The 17th International Conference on Image Analysis and Processing (ICIAP) is endorsed by the International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR), by IEEE Technical Committee PAMI, and by IEEE Computational Intelligence Society and is organized every two years by the Italian Group of Researchers in Pattern Recognition (GIRPR).


Artificial consciousness: theoretical and empirical issues

Naples 11-13 September, ICIAP 2013


The purpose of the tutorial is to offer an overview of the theoretical and empirical issues in artificial consciousness. Is it possible to devise, project and build a conscious machine? Is it possible to achieve awareness in an artificial agent? What are the theoretical challenges? What are the technical difficulties? What advantages will a conscious machine have with respect to intelligent agents? This tutorial will review the current state of the art and will suggest where research may go to achieve such a far-reaching technical goal.

Will a Machine
Ever Be Conscious?

In the last few years, the once “incongruous” idea of machine consciousness gained increasing momentum (Adami, 2006; Aleksander, 1994, 2008; Aleksander et al., 2008; Buttazzo & Manzotti, 2008; Buttazzo, 2000; Chella & Manzotti, 2009a, 2009b; Clowes, Torrance, & Chrisley, 2007; Holland, 2004, 2003; Koch & Tononi, 2008; Seth, 2009; Taylor, 2007). This upsurge of interest in a such a technological possibility (Adami, 2006; Manzotti & Tagliasco, 2008; Seth, Dienes, Cleeremans, Overgaard, & Pessoa, 2008) has been encouraged by the parallel increase in consciousness-related research in the field of neuroscience (Jennings, 2000; Koch, 2004; Miller, 2011; Noë & Thompson, 2004; M. Overgaard & Grunbaum, 2012; R. Overgaard & Overgaard, 2010). Are these studies of any relevance in the field of robotics, artificial intelligence, and computer vision? Artificial consciousness, sometimes labeled as machine consciousness, is the attempt to model and implement those aspects of human cognition that are identified with the often elusive and controversial phenomenon of consciousness (Chella & Manzotti, 2009a; Holland, 2003; Mccarthy, 1995; Molyneux, 2012; O’Regan, 2012).  

In brief, the tutorial will outline the complete theoretical framework in which current consciousness related scientific research is carried on. The tutorial will also list the most promising models (Global Work Space, Tononi’s information integration, Embodied Cognition, Externalist approaches to conscious experience, Seth’s model) contrasting advantages and shortcomings (Baars, 1997; Gamez, 2010; Koch & Tononi, 2008; Manzotti & Tagliasco, 2005; Manzotti, 2012; Shanahan, 2010; Tononi, 2008).

Questions to be discussed include: What advantage does consciousness provide to biological agents? Why does the brain produce a conscious representation of cognitive processing? What are the physical underpinnings of phenomenal experience? Couldn’t be the case that conscious experience is the hallmark of a certain style of information processing? Will conscious machines be able to outperform as to autonomy, semantic understanding, dealing with unexpected events, showing personal identity, achieving satisfactory human-machine communication?

Riccardo Manzotti (short bio). Riccardo Manzotti (PhD in Robotics, Professor of Psychology at IULM University, Milan) has been working for the best part of the last ten years on the topic of machine consciousness. He is coeditor of the “International Journal on Machine Consciousness”, He has written several papers on artificial consciousness as well as consciousness (Buttazzo & Manzotti, 2008; Chella & Manzotti, 2009a, 2009b, 2012; Manzotti & Tagliasco, 2005; Manzotti, 2011a) as well as on consciousness (Manzotti, 2006a, 2006b, 2008, 2011b, 2011c) and has co-organized or be an active presenter in several international workshop on machine consciousness and related topics (International Workshop on Artificial Consciousness 2005, Nokia Workshop on Machine Consciousness 2008, BICS 2010. Brain-Inspired Cognitive Systems Conference, BICA. Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures 2009, Machine Consciousness 2011: Self, Integration and Explanation, BICA 2012). In 2007, he edited a book on the topic of Artificial Consciousness together with Prof. Chella (Artificial Consciousness, Imprint Academic, ). In 2008, he edited a special issue of the journal “Artificial Intelligence and Medicine” on the topic of Artificial consciousness.