Describing what “Consciousness” is and then being able to measure how conscious or semi-consciously “aware” something is either living or machine is a profound question and a frontier of a very new and young area of research today. Most of the recent theory is only from the last five years.
But comparing robotics and AI computing developments with complex or simple “living” organisms
Consciousness may be a described as continuous “360 degree movie” that is created inside the brain when awake or asleep dreaming. The brain is the most complex object known to science, but brains are found in many living species right down to insects and microscopic size, these are still considered “alive” even if their complexity my be very simple to being semi conscious or unconscious. Plants are alive yet their interaction and ability to move around in the physical environment is different to animals. This raises the question of consciousness as the “level of awareness” and the degree of self awareness and intelligence to understand the change that environment.
It is a complex subject to try to explain simply but the idea that self-awareness is a reflection of information that “looks in on itself” is a key condition that a leading theory called “Integrated information theory IIT” created initially by Giudio Tonoini and Christoph Koch in the late 2000’s. Consciousness is
The human brain has around 120 billion neurons, and as many as 100 trillion 10 power 14 or 10 power 15 connections. The cerebellum controlling movement is located at the base of the brain has 10 billion neurons and the cerebral cortex that performs visual functions has 25 billion.
Different parts of the brain may have very high interconnected of neurons, a high phi or low interconnections , a low phi. Some parts may be considered to have. You can remove the cerebellum in a lobotomy, you loose some motor skills but you are still “you”. But damage or remove the cerebral cortex of 25 billion highly interconnected neurons and you are nolonger “you”. Perhaps a testament to the plasticity of the human brain but also suggested consciousness is a condition of some parts of a connected whole.
The measurement of “phi” is the degree of interconnectedness of this information network, in this case the neurons in brain. In a robot or a computer AI program the analogy could be the number of lines of code or connected data being held and computed.
july 27 2011, The astronomist