Owen Holland

Towards a Technology of Consciousness

The first 10 minutes of this video are silent.

One of the newest and most exciting subdisciplines of engineering is machine consciousness – the theoretical and practical study of the ways in which a conscious machine might be built. This talk will feature the CRONOS project, an EPSRC-funded exploration of a robot-centred investigation of the role of internal modelling in consciousness. Our theory is that your consciousness is strongly associated with your internal model of yourself – so strongly that, in a sense, you are your internal model of yourself. CRONOS is a specially developed and uniquely human-like robot, with a skeleton and elastic muscles similar to our own. Alongside CRONOS, and soon to be inside it, is SIMNOS – an accurate physics-based software model of CRONOS's body, capable of mimicking its movements and its interaction with the environment. We also have a sophisticated neural network modelling system, some state-of-the-art computer vision, and some very difficult control problems. In this talk I will describe the theory behind the project, some of the technology we have used or developed, and how far we think we have got along the road to machine consciousness. I will also speculate about why some aspects of this project seems to appeal so strongly to the arts community, and how that community may be able to contribute to its future development.

Speaker biography: Owen Holland Department of Computing and Electronic Systems, University of Essex

After initially training as a production engineer, Owen Holland became interested in psychology, graduating from Nottingham University in 1969 (B.Sc. Hons in Psychology) and going on to teach experimental methods at Edinburgh University Psychology Department for three years. In 1988 he began to take an interest in robotics. He helped to set up the Intelligent Autonomous Systems Engineering Laboratory (now the Bristol Robotics Laboratory). In 1997 Owen was invited to Caltech as Visiting Associate in Electrical Engineering to help set up their swarm intelligence laboratory. In 1998 he was appointed Reader in Electrical Engineering at UWE, and in 1999 he spent a year as Principal Research Scientist at the CyberLife Institute (now CyberLife Research) before returning to Caltech. His next port of call was the legendary Starlab, in Brussels, where he was Chief Scientist, working on machine consciousness. In October 2001 he joined Essex University, where he is now a Professor of Computer Science. In addition to machine consciousness, Owen's research interests include swarm intelligence, the history of British cybernetics, biologically inspired robotics, and autonomous helicopters.

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