Dennis Hackethal’s Blog

My blog about coding, philosophy, and anything else that interests me.

Chat with Amaro and Sashin about Animal Sentience

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:44:27 PM]:
Check this out:
cat navigating maze
from https://www.instagram.com/p/CWTZjFApz-w/

Most would consider this video evidence that cats are conscious, would you agree? If so, why?

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:45:35 PM]:
No, don’t agree. I can imagine a robot figuring this stuff out

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:46:17 PM (Nov 15, 2021 at 3:46:30 PM)]:
Not ‘would you agree that the cat is conscious’ but ‘would you agree that most would consider the video evidence that cats are conscious’

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:46:25 PM]:
Ahhhh
lol
sure

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:46:36 PM]:
Why?

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:46:49 PM]:
most people could look at a cat lick it’s own ass and think that that is a sign of sentience
I don’t know, people think stupid shit all the time xD
Seriously though
Like… a dog excitedly wagging it’s tail when the owner comes home is enough evidence for people to conclude that the dog is sentient

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:48:07 PM]:
My guess is: flexible behavior, like Walter Veit said on Do Explain.
The cat frequently stops, ‘reconsiders’, chooses a different path.

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:48:27 PM]:
Ah,I see what you are saying

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:48:41 PM]:
But then people would need to explain how that’s different from this machine:
balancing machine
source https://www.instagram.com/p/CWUFvNcF6Pq/

Which constantly recalibrates to balance the ball.

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:49:00 PM]:
right
cool machine btw.
To me, the hardest one to argue against when it comes to denying consciousness to animals is Coco the gorilla with it’s sign language
I don’t think that Coco was conscious, but I do understand how one might think that

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:50:23 PM]:
Yea
She’s a bit trickier

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:51:29 PM]:
But yeah, I think this is all explainable with reward/punishment functions in the genome
those can have a shit ton of reach
just not infinite
I do wonder sometimes though
Let’s say you program the first AGI
How would you actually know that you succeeded

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:52:49 PM]:
You would know that you would succeed from a good explanation even before writing it.
(Though the attempt could then ‘prove’ you wrong.)

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:53:16 PM]:
Right

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:53:28 PM]:
Amaro Koberle wrote:

just not infinite

It can have infinite reach within a paritcular domain

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:55:26 PM (Nov 15, 2021 at 3:56:01 PM)]:
I wonder though. This might play out very strangely.
I mean… if the AGI starts inventing never before seen technology within the first hour of runtime, sure… you’ll know that your theory is right. However, I imagine that it is at least just as likely that the first AGI would be as obviously creative as a vegetable for a number of years before it starts showing any explanatory powers. I hope it won’t be like that, but I can imagine that it could be.

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:55:26 PM (Nov 15, 2021 at 3:56:01 PM)]:
Dennis Hackethal wrote:

It can have infinite reach within a paritcular domain

right

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:56:50 PM]:
Maybe but then why are kids highly creative starting right after birth (maybe even before)

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:58:01 PM]:
Are they? To me a kid is as obviously creative as a cat until it’s half a year old or so

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 3:59:46 PM]:
You can teach babies basic sign language, I think.

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:00:04 PM]:
lol
Coco too

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:00:30 PM]:
Yea but not through reinforcement but creatively

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:00:44 PM]:
Interesting…

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:00:45 PM]:
Babies also learn how to perceive their environment (that’s not inborn), how to interpret sense data more generally, how to use their bodies

Depth perception for example, making sense of shapes and different sizes at different distances, none of that seems to be inborn.

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:01:17 PM]:
Oh yes I remember that section from your book, I thought it was fascinating

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:02:13 PM]:
So my guess is babies are explosively creative
until it’s tortured out of them

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:04:51 PM]:
Oh yeah, I guess so as well, don’t get me wrong. I think schooling and coercive parenting is just about the biggest tragedy of modernity. I’m just saying that I find it quite hard to tell at the start.
However, as you point out, I think this mustn’t be a huge issue. My guess is that whoever executes the first AGI will already have had an Eureka moment beforehand that will have made it clear to that person what exactly the missing puzzle piece was when it comes to creating creativity.

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:07:08 PM]:
Yes, well before writing the program, let alone running it

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:08:17 PM]:
I’ll buy you a beer if you figure it out!
Go Dennis go!

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:13:13 PM]:
One day 😃

Amaro Koberle, [Nov 15, 2021 at 4:13:35 PM]:
🎉🎉

Sashin [Nov 16, 2021 at 12:02 PM]:

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 16, 2021 at 12:06:34 PM]:
For clarification, I don’t use the term ‘smarts’ for “everything animals do”.
Also I wouldn’t worry about brain activity.
Are you aware that sleepwalkers sometimes prep food, drive cars, etc?

Sashin, [Nov 16, 2021 at 12:22:39 PM]:
Yeah, out of pure coincide recently I listened to a conversation between Sam Harris and Matthew Walker on the how and why behind sleep - it’s really fascinating!
Apparently during REM sleep, when we are dreaming, our bodies are paralysed - but there’s a condition that can happen especially in men in middle age where the function of the paralysis breaks down which causes them to do all sorts of things during sleep
(that might just be one of many causes of sleepwalking/sleep-doing though )

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 16, 2021 at 1:27:02 PM]:
Yea, so for the same reason I wouldn’t even consider a person’s ability to drive evidence of their being conscious.
Their ability to conceive of and create cars: more so.

Sashin, [Nov 16, 2021 at 1:40:53 PM]:
Yeah, this makes sense to me!
Okay, how about this: Would their ability to learn how to drive a car be evidence for consciousness in your mind? To at time X not be able to drive at all, but after some period of learning be able to do so competently (would this constitute as knowledge creation?)
In the example of the cat, is the problem that it could be explained by the cat simply implementing existing knowledge. That if it were creative, it could create knowledge of how to solve such puzzles and they could become increasingly easy for the cat (plus it would have to be of interest, not in a behavioural, pavlov’s dog type way, such that the “knowledge” wasn’t just a behavioural script that was drummed into it?)

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 16, 2021 at 2:20:20 PM]:
If an animal learns how to drive through reinforcement then no, if it learns creatively then yea that would be meaningful.
Similarly, if what seems like a sleepwalker could learn to drive creatively I would doubt whether they’re really sleepwalking.
Popper wrote somewhere that children sometimes converse while asleep. Makes me think we generally overestimate what consciousness is needed for.

Sashin, [Nov 16, 2021 at 2:27:02 PM]:
What I like is that this opens up a testable claim: if consciousness is required for learning specifically, what you would expect is that the children would not be able to learn new things in the sleep walking state but only implement existing knowledge
Although I’ve heard that in the specific above case of REM paralysis being stunted, the people in question had the experience of “acting out their dream”, in which case they weren’t unconscious per se. (That is they were constructing a dream world based on their physical sense inputs and interacting with it)
Like say if you were dreaming of walking on an icy plain, but it turns out your feet actually did get wet and are really cold.

Dennis Hackethal, [Nov 16, 2021 at 2:29:51 PM]:
My guess is it’s more like: creativity is required for certain kinds of learning, and consciousness is a side effect of creativity and only of creativity. But yes the test you propose should still apply.


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