Wednesday , August 23 2017
Home / EconLog Library / How Conscious Is Your Robot?

How Conscious Is Your Robot?

Summary:
Now that I've studied the article that inspired Robin's recent bet, I'm completely flabbergasted by his reaction.  Here's the key figure in the original paper, showing how respondents ranked the mentality of thirteen characters.The Experience factor explains 88% of the variance; Agency comes in a remote second, with 8% of the variance.  And on the Experience factor, the robot is virtually at 0.  Apparently most people (correctly, in my view) don't think he's conscious at all.Yet here's how Robin reads the results.  He's in blockquotes; my commentary isn't.I'm also pretty sure that while the "robot" in the study was rated low on experience, that was because it was rated low on capacities like for pain,

Topics:
Bryan Caplan considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Bryan Caplan writes War Crimes and the Long Run

Bryan Caplan writes What’s in Your Bag?

Bryan Caplan writes Stop Thinking Like a Tourist: Macaulay Edition

Bryan Caplan writes Murder: A Socratic Dialogue

Now that I've studied the article that inspired Robin's recent bet, I'm completely flabbergasted by his reaction.  Here's the key figure in the original paper, showing how respondents ranked the mentality of thirteen characters.
How Conscious Is Your Robot?The Experience factor explains 88% of the variance; Agency comes in a remote second, with 8% of the variance.  And on the Experience factor, the robot is virtually at 0.  Apparently most people (correctly, in my view) don't think he's conscious at all.

Yet here's how Robin reads the results.  He's in blockquotes; my commentary isn't.

I'm also pretty sure that while the "robot" in the study was rated low on experience, that was because it was rated low on capacities like for pain, pleasure, rage, desire, and personality.
He wasn't just rated "low."  He was rated near-zero.
Ems, being more articulate and expressive than most humans, could quickly convince most biological humans that they act very much like creatures with such capacities.
How badly would the robot's mentality scores have to be to make Robin say the opposite?
You might claim that humans will all insist on rating anything not made of biochemicals as all very low on all such capacities, but that is not what we see in the above survey...
Actually, every living character made out of biochemicals scored at the mid-point or higher on Experience.  Respondents rated a dead body higher in Experience than a functioning robot.  A dead body!  The only creature in the robot's league was God himself, who is also generally not supposed to be made out of biochemicals.

P.S. At this point, I would be willing to bet that if the same study were re-done with an "em" character added, the em would score less than .6 on the Experience factor on a 0-1 scale.  Note: .5 is roughly the score of a fetus or someone in a permanent vegetative state.  Per my original reservations, however, I would not bet more than $500 at even odds.  Robin doesn't care for this bet, but so far we haven't been able to work out anything mutually acceptable.



Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN. Bryan Caplan blogs on EconLog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *