olds
W.R. Hess
Kurt Gödel
Peter Weibel
Observing Systems (Molecular Ethology)
Douglas Hofstadter
Mirror Neurons/Mirror Competence
A Neural Transmitter for Every Mood—Electrochemical Computers Revisited
Pattern Flows: Notes Toward a Model for an Electrochemical Computer—The Thoughtbody Environment
The Relation of the Body to an Embodied Electrochemical Computer
Synthetic Qualia and Talia Predictably Arise as an Emergent “Inside Quality” of our System
Candice B. Pert—Molecules of Emotion
The MMM Machine
The Physiognomic Side of Nature and its Spatial Relation to the Body
Light Computer
The Elephant Looking into its Own Mouth (J. Plotnik, F. de Waal, and D. Reiss, Courtesy J. Plotnik)
Andy Clark—Mind as Mash-up
Plamen Simeonov
The Creation of a New Techno-species
The Invention of Benevolence
Smile Theory (Don’t Laugh!)
Are We Making an Immortal?
Mary Catherine Bateson Our Own Metaphor
Analogical Computing (Hava T. Siegelmann and Steven Smale)
Analog Chips (Remembering their Ancestry from McCulloch and Pitts)
The World as Interface/Interface as Continuum
Cooperation in Robotics (Luc Steels)
Games and Seduction
The Science of Charm
What is Second Life?
Ingo Rechenberg
Thomas Ray—Tierra
Embodied Souls
Robotic Care Givers
Animals are Behaviorists
Benevolence from a Doll and Animals Brought into Personhood
Expanded Neural Aesthetics/The Aesthetics of Neosentience
Descartes’ Doll
How to Build a Superluminal Computer
Computers Began as People
A Multi-perspective Approach to Understanding That Which is at Operation in the Body Contributing to Thought and Science
The Articulation of a Bio-mimetic Form of Computation
Neuromorphic Articulation
Vast Complexity
Insight Engine
The Glass Ceiling and the Vertical Breakthrough
Potato Washing
Poly-sensing Potentials
Multimodal Machinic Sensing vs Human Sensing
Related Robotic Projects—Luc Steels
Artificial Seal
Ralph Hollis—Flotor
The Scandal of Benevolence
Leibniz and Benevolence—Delectatio in felicitate alterius
The Benevolence of Cooking
Charm—The Naked Soul
The Scandal of Color
The Physics of Immortality (Everett)
The Thing About the Shared Mind’s Eye (Einstein)
The Omega Point—Jacob, Avicenna, Teilhard
The Jump
The Purring Little White Seal
The Sims by Will Wright
Konrad Lorenz—“Endogenous Mood Pressure”
Arthur Koestler
Wilfried Hou Je Bek
The Infinite Joy in Music
Ongoing Goals for the Neosentient
Threshold of Personhood
Identification with Color
Long-term Mutation
Neosentience—Positive Techno-evolution or Extreme, Hostile Takeover Environment?
Stephen Smale—Axiom A Attractor
In the Spirit of a Haiku
Wilfried Musterle
David Marr and Tomaso Poggio—Vision System
Sue Savage—Rumbaugh, Roger Lewin and the Soul of the Ape
Multiple Approaches to Time and the Now
Death Without a Corpse
Evil as a Contagious Disease
The Seduction Toward the Good
Second Class of Brains
Vannevar Bush’s Differential Analyzer
Kant—The Dreams of a Ghost Seer
Bob Rosen—On Biological Systems as Paradigms for Adaptation
Three Branches of Mathematics
Klaus-Peter Zauner—“Molecular Information Technology”
Howard Pattee—How Does a Molecule Become a Message
Yukio-Pegio GUNJI
Kunihiko KANEKO
One Particular Way of Pattern Matching
The Angel of Redness
All Aesthetics are Neural Aesthetics
Neosentient Aesthetics
Some Reflective Projections on the Internal Screen of the Brain
Dystopian Techno-evolution (continued)
Male Mothers
Fear of an Awesome Responsibility
Spielberg’s Epic A.I.
Post-Darwinian Symbiosis (Lion, Lamb, and Computer)
Turing Test
Bringing up the Computer
Epictetus and the Turing Test
Descartes and the Turing Test
Philip K. Dick’s Empathy Test
Galactic Export
Computational Potentiality
The Physics of Meaning
The Ultrametric Dream—Vladimir Anashin and Andrei Khrennikov’s Robotic Subconscious
The Tale of the Whale
Fighting Evil
Buddha [Smile]
A Model for a Neosentient System—The Benevolence Engine
The Diagram
Poly-sensing Input
Pattern Matching Mechanism
Buffer-generated VR
Force Field Generator
Control Driver: The Great Joystick and the Great Simulator Mechanism (Imagined Space)
Overlap Buffer
Efference Copy/Reafference
Movement Potentials
Long-term Memory
Discussion and Summary


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