AN ALTERNATIVE TO WORKING ON MACHINE CONSCIOUSNESS
This paper extends three decades of work arguing that researchers who discuss consciousness should not restrict themselves only to (adult) human minds, but should study (and attempt to model) many kinds of minds, natural and artificial, thereby contributing to our understanding of the space containing all of them. We need to study what they do or can do, how they can do it, and how the natural ones can be emulated in synthetic minds. That requires: (a) understanding sets of requirements that are met by different sorts of minds, i.e. the niches that they occupy, (b) understanding the space of possible designs, and (c) understanding complex and varied relationships between requirements and designs. Attempts to model or explain any particular phenomenon, such as vision, emotion, learning, language use, or consciousness lead to muddle and confusion unless they are placed in that broader context. A methodology for making progress is summarised and a novel requirement proposed for a theory of how human minds work: the theory should support a single generic design for a learning, developing system that, in addition to meeting familiar requirements, should be capable of developing different and opposed philosophical viewpoints about consciousness, and the so-called hard problem. In other words, we need a common explanation for the mental machinations of mysterians, materialists, functionalists, identity theorists, and those who regard all such theories as attempting to answer incoherent questions. No designs proposed so far come close.