At the end of this course, the student is able to:
- explain how consciousness is defined within the philosophical, psychological and neurobiological disciplines and indicate common ground between these disciplines.
- Describe the current psychological and neurobiological models of consciousness.
- Describe what constitutes our mind from a philosophical, psychological and neurobiological perspective.
- explain the current psychological and neurobiological models of cognitive skills discussed during the course.
- critically evaluate literature from different disciplines in the context of cognitive functioning and discuss common ground between these disciplines
- explain how, within the field of artificial intelligence, neuronal functioning is translated into computational models and neural networks.
- explain how cognitive functions are currently modelled within the field of artificial intelligence.
- form a critical opinion on the translatability of models for consciousness, the mind and cognitive skills to robotics.
Warnings that in the future humanized robots will take over human society regularly pop up in the news. An important question related to these warnings is ‘Are we able to produce humanized robots that can function autonomously, without the interference of humans?’. In order to critically study and discuss this question, insight into questions like ‘What makes us human?’, ‘What is consciousness?’ and ‘What constitutes our mind?’ is essential. Some people say that consciousness is what makes us human. But what is consciousness? We can be conscious (‘awake’) or unconscious. We can be self-conscious, and conscious of our surroundings; we are able to look back at experiences stored in our memory and are able to look ahead and anticipate for the future. These skills give us the ability to make conscious decisions and weigh the consequences of our choices. In addition, humans have other cognitive skills, like regulation of emotions, language to communicate and creativity, that shape our contribution to society.
The field of artificial intelligence tries to develop humanized robots. Would it be possible to develop robots that have the same cognitive skills as humans and that can function autonomously, without the interference of humans? To answer this question, we will first focus on how different fields define consciousness and what processes are involved in cognitive functioning. We will address these issues from the fields of philosophy, psychology and neurobiology. What is known about the regulation of consciousness? How are cognitive functions regulated on the level of neurons and what is the role of neuronal networks? How can we simulate these neuronal networks and how does the field of artificial intelligence use these networks to mimic cognitive functioning in robots?
In part I of the course we will use a stepwise approach, in which different perspectives (philosophy – psychology – neurobiology) are used to study consciousness and its regulation in the brain. In parallel, you will work on a group project, in which you use the same stepwise approach to study one of the cognitive functions. At the end of the project, the groups will present their findings in a short review article and oral presentation.
In part II of the course you will work on a second group project in which you study how cognitive skills can be translated into computational, artificial intelligence models that could contribute to the development of humanized robots. This part of the project will be supported by lectures from experts on neural networks and artificial intelligence. You will finish the course by writing a critical opinion on the translatability of models of consciousness, the mind and cognitive skills to autonomous functioning humanized robots.