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The Responsible Development of AI Agenda Needs to Include Consciousness Research

Open Letter – PUBLISHED April 26, 2023 – also see Press release

This open letter is a wakeup call for the tech sector, the scientific community and society in general to take seriously the need to accelerate research in the field of consciousness science.

As highlighted by the recent “Pause Giant AI Experiments” letter [1], we are living through an exciting and uncertain time in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and other brain-related technologies. The increasing computing power and capabilities of the new AI systems are accelerating at a pace that far exceeds our progress in understanding their capabilities and their “alignment” with human values.

AI systems, including Large Language Models such as ChatGPT and Bard, are artificial neural networks inspired by neuronal architecture in the cortex of animal brains. In the near future, it is inevitable that such systems will be constructed to reproduce aspects of higher-level brain architecture and functioning. Indeed, it is no longer in the realm of science fiction to imagine AI systems having feelings and even human-level consciousness. Contemporary AI systems already display human traits recognised in Psychology, including evidence of Theory of Mind [2].

Furthermore, if achieving consciousness, AI systems would likely unveil a new array of capabilities that go far beyond what is expected even by those spearheading their development. AI systems have already been observed to exhibit unanticipated emergent properties [3]. These capabilities will change what AI can do, and what society can do to control, align and use such systems. In addition, consciousness would give AI a place in our moral landscape, which raises further ethical, legal, and political concerns.

As AI develops, it is vital for the wider public, societal institutions and governing bodies to know whether and how AI systems can become conscious, to understand the implications thereof, and to effectively address the ethical, safety, and societal ramifications associated with artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Science is starting to unlock the mystery of consciousness. Steady advances in recent years have brought us closer to defining and understanding consciousness and have established an expert international community of researchers in this field. There are over 30 models and theories of consciousness (MoCs and ToCs) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, which already include some important pieces of the solution to the challenge of consciousness.

To understand whether AI systems are, or can become, conscious, tools are needed that can be applied to artificial systems. In particular, science needs to further develop formal and mathematical tools to model consciousness and its relationship to physical systems. In conjunction with empirical and experimental methods to measure consciousness, questions of AI consciousness must be tackled.

The Association for Mathematical Consciousness Science (AMCS) [4], is a large community of over 150 international researchers who are spearheading mathematical and computational approaches to consciousness. The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC), [5], comprises researchers from neuroscience, philosophy and similar areas that study the nature, function, and underlying mechanisms of consciousness. Considerable research is required if consciousness science is to align with advancements in AI and other brain-related technologies. With sufficient support, the international scientific communities are prepared to undertake this task.

The way ahead
Artificial intelligence may be one of humanity’s greatest achievements. As with any significant achievement, society must make choices on how to approach its implications. Without taking a position on whether AI development should be paused, we emphasise that the rapid development of AI is exposing the urgent need to accelerate research in the field of consciousness science.

Research in consciousness is a key component in helping humanity to understand AI and its ramifications. It is essential for managing ethical and societal implications of AI and to ensure AI safety. We call on the tech sector, the scientific community and society as a whole to take seriously the need to accelerate research in consciousness in order to ensure that AI development delivers positive outcomes for humanity. AI research should not be left to wander alone.

[1] Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter:
[2] Theory of Mind May Have Spontaneously Emerged in Large Language Models:
[3] The AI revolution: Google’s developers on the future of artificial intelligence:
[4] Association for Mathematical Consciousness Science (AMCS):
[5] Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC):

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Supporting Signatories:

