Scholarly article on topic 'Bootstrapping a Structured Self-improving & Safe Autopoietic Self'

Bootstrapping a Structured Self-improving & Safe Autopoietic Self Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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Procedia Computer Science
OECD Field of science
{"enactive AI" / "“seed AI”" / "moral machines"}

Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Mark R. Waser

Abstract After nearly sixty years of failing to program artificial intelligence (AI), it is now time to grow it using an enactive approach instead. Critically, however, we need to ensure that it matures with a “moral sense” that will ensure the safety and well-being of the human race. Consciousness and conscience can lead the way towards creating safe and cooperative machine entities.

Academic research paper on topic "Bootstrapping a Structured Self-improving & Safe Autopoietic Self"

Procedia Computer Science

Volume 41, 2014, Pages 134-139

BICA2014. 5th Annual International Conference on Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures

Bootstrapping a Structured Self-Improving & Safe

Autopoietic Self

Mark R. Waser

Digital Wisdom Institute, Vienna, VA, U.S.


After nearly sixty years of failing to program artificial intelligence (AI), it is now time to grow it using an enactive approach instead. Critically, however, we need to ensure that it matures with a "moral sense" that will ensure the safety and well-being of the human race. Consciousness and conscience can lead the way towards creating safe and cooperative machine entities.

Keywords: enactive AI, "seed AI", moral machines

1 Introduction

Almost sixty years after the Dartmouth Summer Research proposal [1], it may finally be possible "to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves." What initially seemed a fairly simple problem in symbolic logic turned into a nearly bottomless quagmire which prevented growth beyond closed and completely specified micro-worlds. The "frame problem" quickly grew from a formal AI problem [2] to the more general philosophical problem of how entities deal with the unbounded nature of context and complexity in the real world [3]. Similarly, Harnad's grounding problem [4] initially seemed mitigated by embodiment [5], but the problems of meaning and understanding [6][7][8][9] eventually shoaled on Kant's natural purposes and Aristotle's teleology. Intentionality seemed a solution but devolved into arguments about extrinsic [10][11], derived [12] or merely "as-if" intentionality [13].

While Rodney Brooks tried to use his subsumption architecture [14] "to build complete creatures rather than isolated cognitive simulators" [15], he had to abandon the approach saying [16]:

Perhaps it is the case that all the approaches to building intelligent systems are just completely off-base, and are doomed to fail. Why should we worry that this is so? Well, certainly it is the case that all biological systems are:

• Much more robust to changed circumstances than our artificial systems.

• Much quicker to learn or adapt than any of our machine learning algorithms

• Behave in a way which just simply seems life-like in a way that our robots never do.

134 Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Scientific Programme Committee of BICA 2014

(gi The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

doi: 10.1016/j.procs.2014.11.095

Perhaps we have all missed some organizing principle of biological systems, or some general truth about them. Perhaps there is a way of looking at biological systems which will illuminate an inherent necessity in some aspect of the interactions of their parts that is completely missing from our artificial systems.

Thus, we argue, it is only by returning to biology - Varela's re-enchantment of the concrete [17] -that progress can be made.

2 Enactive Artificial Intelligence

The enactive paradigm was initially conceived as an embodied and phenomenologically informed alternative to mainstream cognitive science [18] that grew out of biological autonomy and autopoiesis, the minimal organization of living systems [19][20]. As explained by Froese and Di Paolo [21], the enactive approach consists of a core set of ideas, namely autonomy, sense-making, emergence, embodiment, and experience, which find novel applications in a diverse range of disciplines such as biology, phenomenology, artificial life, social science, robotics, psychology, and neuroscience. Defining autonomy as the organizational closure necessary for (and the self-reference inherent in) the process of self-production allows for the creative enaction of a meaningful world through identity constitution and applies equally well to biological systems (the immune and nervous systems, single-cell and multi-cellular organisms), social systems and mechanical systems. Better yet, this approach has a lot to say about social interaction forming the dynamics constitutive of both individual agency [22][23] and social cognition [24] and thus runs the gamut "from cell to society and back again".

