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Publicatio ns & Presentatio What is Self Awareness? ns This article offers one look at the notion of self awareness as it bears ○ Mind Out the project of building cognitively sophisticated robots. A on of Matter companion article addresses some simple objections. Resources • Introduction
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Bibliograp • hies • Tutorials & Intros Draft Papers

Picking Definitions of Self Awareness Self Models: What They Are
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The Denser Approach The Easier Approach

Self Models: What Good Are They?

• Objections Robots Workshop Introduction

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The single most significant point for dispelling the confusions which sometimes infest talk of self awareness is that it need have ○ BTexactnothing whatsoever to do with consciousness. No single definition of Technologself awareness commands a dominant mind share in the specialist literature, and it is true that it is sometimes conflated with ies consciousness. But within the context of analysing cognition and of ○ Santa Fe building robots, we are safe in treating self awareness as a purely Institute

to affect its behaviour. chimpanzees and humans are notable exceptions. indicates that such animals lack self awareness -. they fail to respond to the image in the mirror by touching their forehead to investigate the spot. they feel pain. they are not 'self aware'. for instance. I actually tend to avoid this slant on self awareness.e. For instance. I develop an information theoretic description of the self model. In Mind Out of Matter. understood as a type of data structure which can reasonably be called the self of that which instantiates it. In my own work. (I. This psychologically inspired notion of self awareness seems to me to place too much weight on an organism's capacity to conceptualise its self in a highly abstract fashion. etc. Self models capture some notion of 'self awareness' in the sense that organisms possessing self models display cognitive processes which incline us to credit them with something like the intuitive notion of self awareness.even though they may perfectly well be phenomenally conscious. if a spot of paint is applied to their forehead and the animals are then offered a mirror.) This. The intuitive understanding of self awareness underlying main page. (For details. my principal interest centres on the question of whether an organism (or robotic system) can be said to have a self at all. experiments show that most primate species are unable to recognise themselves in mirrors. (Specifically. that achieving the cognitive trick of Contact & self awareness guarantees phenomenal consciousness. ○ Picking Definitions of Self Awareness Precise definitions of self awareness vary wildly. most of the literature on the topic is bound up with the notion of an Return to the Draft Papers organism using some concept of its own self -. it has been suggested. within an environment -. they offer one way of making precise that . or it may be Background that consciousness could even exist without any cognition at all.) ○ ENTROP The Y Journal relationships between (cognitive) self awareness and (phenomenal) consciousness make interesting discussion topics. see the Chaitin's Pages short notes on consciousness or on qualia in the section containing tutorials & introductions. it's beyond the scope of this short paper to flesh out positions on such relationships (see Mind Out of Matter for some of that!). but usually they are picked to capture one or several aspects of the term's intuitive Return to the IWRC '98 meaning. because the animals apparently lack the ability to translate a picture in a mirror into information about themselves. whether or not it actively engages in abstract conceptualisation of that self. The important point for now is simply to recognise that the two are altogether different things.• • Greg cognitive characteristic. see red.) On this an item situated main page. It may be.. Fascinating though these questions are. As such. while 'consciousness' refers to the phenomenal properties of mental processes. and Advertising they live at the heart of a great deal of contemporary philosophy of Policy mind. Instead.