Prof. Lenore Blum (AMCS President; Carnegie Mellon University and UC Berkeley)
Dr Johannes Kleiner (AMCS Board Chair; Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Dr Jonathan Mason (AMCS Board Vice Chair; University of Oxford)
Dr Robin Lorenz (AMCS Board Treasurer; Quantinuum)
Prof. Manuel Blum (Turing Award 1995; UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University)
Prof. Yoshua Bengio FRS, FRSC, Knight of the Legion of Honour [France] (Turing Award 2018; Full professor, Scientific director of Mila, University of Montreal / Mila)
Prof. Marcus du Sautoy FRS, OBE (University of Oxford)
Prof. Karl Friston FRS, FRBS, FMedSci, MAE (Weldon Memorial Prize and Medal, 2013; Donald O Hebb award, 2022; Prof of Neuroscience, University College London)
Prof. Anil K. Seth (University of Sussex, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness)
Prof. Peter Grindrod OBE (University Of Oxford)
Prof. Tim Palmer FRS CBE (University of Oxford)
Prof. Susan Schneider APA (NASA Chair, NASA; Distinguished Scholar, Library of Congress; Director of the Center for the Future Mind, Florida Atlantic University)
Prof. Claire Sergent (Professor of Cognitive Neurosciences, Co-director of the Master of Cognitive Neurosciences of Paris; Université Paris Cité / CNRS)
Prof. Anthony Aguirre (Faggin Presidential Chair for the Physics of Information at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Co-founder and associate scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute; Co-founder of the Future of Life Institute; Co-founder of the aggregated prediction platform Metaculus)
Dr Ryota Kanai (Founder & CEO of Araya, Inc.)
Prof. Kobi Kremnitzer (University of Oxford)
Prof. Paul Azzopardi (University of Oxford)
Prof. Michael Graziano (Princeton University)
Prof. Naotsugu Tsuchiya (Monash University)
Prof. Shimon Edelman (Cornell University)
Prof. Andrée Ehresmann (Université de Picardie Jules Verne Amiens)
Prof. Liad Mudrik (Tel Aviv University, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness)
Dr Lucia Melloni (Max Planck Institute/NYU Langone Health)
Prof. Stephen Fleming (University College London)
Prof. Bob Coecke (DVRS at Perimeter Institute; Quantinuum)
Jeff Walz (Tech sector Consultant)
Dr Wanja Wiese (Ruhr University Bochum)
Dr Joscha Bach (Research Scientist, Thistledown Foundation)
Prof. Ian Durham FRAS (Saint Anselm College)
Prof. Pedro Resende (IST – University Lisbon)
Dr Quanlong Wang (Quantinuum)
Peter Thestrup Waade (Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University; Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London)
Prof. Jose Acacio de Barros (San Francisco State University)
Dr Vasileios Basios (University of Brussels)
Dr Miguel Sanchez-Valpuesta (Korea Brain Research Institute)
Dr Michael Coughlan (Wageningen University)
Dr Adam Barrett (University of Sussex)
Prof. Marc Ebner (Computer Science Professor, University of Greifswald)
Dr Chris Fields (Tufts University)
Dr Guillaume Dumas (Associate Professor, University of Montreal / Mila)
Dr Hamid Azizi (Research Scholar, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS))
Prof. Ricardo Sanz IEEE, AAAI, ASSC (Head of Autonomous Systems Laboratory, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid)
Dr Robert Prentner (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Prof. Johannes Fahrenfort ASSC (Assistant Professor, VU Amsterdam)
Dr Svetlana Rudenko (Researcher and composer; Haunted Planet Studios, Trinity College Dublin)
Prof. Óscar Gonçalves (Full Professor of Neuropsychology, University of Coimbra, Portugal)
Prof. John Barnden SSAISB (Professor Emeritus of AI, University of Birmingham, UK)
Prof. Valtteri Arstila (University of Turku)
Dr Neda Kosibaty (AMCS)
Dr Daniel Helman (College of Micronesia-FSM)
Justin T. Sampson (VMware, Inc.)
Christopher Rourk (Jackson Walker LLP)
Dr Mouhacine B. Benosman (MERL)
Prof. Ouri Wolfson (University of Illinois at chicago and Pirouette Software inc.)
Dr Rupert Macey-Dare (St Cross College Oxford)
David Evans (Sonoma State University)
Rajarshi Ghoshal (Ford)
Prof. Peter B. Reiner (University of British Columbia)
Dr Adeel Razi (Monash University)
Prof. Jun Tani (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology)
David Rein (New York University, Cohere)
Dr Colin Hales (University of Melbourne)
John Balis (University of Wisconsin – Madison)
George Blackburne (University College London)
Jacy Reese Anthis (Sentience Institute)
Dr George Deane (University of Montreal)
Dr Nathan Faivre (CNRS)
Dr Giulio Ruffini (Neuroelectrics, Starlab)
Borjan Milinkovic (Unniversity of Melbourne)
Dr Jacobo Sitt (Inserm, Paris Brain Institute)
Dr Aureli Soria-Frisch (Starlab Barcelona)
Dr Bjørn Erik Juel (University of Oslo and university of Wisconsin – Madison)
Craig Cockburn (Siliconglen Ltd)
Dr Theofanis Panagiotaropoulos (Inserm/CEA)
Andrea Sittoni (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Dr Lancelot Pecquet (University of Poitiers)
Carlos Perez (Intuition Machine Inc.)
Dr Xerxes Arsiwalla (Pompeu Fabra University)
Dr Jim Rutt (Emeritus; Santa Fe Institute)
Dr Sean Tull (Quantinuum)
Prof. Chris Frith (Craik Prize. 1996; University of London)