Traditional robots and AI programs remain composed of "an externally defined collection of components that we have merely chosen to designate as an 'agent' by convention" [21] with arbitrary choices distinguishing the system from the environment [25] and which "only have meaning because we give it to them" [12]. In contrast, an enactive system is organized in such a way that its activity is both the 'cause and effect' of its own autonomous organization. It has an essentially self-constituted identity, because its own generative activity demarks what is to count as part of the system and what belongs to the environment, and meaning and understanding are generated relative to that active identity. Indeed, Weber and Varela [26] have gone so far as to propose "a basic revision of the understanding of teleology in biological sciences" by "accepting that organisms are subjects having purposes according to values encountered in the making of their living" and thus have an intrinsic/immanent teleology arising from their biological autonomy and biological individuality.

Searle [6] can only be answered when a system is formed by deep causal connections with the environment intertwining identity and cognition [27]. Programmed-in knowledge and actions provide only the shallowest and most brittle referents for the symbol structures that systems must manipulate. Brooks tried to program creatures but evolutionary methods allow robots to learn instead. Law and Miikkulainen's approach [28] "explicitly rejects built-in task-specific knowledge" and "leaves the entire structure of the processing machinery up to evolution" -- focusing on "learning the relation between sensors and effectors" tabula rasa rather than manually adding ever-increasing knowledge. Di Paolo [29][30][31][32] focused on "organismically-inspired" robotics and reproduced homeostatic adaptation to inversion of the visual field and other sensorimotor disruptions. Oudeyer [33][34][35] tackled autonomous mental development with "The Playground Experiment" while Demiris and Dearden [36] ran the gamut from motor-babbling to hierarchical learning by imitation.

3 Structure and scaffolding vs. tabula rasa

Unfortunately, current self-organizing robotics has perhaps focused far too much on a tabula rasa approach. As argued by Pinker [37], human beings start as anything but a blank slate. The massive

computing power of evolution has "programmed in" all sorts of useful structures ranging from our attention being grabbed when we spot a snake [38] to our innate moral sense [39][40][41][42][43]. And while morality predictably evolves [44], selfishness predictably evolves first [45] - so it is clearly in our best interests to figure out how to reliably pass moral structures on to our mind children.

Similarly, self-organizing robotics has not ventured far into the necessary realm of lifelong learning [46][47]. We have developed many machines that have learned to move in an incredibly lifelike fashion [48] but they are primarily reactive with virtually no high-level control, prediction or on-line reasoning. Now is the time, therefore, that we should be talking about implementing functional consciousness on top of their effectively unconscious but robust learning capabilities. Sensor readings can be used to create a grounded virtual reality that such a consciousness could control and live in exactly as human selves do [49][50][51][52].

4 Consciousness and Conscience

Autopoiesis completes Hofstadter's Strange Loop [53], allows the cognitive self to come to the physical mind [54] and even gives traction on the hard problem of consciousness [55]. As suggested previously [56], we believe this is best done via blackboard operating system similar to Hofstadter's CopyCat [57] or LIDA [58] based upon Baars' Global Workspace model of consciousness [59]. Consciousness then runs as a process to detect anomalies, learn, and generally act like the Governing Board of the Policy Governance model [60] to create a consistent, coherent and integrated narrative plan of action to meet the goals of the larger self per Dennett's narrative model of self [61].

We should maintain most of the low-level evolved features of human consciousness like automatic subjective referral of the conscious experience backwards in time [62][63] but enhance transparency wherever possible. Humans are far too prone to illusory agency with sub- and supra-liminal priming enhancing experienced authorship [64] and even inducing false illusions of self-authorship [65][66]. And we should certainly not replicate the fact that our conscious logical minds are constantly self-deceived to enable us to most effectively pursue what appears to be in our own self-interest [67][68]. It would also be particularly helpful if machine moral judgments were products of, based upon, and correctly retrievable by conscious reasoning - as opposed to the human case [69][70] - based upon the social psychologists' functional definition of morality [71] reinforced by sensory incentives promoting Haidt's pillars of morality [72] as well as instrumental goal fulfillment for self and others. Of course, autopoietic systems will have functional analogues of pain and emotions [73] and cognitive and time limitations will necessarily create numerous examples, such as when one falls in love, where the subconscious/emotional systems will overrule or dramatically alter the normal results of conscious processing without the consciousness being aware of the fact [74].

Successfully implementing consciousness and conscience should place us well on the way towards creating safe and cooperative machine entities.


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