CyberChild - A simulation test-bed for consciousness studies

Rodney M J Cotterill

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The first brief description is given of a project aimed at searching for the neural correlates of consciousness through computer simulation. The underlying model is based on the known circuitry of the mammalian nervous system, the neuronal groups of which are approximated as binary composite units. The simulated nervous system includes just two senses - hearing and touch - and it drives a set of muscles that serve vocalisation, feeding and bladder control. These functions were chosen because of their relevance to the earliest stages of human life, and the simulation has been given the name CyberChild. The system pain receptors respond to a sufficiently low milk level in the stomach, if there is simultaneously a low level of blood sugar and also to a full bladder and an unchanged diaper It is believed that it may be possible to infer the presence of consciousness in the simulation through observations of CyberChild behaviour and from the monitoring of its ability to ontogenetically acquire novel reflexes. The author has suggested that this ability is the crucial evolutionary advantage of possessing consciousness. The project is still in its very early stages, and although no suggestion of consciousness has yet emerged, there appears to be no fundamental reason why consciousness could not ultimately develop and be observed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Consciousness Studies
Issue number4-5
Pages (from-to)31-45
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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