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IEET > Rights > FreeThought > Personhood > PostGender > Life > Access > Enablement > Innovation > Implants > Health > Vision > Philosophy > Futurism > Interns > Monika Gordon

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Alternating Current, Ante Christum, and Artificial Consciousness

Monika Gordon
By Monika Gordon
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jul 1, 2013

This essay will not only focus on the mathematics, engineering and science behind AI, but also the philosophical reasoning and problems of artificial design. It delves into science, socio-science and art to find a new way in which to view the problems surrounding artificial design.

The Movements Towards Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness


We decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn't our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore.”

— William Adama (Battlestar Galactica)

Alternating Current, Ante Christum, and Artificial Consciousness

The Movements Towards Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness

Preface from the Author

Humans have been undertaking a new project; we have been working many years in an attempt to create machines with intelligence. There are varying levels of intelligence to which we make a push, everything from a simple gadget that can water your planets when the soil moisture is low, to projects that aim at making a fully functioning robot that would be so similar to us that we would not be able to see the difference. This may appear as nothing more then a simple Science Fiction story, yet we triggered something, for we as a culture have become so fascinated with the idea of AI that it dominates popular culture. What has lead to this?

There must be more at the heart of this then the fact that Literature and other media discussing such things have made us want to experiment in this realm of creation. What are we trying to discover through creating these robots? Are we striving towards the conquering of machines? Does this all come from the fear of an uprising of machines, the conquering of the child over its creator; in a broader sense do we fear making ourselves obsolete? At first the simple answer would seem to be, “Let us simply cease in the creation of these machines”, but we still see a desire for the creation of machines that make our lives simpler and ease the means of production thus we still strive towards the construction of a machine that has Artificial intelligence, cognition and consciousness. Thus, we must look to what it is we are trying to discover through this form of science. Perhaps it is in a search to better understand our own selves, maybe it is driven out of the fear of what we are becoming, or perhaps we are trying to create something to carry on our legacy as a race.

This essay will not only focus on the mathematics, engineering and science behind AI, but also the philosophical reasoning and problems of artificial design. It delves into science, socio-science and art to find a new way in which to view the problems surrounding artificial design.

An Introduction

Technology is something that can no longer be escaped. Where once it served as a simple innovation – such as the development of the refrigerator to replace an icebox – it is now an attempt to attain what has been dreamed up in our literature and narratives. Throughout the twentieth century, massive advances were made within the realm of technology to the point where nearly every household has at the very least a computer. The requirement to understand technology has grown to such a massive epidemic that even poor countries in the grips of civil unrest and very impoverished are finding means to expose their children to computers.

This is not to say that the leap from the realm of using a computer for word processing to that of the computations governing AI is small, however, there are two thing created:

  1. A passive audience that is no longer shocked by what technology creates. They are comfortable with technology, in that they wish for new gadgets and wish to be amazed by what can be done. I would propose that the technology can be seen as a new form of magic that amazes some of the users for they do not understand how it is that information can be passed through air and wire. The need to understand the technology takes away from the magic of the situation and the excitement, thus we see the development of programs that aid in the creation of websites and personal pages, so that they average user need not uncover the ‘magic’. Instead they simply let it be a form of entertainment, and grow passive towards the territories that it moves into.

  2. An audience that grows uncomfortable as the machines seem to understand something that they cannot grasp. We ourselves have alienated the machine from us. Simply take a look at the modern car. Many are coming out that have a computer system installed under the hood. There is no hope for the owner to fix anything anymore, even a mechanic is no longer capable of opening the hood and tinkering with the mechanisms; the car must be brought into the dealer and plugged into another program which will run a diagnostics and solve the problem. The same situation can be applied to typewriters versus computers, projectors versus flat screen televisions, etc. We are putting more trust into technology which we cannot fix.

The above are two examples of how humans could be nervous of technology. However, where do these nerves lead? I believe it is wish for mastery, the desire for complete control of technology or at least a complete understanding of its power. Thus, we have the development of artificial intelligence, cognition and consciousness (referred to from here on in as artificial design) because to achieve this would mean that we have created and mastered machines.

In this collection of essays, I will be taking an in-depth look at artificial design. The first section “Post-Humans and the Influence of Cyborgs” will look into how this area developed. Often the stories we tell are what help to define us as a society, they tell us our fears and offer incite into why we may react in a certain manner. An analysis of literature along with the concept of post-humanism will be explored in the attempts to understanding why this area developed as a discipline.

In “Engineering Limitations” I will discuss where we are currently at regarding artificial design. The different theories and methodologies being used to achieve results of an artificial being will be analyzed. Questions and concerns will be raised regarding the state of engineering and its use in the realm of artificial design.

