Protoconsciousness in AGI: Pathways to Artificial Consciousness

Photos © Aditya Mohan.

Protoconsciousness in AGI: Pathways to Artificial Consciousness

Protoconsciousness offers crucial insights into the evolution of consciousness in living beings and presents a foundational model for developing consciousness in artificial general intelligence (AGI). Defined as an elementary form of consciousness, protoconsciousness is observed in early life stages and simpler organisms such as birds. This basic consciousness underpins more complex cognitive developments. The interaction between brain states during wakefulness and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is particularly significant, illustrating how REM sleep prepares the brain for higher integrative functions, such as secondary consciousness. However, it's important to note that during sleep, many aspects of secondary consciousness, such as critical judgment, self-reflective awareness, awareness of awareness, orientation, and memory, are notably diminished. This adaptation, seen in both mammals and birds, suggests that brain activation during sleep is not merely restorative but also a developmental phase for critical brain functions necessary for higher consciousness.

Further exploring the nature of REM sleep reveals its role as a protoconscious state, where the vivid sensing, acting, and feeling in dreams reflect an internal rehearsal space, preparing the organism for waking life. Dreams demonstrate that our own experiences of protoconsciousness continue to shape our daily lives, suggesting that we are both reacting to and preparing for our conscious experiences during these moments. In AGI, this understanding could translate into the design of modular, self-learning neural networks that mimic these foundational brain functions. Such networks can allow AGI to develop consciousness gradually, mirroring the developmental processes seen in humans and animals, where learning from environmental interactions progressively builds complexity.

By integrating these concepts from biological consciousness, researchers can create AGI systems that not only imitate specific aspects of human or animal consciousness but also engage in more sophisticated, ethically informed behaviors. The modular approach in AI design, inspired by the simplicity yet functionality of protoconscious neural circuits, alongside a developmental strategy that emphasizes growth through interaction, promises a path toward creating machines that are both conscious and conscientially aware of their surroundings. This evolution in AGI could lead to machines that better understand and interact with their environment in a manner that is both natural and ethically sound.

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