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Axioms and Tests for the Presence of Minimal Consciousness in Agents I: Preamble

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This paper relates to a formal statement of the mechanisms that are thought minimally necessary to underpin consciousness. This is expressed in the form of axioms. We deem this to be useful if there is ever to be clarity in answering questions about whether this or the other organism is or is not conscious. As usual, axioms are ways of making formal statements of intuitive beliefs and looking, again formally, at the consequences of such beliefs. The use of this style of exposition does not entail a claim to provide a mathematically rigorous formal deductive system. Conventional mathematical notation is used to achieve clarity, although this is elaborated with natural language in an attempt to reduce terseness. In our view, making the approach axiomatic is synonymous with building clear usable tests for consciousness and is therefore a central feature of the paper. The extended scope of this approach is to lay down some essential properties that should be considered when designing machines that could be said to be conscious. In the broader discussion about the nature of consciousness and its neurological mechanisms, it may seem to some that axiomatisation is premature and continues to beg many questions. However, the approach is meant to be open- ended so that others can build further axiomatic clarifications that address the very large number of questions which, in the search for a formal basis for consciousness, still remain to be answered. Of course, in discussions about consciousness many will also argue that the subject is not one that may ever be formally addressed by means of axioms. The view taken in this paper is 'let's try to do it and see how far it gets'.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Intelligent and Interactive Systems Group, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College, London SW7 2BT, U.K.

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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