Dr Henry Shevlin (Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge)
Dr Jolien C. Francken (Radboud University, Nijmegen)
Prof. Sebastiano Stramaglia (University of Bari)
Milton Ponson (Caribbean Applied Engineering and Science Research Foundation)
Juan Cordovilla (Exactos Consulting Group)
Eduardo César Garrido Merchán (Universidad Pontificia Comias)
Benedict Harrision (Who Am I Ltd)
Nicolas Grootjans (BlueField)
Jared Frerichs (Deus Mechanicus)
Dr Nadine Dijkstra (University College London)
CEO Petra Sophie Lievens (Founder of Con su mensa)
CEO Krishna Harish (IGNOU)
Prof. Carlos Andres Salazar Martinez (EAFIT University)
Prof. Manuel Menendez (Professor of Neurology, Oviedo University)
Dr Giovanni Rabuffo (University of Aix-Marseille)
Prof. Lorina Naci (Associate Professor of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin)
Prof. Émérite Paul Baird (Professeur Émérite, Université de Bretagne Occidentale)
Dr Tommaso Salvatori (Machine Learninh Researcher, TU Wien / VERSES Inc.)
Dr Julia Sophia Crone ASSC (Group Leader, University of Vienna)
Will Aldred (Research Analyst in AI Forecasting, Metaculus)
Dr Konstantinos Meichanetzidis (Senior Research Scientist, Quantinuum)
Vasco Grilo (Researcher, Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters, and Arb Research)
Dr William Wong (Monash University)
Dr Jesús A. Mármol (Cambridge International University)
Prof. Swapan Chattopadhyay (Chaterji) AAAS, APS, F Inst P, corrFRSE, FRSA (Halbach Prize; Faculty and Distinguished Scientist Emeritus; University of California at Berkeley, USA, and Fermilab, USA)
Prof. Vincent Conitzer (Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University)
Prof. Fernando Soler-Toscano (Associate Professor, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain)
Prof. Arlindo Oliveira AAAI, IEEE, ACM, Portuguese Academy of Engineering (Distinguished Professor; Instituto Superior Técnico)
Prof. Alice Cline Parker Life Fellow IEEE (Professor Emerita; University of Southern California)
Prof. LuIs Caires (Professor of Computer Science; NOVA University Lisbon)
Dr Paavo Pylkkänen (Director of Bachelor’s Programme in Philosophy; University of Helsinki)
Dr Lei Xu (Xinjiang University, Baidu Inc., Deep Learning Research Institute)
Dr Ignacio Cea ASSC (Research Associate; Catholic University of Temuco, Chile)
Dr Acer Chang (Rikkyo University)
Dr Nir Lahav (Bar Ilan University)
Dr Jeong-Kyu Han (Researcher; Korea Institute of Science and Technology)
Dr Jean-Charles Vialatte (Research engineer, SenX)
CEO Stefanos Kornilios Mitsis Poiitidis (General Director of; University of West Attica)
Dr Ricardo Murphy (University of Oslo)
Dr Christoph Huber-Huber (University of Trento)
Nicholas Bustos (Staff Scientist; Columbia University)
Dvija Mehta ASSC (Scholar & Researcher; Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge)
Betsy Bigbee (University of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies)
Kevin Zhang (Andrew Wade Memorial Award in Visual Analytics 2022; Researcher / UX and HCI Specialist / Cognitive Systems – Cognition and Brain; University of British Columbia, Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, UBC Visual Cognition Lab)
Dr Pedro Mediano (Lecturer; Imperial College London)
Prof. Martin Hilbert (Chair DE Computational Social Science; University of California, Davis)
Dr Evgeniia Rusina (French National Centre for Scientific Research)
Prof. Tahseen Al-Shaikhli (Director; Future Studies Research Centre – London)
Dr Sándor Zoltán Németh (Associate Professor of Mathematics; University of Birmingham, School of Mathematics)
Dr Grigory Sapunov IEEE, AAAI (Co-founder, CTO; Intento)
Prof. David Schnyer (Professor of Psychology and Chair; University of Texas at Austin)
Prof. Antonio Chella AAAI (Professor of Robotics; University of Palermo, Italy)
Dr Andrews Cordolino Sobral (Associate Researcher; Advanced Institute for Artificial Intelligence)
Prof. Amit Sahai FACM, FRSA, FIACR (National Academy of Sciences Held Prize, 2022; Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics; UCLA)
Prof. Frank Gaffikin FRSA (Professor Emeritus; Queen’s University Belfast)
Andy E Williams (Executive Director; Nobeah Foundation)
Dr Michele Farisco ASSC (Researcher, Uppsala University)
Dr David Gamez (Senior Lecturer; Middlesex University, London)
Dr Nadav Amir (Princeton University)
Dr Selma Dundar-Coecke (QBA)
Ulla Mattfolk (Abo Academy)
Madalina Sas (Imperial College London)
Moritz Kriegleder (University of Vienna)
Keenan Down (Queen Mary University of London, University of Cambridge)
Dr Peter Overbury (University of Sussex)
Prof Pietro Perconti (University of Messina, Italy)
Joseph Reth CEO (Lossless Research)
Dr Claudio Teixeira (Pará State University Center, Brasil)
Dr Kevin Facemyer (University of Nevada)
Joe Murray (King’s College London)
Dr Junfan Chen (Beihang University)
Dr Michael Dello-Lacovo (Sentience Institute)
Prof Megan Peters (CIFAR Fellow in Brain, Mind & Consciousness, President & Co-Founder, Neuromatch, University of California Irvine)
Eugenio Tamassia (Delft University of Technology)
Stephen Wu (Silicon Valley Law Group)
Dr Jasmine Berry (University of Michigan)

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