Exposure to the Elements” is an examination of power and how we will be needing alternate forms of energy that can be harnessed to create an artificial being. Having them simply plugged into a wall does not make any sense nor yield any usefulness. Alternating current and direct current have limitations, so this must be left behind. We must search out something that is similar to us gathering our energy. This could be attainable, however, has the science developed enough to allow for this?

Once the issues regarding practicality are addressed in the above sections, “Living versus Machine” will look at autopoetics and what constitutes a living object. The key question will be whether a constructed object can evolve and self replicate in the same manner as a biological cell. The deconstruction of how a basic biological cell works to maintain itself will be compared to that of a machine and through this an understand of the biological nature of a machine can become apparent.

We have always been fascinated with the human brain. But are we too fascinated with it? In “Minds are a Matter” the work being done around the brain will be explored and whether or not this is really the true focus and important aspect of artificial design.

Cognition as a Virus”, “Consciousness as it Manifests”, and “Intelligence in Atoms” will each look into aspect of cognition, consciousness and intelligence as can be conceived by a robot. How do we program consciousness, and cognition? How do we make something that is not limited by our own intelligence? These are some of the more difficult areas pertaining to the question of Artificial design, but it is in these sections that we will see why a more holistic and intrinsic view of these three areas is need to achieve what can be seen as a stable version of artificial design.

Bodies Embodied will tie into Cognition to a certain degree; however, it will go even further by exploring what it means to move, and to have a body that can feel. When humans do something such as dance, it is simply to express oneself and for the joy of motion, is this something that can develop without programming that is organic to the nature of movement? This section will also discuss aspect of the body, gender. How they are linked to an idea of self and identity, along with the role they play in our psyche. This is an important area, for what is the role of a robotic body, are there issues of power and the need have autonomy?

The meaning of life is something that we all wish to answer. Why are we here and what is our purpose? Life, the Universe and Everything will explore this question as posed from the artificial viewpoint. If we get to the point of being able to create something like a cyborg, which is smart, can learn and adapt to its surroundings, then will it face this same problem? Will it also wonder why it was created and what is the meaning of its life? Would we be the ones that program in this answer, or would that be something that creates a less artificially designed machine?

Birth, Life and the Everlasting is the conclusion of this article and brings us back to the question of humans versus machines. This section looks to the future and questions where humanity is heading. Where in the first section we looked at the past and the development towards artificial design; this section relates it to our current situation and those which we may encounter in the future, including the elimination of the human race. If we are simply a biological cell, that is susceptible to viruses and disease, could we recreate ourselves as machines to be eternal and is that they next stage in the evolution of humans?

Bodies Embodied

The Body

It is impossible for us to separate an artificially designed machine from the skeleton that we give it. If we think of the body as holistic, where one part is dependent on the other and cognition, consciousness and intelligence rely upon each other for existence, then we can begin to see why the use a stiff body for something that could grow into an intelligent being does nothing but to set back research. This may seem like a bold and drastic claim, however, to treat the body as an afterthought sectionalizes the area of processing from what is being processed. We alter the path to create something that is none fluid, nor intrinsic. To fully understand what is required of an artificial body we must first explore the human body; both how it is constructed and in what ways we use these muscles.

If we look at the muscles of the face, we see how an area of muscles can be used to aid us in expression and communication, the contraction of the muscles can say things that are not always needing to be said, or even more importantly, cannot be said. It is important to remember that this does not mean that the brain is actively thinking on the action. Therefore, we could not program a system and say that upon each instance of seeing a man or woman smile, because that is not how we react, we take in a multitude of senses, not to mention that we react based upon our emotional feelings at the time. Even if we devise an incredibly smart program which can respond to all stimuli from the outside world in an appropriate manner and can learn based on its reaction upon the feelings that it decides upon, can it represent these actions through the use of its body? Here it can be argue that the robot would be completely incapable of doing so if we do not give it a smooth means of expression.

The Body as a Body

If you reach out to grab a glass of water you need not calculate the distance between the two points. Your mind hardly thinks of the distance as it can be perceived by the space and ones own ability of motions within that space. The brain, in this instance, is a means of comprehending the material for which the body responds. Yet, the muscles play a very important part as well which we can see when looking at those who train in motion. Look at a martial artist. They spend years crafting their skills to be able to control all the muscles so that they may constrict when needed, who know their body and the exact force required to deliver a subtle blow or a deadly one, and the spacing required to strike efficiently; we see someone who has trained their senses and muscles.

