Creative Machines: On the Cusp of Consciousness?

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Lakshmi Sandhana as she was preparing her article, “Darwin’s Robots” that appeared in last week’s New Scientist. Lakshmi specifically addresses the work of Jeffrey Clune, of the HyperNEAT Project of Cornell University’s Creative Machine Laboratory.  Clune’s work is cutting edge and provocative in its focus upon the possibility and implications of “creative”, and “intelligent,” if not “conscious” machines.  But it’s this last point about consciousness in a machine that really opens up a proverbial “can of worms”.  As a neuroscientist I believe that it’s not a question of if this will happen, but when…and perhaps, more appropriately, how soon, and will be ready for it when it does, and as a neuroethicist I can guarantee that the idea – and reality – of conscious machines stirs up a brew of moral, ethical, legal and social contentiousness. But let’s put these ethical issues and questions aside for the moment, and look into some of the possibilities spawned by neuro-robotic engineering.

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