Bryan Caplan  

How Conscious Is Your Robot?

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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.
mind.jpgThe 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.




COMMENTS (2 to date)
JFA writes:

"Woman" is ranked equally on agency and higher on experience than "you". Basically, the average respondent is giving a generic "woman" a higher mentality score than themselves. This may have to do with the authors not wanting to overlap the pictures, but without any specific numbers, I'll file this under "odd".

E Smiley writes:

Does it qualify as a performative contradiction to rate one's own agency below 1?

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