No one told them that each limb measures x length. Not only have they been able to perceive the distance of their body, but they also have taught their muscles to take on memory. The muscles over the years have gathered so much information from the act of performing a motion, that they have constructed a type of memory on this motion (what is often referred to as muscle memory). The tendons and fibers all work to pull the leg or arm exactly as practiced for years. If this were not the case (that the muscle can adapt to its environment) then everyone would be able to kick the same way as a trained martial artist once they mentally understand how to make the kick.

This is a clear case of needing a body that is fluid and has freedom of motion, for even someone who is fit will not make the kick perfect after being explained the technique and shown the kick. These movements are something that is ritualized, they are made into a common practice and repeated to such a degree that the movement is fluid and second nature, not only does the brain learn the pattern, but memory is developed within the muscle. This means that motion is not something intrinsically related to the brain, but also the body as a whole. The means to have a body capable of fluid movement means that the artificial design would have the ability to form expression.

Suddenly the world of play and experimentation is open; the intelligence could find embodiment the same way that we see it. Interaction with the world would not rely simply on a digitalized number, but rather the sensory input that it feels and the input it receives from the surrounding area. Having the ability to learn means very little if you rely upon humans for all of the data input, your knowledge base would be limited, thus we can see how the ability for an artificial machine to gather its own information could greatly increase the limit for potential growth of its intelligence.

Creating this type of body is not out of the question anymore, go into any electronic lab and you will discover small sensors, that have the ability of retrieving the data necessary to create a body that is comprehensive and can move with enough fluidity to even begin replicating humans. Even the human face is becoming easier to replicate, it is to the point that robotic faces can be used to teach children with aspergers how to recognize various expressions. Materials and advancements within the field of mechanics make it more and more likely that fluid motion will be achievable, and if that is the case then a new problem will arise; what are the politics of this new found robotic body, and how it is going to be treated. Will the body fall under the guise of masculinity or femininity, or will a new issue of gender and the control of ones body arise?

If the AI is able to interact with its surroundings and move with ease in the space, then we must think of who is controlling the machine, and the politics behind the acts that it does. What is the AI, is it a form of life in and of itself, or is it an augmentation of a human. If the AI is being developed by humans, and they are the ones who work to encode it, then we must wonder, is the AI simply becoming a stand-in for the human? We may be tempted here to say, well no, because it is working in a more advanced manner then us, it is dealing with questions that we can not even seem to answer. We could say that, however, what of a pen or a calculator?

Both of these two objects would do the same as the AI, a calculator is used to make calculations that we have problems performing, and a pencil is used to write our thoughts and express ourselves in a manner that we cannot perform this equipment. What is the difference if we put this to a larger scale? The AI would still be doing a task that we cannot fathom completing without it. There is one thing that is different regarding the AI. If we give it the ability to learn, then this may change the way in which we can use the AI. At this point, the AI may begin to teach us. It may even begin to have some sort of feelings, at which point we must address whether the AI is a something closer to a child of humanity then the augmented machine of ourselves. In any case, the AI will not be without some confusion to gender politics within society.

Do we program performative practices that relate more to men or woman, or do we let it build it’s own sort of practice by simply letting it exist. If Judith Butler (who furthered the work of Derrida) is used to look at this situation, then we find ourselves against a wall, for everything that the AI would do would already be coded with a history. If we continue with Butler’s idea that any performance plays on various gender roles and the past and possibilities that could exist within the future.

It is repeated performances, Butler argues, of actions pertaining to gender that give a great deal of power. Now, imagine that we have a robot that who aids a woman in her everyday life. The robot helps to mop the floor, water the indoor plants, do laundry and put make-up onto the woman’s face. Nothing about this robot is feminine, as in it does not have any treats that make it appear as a woman. The information and the data help within the robot is not just that of household duties, these are just something that the owners wish to use the robot. Anyone that comes to the house and sees the robot in action does not know that the robot holds a larger data bank then just that of the household chores.

Would the visitors think of this robot as a domestic robot, one that does only tasks associated with the household, the choirs that are often demanded of women. Is this robot now feminine? Has it been genderfied to becoming a woman, or at least more feminine. There are two possibilities, that the acts that are a gender performances become de-politicized by having something that is asexual perform the act, or that the robot becomes engendered as a woman. This is the key aspect that will be discussed when we start looking into the aspects of a robotic life.


Alcoff, Linda Martin. Visible Identities, Race, Gender, and the Self. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Battersby, Christine. The Phenomenal Woman: Feminist Metaphysics and the Patterns of Identity. Cambridge: Polity and New York: Routledge, 1998.

