The topic of consciousness has been subject to debates and controversies for quite a long time. According to the Oxford Dictionary, consciousness is the state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings.
So far, the questions of where and how the brain generates consciousness? Do animals have consciousness? These questions have not been satisfactorily answered. New researches conducted at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) may provide the evidence needed to answer these questions. This new research defines consciousness as a product of different complex cognitive operations and not simply a state we automatically switch into when we wake.
The test of consciousness
Professor Ekrem Dere from the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience research group and Professor Armin Zlomuzica, [who have worked at Université Paris-Sorbonne] from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) published a new theory of consciousness in the journal Behavioural Brain Research. This theory is rooted in years of research on the nature of consciousness.
The researchers say “The hypotheses underlying our platform theory of consciousness can be tested in experimental studies… thus, the process of consciousness can be explored in humans and animals or even in the context of artificial intelligence.”
Based on the research publication, these complex cognitive operations include emotions, sensations, imagination, memories. These conscious cognitive operations are central to the survival and coping of humans because behavior is limited in helping humans cope in new environments. Suffice to say at this point, that consciousness is not merely the force that drives the status quo day-to-day activity, it actually kicks in when an unexpected event takes place. They are pivotal in addressing the issue at hand.
It gets better! A full functioning consciousness can prognosticate which events will take place and institute strategies to help you cope. Essentially, this new theory says that cognitive action has the same working principle as an online platform, that is the control center and gives instructions to other parts.
Understandably, the study of electrical gap junctions or synapses is considered pivotal in this research. This is chiefly because of the speed of transmission of signals between that junction. This is in contrast to the chemical gap junction where transmission is via chemicals–neurotransmitters and modulator–transmission is relatively slow.
The researchers proposed a way to test the consciousness of animals, artificial intelligence, and humans–let them solve a problem they have never been exposed to. This problem can only be solved if these three individuals employ the lessons they have learned from other life experiences.
In other words, the creativity needed to solve this problem can only be achieved via conscious cognitive operations.
In the course of the experiment, drugs that block transmission through the gap junction were administered. This was done to establish the exact role the gap process played in consciousness. As expected, these medications prevent performance but routine day-to-day activities were carried out smoothly.
The new approach tested the AI’s ability to solve new without any pre-existing algorithm template to solve them with. Any AI that can solve such problems is described as conscious. This could also be a landmark to biotechnology as it facilitates computer that does stuff outside the working algorithm.
The new test has revealed that conscious cognitive operations are the foundations for adaptive behavior that enables humans and animals to adapt to and survive in new environments.
The experiment conducted gives insight into the phenomenon of consciousness in humans, animals, and AI. The role and test for consciousness in humans, animals, and artificial intelligence have been briefly described.