Is AI conscious? Most people answer “yes”

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Two-thirds of people surveyed believe that artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT have some level of consciousness and are capable of subjective experiences, such as emotions and memories, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo.

Large-scale language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT often exhibit a conversational style when outputting content, and these human-like abilities have spurred the debate about whether AI is conscious.

According to the researchers, if people come to believe that AI has some level of consciousness, this could ultimately affect how they interact with AI tools, strengthening social bonds and increasing trust. On the other hand, too much trust could lead to emotional dependency, less human interaction, and over-reliance on AI to make important decisions.

“While most experts currently reject the possibility of AI being conscious, our research suggests that for most of the general public, AI consciousness is already a reality,” said Dr Clara Colombatto, Professor of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Waterloo.

Photo of Dr. Clara ColumbatTo understand public attitudes about AI consciousness, Colombat and his colleague Dr Steve Fleming of University College London surveyed a stratified sample of 300 people in the US, asking them whether they thought ChatGPT could have a range of mental states, including not only consciousness but also the ability to make plans, reason and feel emotions, and how frequently they use the tool.

Our research shows that the more people use ChatGPT, the more people consider it conscious — an important consideration as AI tools become increasingly part of our daily lives.

“These results demonstrate the power of language, because conversation alone can lead us to believe that agents that look and behave very differently from us have minds,” Colombatto said.

“Alongside emotions, consciousness is associated with intellectual capacities essential for moral responsibility. The ability to plan, act purposefully, and exercise self-control are tenets of our ethical and legal systems. These public attitudes, along with expert consensus, should therefore be important considerations in designing and regulating AI to ensure its safe use.”

Future research will explore more specific factors that drive these attributions, their impact on trust and social bonds, and possible changes across people over time and across different countries and cultures.

The article “Folk psychological attributions of consciousness to large-scale language models” has been published in Neuroscience of Consciousness.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author may be out of date and has been edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take any organizational stance or position and all views, positions and conclusions expressed here are solely those of the authors. Read the full article here.

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