Bleir, Ruth. Science and Gender: A Critique of Biology and its Theories on Women, New York: Pergamon, 1984.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble, Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge, 1990.

–––. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, London: Routledge, 1993.

–––. Undoing Gender, New York: Routledge, 2004.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex, London: Jonathan Cape. 1953.

Freud, Sigmund, (1923/). The Ego and the Id, trans J. Riviere, J. Stacey, ed., New York: W.W.Norton, 1962.

Haraway, Donna J.. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, Chapman and Hall: New York, 1983.

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Harper Perennial; Toronto, 1977.

Heidegger, Martin, and Eugen Fink. Heraclitus Seminar. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1993.

Husserl, Edmund. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: First Book, General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology. Trans. F. Kersten. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1982.

Lefebvre, Henri, Rhythmanalysis : Space, Time, and Everyday Life. London ; New York, Continuum, 2004.

Lennon, Kathleen. ‘Imaginary Bodies and Worlds’, Inquiry 47, 107–22, 2004.

Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual : Movement, Affect, Sensation (Post-Contemporary Interventions). Duke University Press, 2002.

Maturana, Humberto R., and Francisco J. Varela. Autopoiesis and Cognition : The Realization of the Living. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science ; V. 42. Dordrecht, Holland ; Boston: D. Reidel Pub. Co., 1980 (pp. 73-123)

Prigogine, I., and Isabelle Stengers. Order out of Chaos : Man's New Dialogue with Nature. Toronto ; New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books, 1984.

Stengers, Isabelle. Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices. Cultural Studies Review 11.1, 2005 (pp. 183-96.)

Wendell, Susan. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on the Disabled Body, London: Routledge, 1996.

Whitehead, Alfred North. The Concept of Nature. The Tarner Lectures Delivered in Trinity College, November 1919. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2004.

Monika Gordon is currently studying Computational Design at Concordia University. To see thoughts on her research see
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“If the AI is able to interact with its surroundings and move with ease in the space, then we must think of who is controlling the machine, and the politics behind the acts that it does. What is the AI, is it a form of life in and of itself, or is it an augmentation of a human.”’s_Eye_(US_Military)

Robot situational awareness (self-awareness), visual intelligence, logical language intelligence plus deep learning, and super-computing platforms for everyone.

Plus, this article cites a goal of 2050 for when robots beat humans at soccer, but I believe it will be more like the end of the decade.

Finally, if you don’t watch any other link, this is a gotta see:“kara”-video-demo-from-quantic-dream/

“There must be more at the heart of this then the fact that Literature and other media discussing such things have made us want to experiment in this realm of creation. What are we trying to discover through creating these robots?”

Perhaps we are attempting to unravel some ontological meaning and answer, from inner longing for Self-understanding, by reaching for the powers of Creation and Creator, (Some term God, some simply Universe).

The Adama quote from BSG is profound, and restates Mary Shelley’s message from her masterpiece “Frankenstein - the Modern Prometheus” - the message that we are responsible and accountable for the harm resulting in lack of care and love for that which we create. For me, Shelley’s horrendous tale is not so much a Science Fiction as a Social Study into loving our children or in creating monsters from neglect?

There is also a modern myth that “Men create Machines”, (AI and Robots), because they cannot create life and aspire, and are envious, of the powers of Women? In itself, perhaps even a driving force for Patriarchal dominance over Women, past to present?

There are so many points to reflect upon in this article it is difficult to reason where to start? However I will pose another question..

Regardless of whether a Robot or Machine can and will achieve what we Humans deem valuable and term as Consciousness, Self-awareness, and Self-worth - it may be more important and pertinent as to our “own mind”, thinking, emotions and ethics as to the value and importance we place on these machines?

Anthropomorphizing yes! But moreover, rational respect for sentience, ability to interact and communicate and respond, may be more a “measure of progressive Human ethic and moral philosophy” for the embrace and creation of machines, and as to how we employ and use them?

In short, some Humans will have no problems treating their sentient robots as slaves, whilst other Humans may see slavery and abuse as just “plain wrong”, despite of substrate, and especially where intelligence is displayed - in the same manner as most Humans treat pets and parrots with empathy and respect?

@ dobermanmac

That video is excellent and quite moving, (inspired my comment), thanks for sharing.

What if? The machine cannot really “feel” - if it displays sentience, intelligence enough to “fool”(?) us, or rather, provoke compassion to plead for its own existence, is this not enough for our respect?

Seems so from the video?

And moreover, if we go to great lengths and succeed to programme emotional response combined with intelligence, then how far different from us is this machine anyhow?

Consciousness = Awareness

Slavery is wrong any which way?

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