This is a very brief post relating to possibility of artificial consciousness on a silicon substrate. I’ve been skeptical of this and remain so, but I know both McFadden and Pockett both believe that consciousness is identical with certain types of electromagnetic fields and, therefore, the substrate these fields are created with is not relevant.
I came upon this in an interview with McFadden on medium.com.
To quote McFadden in response to a question about EM fields and computer design:
They have to be designed to be sensitive, rather than insulated from, the EM field. Remarkably, an experiment performed more than 20 years ago by the COGS group of the University of Sussex actually achieved such a feat. They evolved, rather than designed, an electrical circuit (on FPGA chips) to perform a simple task. The evolved circuit used EM interactions, as well as wired connections, to perform that task. Perhaps they inadvertently built the first artificial conscious mind. However, as far as I know, nobody has yet attempted to repeat and extend this approach but I would be very interested to hear from anyone who be willing, and would have the resources, to give it a go.
Then I found an article, Evolving A Conscious Machine, from Discover Magazine in June, 1998.
To quote from that article about an attempt to understand why the chip seem to perform the way it did:
Thompson gradually narrowed the possible explanations down to a handful of phenomena. The most likely is known as electromagnetic coupling, which means the cells on the chip are so close to each other that they could, in effect, broadcast radio signals between themselves without sending current down the interconnecting wires. Chip designers, aware of the potential for electromagnetic coupling between adjacent components on their chips, go out of their way to design their circuits so that it won’t affect the performance. In Thompson’s case, evolution seems to have discovered the phenomenon and put it to work.
It was also possible that the cells were communicating through the power-supply wiring. Each cell was hooked independently to the power supply; a rapidly changing voltage in one cell would subtly affect the power supply, which might feed back to another cell. And the cells may have been communicating through the silicon substrate on which the circuit is laid down. The circuit is a very thin layer on top of a thicker piece of silicon, Thompson explains, where the transistors are diffused into just the top surface part. It’s just possible that there’s an interaction through the substrate, if they’re doing something very strange. But the point is, they are doing something really strange, and evolution is using all of it, all these weird effects as part of its system.