/ opinion

Enactivism and AI Sentience

The enactivist theory of the mind holds that cognition is produced via the interaction of a person and their environment. A key premise to this idea is that people are not just passive observers of their environment but instead through their own worldview and physical existence they enact a world in their mind. A simple example would be that a person in the artic would form a view of the environment as a cold one, they don't think of it as cold in relation to a specific measurable temperature but instead their sensation of cold produces their internal picture of the environment.

Mark Rowlands uses the 4Es to describe enactivism:

  • Embodied involving more than the brain, including a more general involvement of bodily structures and processes.
  • Embedded functioning only in a related external environment.
  • Enacted involving not only neural processes, but also things an organism does.
  • Extended into the organism's environment.

In the enactivist theory of the mind, a persons experience of the world is not the cold processing of information but instead people exist in a world of imbued with personal meaning that effects their cognition of the world. Some theories of the mind tend to see the mind as an isolated source of cognition being fed data through the input of their sense whereas the mind in this theory is linked to the bodily senses, the greater environment and the person's actions within the environment.

This theory has interested those involved in the development of Artificial Intelligence systems. This theory appears to allow for a sentient Artificial Intelligence as one can be feasibly given the ability to enact their own environment. A sentient AI could be embodied within a robot for example and therefore have a similar possibility for cognition as described via enactivism.

This is obviously a theory that only allows for such sentience in the general sense though and undoubtedly massive technical barriers remain to such a creation. Some of which could even prove insurmountable.