the environment. in real organisms. and the interactions between and within each. and I am hypothesising that such an architecture subserves the type of cognitive processes which. but its role in real organisms is an empirical hypothesis. But the notion is clearly much broader than that to which psychologists appeal in denying self awareness to most primates.intuitive understanding of self awareness. an item x functionally represents another y when it contains substantial mutual information content both with y and with a set of transformation axioms describing the range of changes in y for a given domain of conditions. In Chapter 5 of Mind Out of Matter. I define a novel measure of process complexity called functional logical depth and use it to provide what is arguably the first precise . Calling a representation or functional representation functionally active means that the relevant body of information plays a role as a representation in a functional system. I take representation to be a symmetric relationship obtaining between two physical bodies when those bodies contain substantial mutual information content. I would draw this to your attention: Hey. ('Functional system' can be another weasel word. functionally active representation of the environmentally situated sensory and motor system of which it is itself a part. would lead us to characterise those organisms as self aware. other architectures might also embody cognitive processes which justify our calling them self aware. alternatively. I would like to make two things explicit: • I take self models to be one cognitive route to self awareness. The fundamental notion of information underlying notions like 'data structure' is that of algorithmic information content.) The self model functionally represents itself. I am just defining a class of architectures which yield some important features of the intuitive notion of self awareness. The notion of a self model is a definition. two items represent each other when they are not algorithmically independent. Self Models: What They Are The Denser Approach Each 'weasel word' in the following paragraph will be spelled out below: The self model is understood as a conditionally coupled. (For those with an interest in the literature. (Perhaps the label 'self-in-a-world-as-it-looks-from-here model' is more descriptive. but not necessarily the only route. • In other words. but it is beyond the present scope. since the dynamic data structure essentially reflects a centred perspective on the world and the system within it. an actual formal definition of representation!) Extending the definition.

The conditional coupling of the self model to the organism and the environment allows the organism to derive information about counterfactual conditions in itself or its environment. however.) Self Models: What Good Are They? So suppose one has a self model. In other words. the self model is a sophisticated data structure which affects the operation of comparatively simpler (at the relevant level of description) biological components. straightforward. in the sense that the actual state of that represented may deviate from the information represented. Unlike the case of a modern digital computer. the advantages of having a self model over not having one are. Self models are notably absent in all current artificial systems of which I am aware. because it contains information about the interactions of changes between and within the organism and the environment. (Note that this does not necessarily imply that self models themselves are similarly abundant. It is this capacity to test counterfactual hypotheses which underlies what Popper famously described as a creature's ability to allow its hypotheses to die in its stead. are notably abundant in the natural world. a functionally active representation which is conditionally coupled to that which is represented may temporarily become information theoretically 'disconnected' from that which it is representing. and machine cognition more generally? . it may model the viewpoint of its conspecifics by modelling itself in the physical position of another individual. What good is it? The principal advantages of the self model derive from the Popperian notion described above: an organism may rehearse alternative courses of action without actually engaging in them. The degree of such uncoupling is quantified by the conditional information relation between the representation and the represented.and mathematically nontrivial account of functional systems. The capacities which self models subserve.) Finally. Within a selectionist context. recall that the existence of self models is itself an empirical hypothesis. and so on. That body of information plays a central role in directing the behaviour of the organism. The Easier Approach Here's the easy way to make sense of the above information theoretic look at self models. in which a very sophisticated central processing unit operates on what are usually comparatively simpler data structures. The self model is a body of information about an organism and its environment and about the flow of changes between and within the two. How about robotics. the self model can yield 'answers' to endogenously generated questions about what would happen if current conditions were other than they are. ceteris paribus.

. and many other factors combine to press one or another variety of computer to the fore and send others to extinction.Creating machines with a sense of self is unexplored territory. Sometimes. high price/performance ratios win out. While they will initially occupy the commercial equivalent of a novel and tiny environmental niche. Copyright © 2002-2009. so too will the emergence of machines with a sense of self radically transform the selective dynamics of the marketplace. The machines we use today are under a sort of selective pressure. It took Nature 3. I believe that eventually they will largely displace today's 'dumb' boxes. By analogy to the biological world. rendering them a quaint bit of nostalgia. a separate short paper covers some of the simpler objections. Objections Since it can be easy to misinterpret some of the statements above summarising the more careful and extended treatment of self models offered in Mind Out of Matter. Ltd.8 billion years to create us. software availability. today's computers have yet to climb out of the primordial silicon soup. Will the cognitive sophistication so important for organisms competing in the biological realm prove useful in the artificial realm as well? Just how would a machine with a sense of self stack up? How might it exploit its 'self awareness' to get itself selected over the latest shiny PowerPC or plain vanilla Pentium II? One thing is almost certain: just as the appearance of biological organisms with progressively richer notions of self radically transformed the selective biological environments within which they emerged. but I believe it will soon become clear that we can move just a little faster than that when it comes to pushing machine cognition up the 'evolutionary' scale. although installed base. Mulhauser Consulting. albeit of a fairly bland sort.