-Velocity-

Sentience vs. sapience- get it right!

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Please stop incorrectly using the word "sentient". "Sentient" means the ability to sense and feel. A dog is sentient. A tapeworm is sentient even, though certainly less so than a dog. Supposedly even some single-celled organisms have shown signs of sensing the environment and acting in self-preservation. This is all varying levels of sentience. There are literally millions of sentient species on planet Earth. Yet over and over again, you see science fiction authors calling intelligent aliens "sentient aliens" and intelligent computers "sentient computers". Where in the heck did this come from?! Don't they know their English? If I was an alien, I'd be insulted to be compared to nothing but a mouse or a tapeworm :D

The proper word for intelligence is sapience, which means the ability to reason- i.e., the possession of intelligence. Where the cutoff between sapience and non-sapience lies, however, is not as well defined.

Some people contend- sometimes with some arrogance, in my opinion- that humans are the only sapient species on Earth. This does make sense to some degree, because we are the most intelligent, we are the only ones to use "high" technology, have a complex language, etc. However, if we define sapience this way, then there's no reason a more intelligent alien race (or, more likely, a machine intelligence we create ourselves) could come along and tell us that we are not sapient, and that only it and beings more intelligent than it are sapient.

Personally, I'd prefer to define the minimum level of sapience to be based off of some measure of intelligence that requires sub-human sapience (such as self-awareness). This would help finally give intelligent non-humans the respect and protection they deserve (i.e., force Japan to stop the torture and murder of dolphins), and set up an important precedent whereby, if we ever encounter or create our intellectual superiors, the moral precedent exists for them to respect our rights as sapient beings. Of course, that doesn't mean that they would, but it might help to have the moral high ground. Otherwise, if we had defined sapient beings as simply being the smartest things around, how could we rightfully object to being slaughtered or otherwise repressed? So I think it's important to set up a fuzzy boundary (pun intended :D) between human rights and animal rights. But I'm starting to seriously digress from the definition of "sapience".

Edited by |Velocity|

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I think the writers using "sentient" for "sentient AI" is correct though, because it is not so much about the computer gaining intelligence, but gaining self-awareness and emotion.

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I think the writers using "sentient" for "sentient AI" is correct though, because it is not so much about the computer gaining intelligence, but gaining self-awareness and emotion.

I disagree, because it is quite possible to imagine (and demonstrate) a computer that can feel but is not sapient. For example, your computer already responds to stimuli. You strike a key, and it responds. It sends out a ping to a website and sends data back and forth. A computer already has a level of sentience, but it certainly has no sapience. It is not self-aware, and it cannot reason or plan.

Imagine if a computer runs a neural simulation with as much complex thinking and feeling as, say, a mouse. This could be highly useful, for example, we might disperse a small fleet of UUVs with this level of sentience through the seas of Europa. They could try to sniff out organic molecules, and visually see the environment, and "instictually" know to return to "base" with whatever interesting things they could find (where their results would be radioed back to Earth). There was some article I read recently even talking about someone developing software to do something like this, specifically for Europa. It was software designed for UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles) that made them look for "interesting" things in the ocean. A UUV was loaded with it, and when released into the water, it started taking pictures of corals and fish, and eventually "noticed" the scuba diver that was monitoring it and started following the diver around! So one can quite easily demonstrate that our artificial intelligence software has already achieved a reasonable level of sentience!

So, again, sentient computers are not equivalent to sapient computers; in fact, sentient computers already exist.

Edited by |Velocity|

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I know some Homosapiens who should be called Homosentiens by this terminology.

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The thing with language is that if everyone uses it wrong, it slowly becomes right. Meanings and definitions change. Saying everyone is doing it wrong often is a dangerous thing to say, because apparently the definition of something has changed beyond what it originally meant.

And yes, that can be frustrating. For instance, by the looks of it, the term literally will end up meaning its exact opposite. These things have happened before and will happen again.

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I know some Homosapiens who should be called Homosentiens by this terminology.

It's not either-or. Sapient beings are, mostly likely, always very sentient beings too. It might be very hard to impossible to separate the two, though there have been many examples in fiction of intelligent, "unfeeling"/"soulless"/"heartless" computers. Personally, I think this is likely more reflective of human psychology than reality. Asimov called it the "Frankenstein complex" in his fiction.

Homo sapiens is two words, btw.

All in all, I'd rather be a feeling, dumb being than an unfeeling super-intelligence.

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According to your definition it is pretty much impossible not to feel, since even computers are sentient.

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According to your definition it is pretty much impossible not to feel, since even computers are sentient.

Correct. Sentience is not something you either have or don't have- it's a spectrum. Every higher animal- say, vertebrates- will have a reasonably high level of sentience. Software on our computers can already be very minimally sentient. As I said before, a tapeworm or protozoa may have minimal levels of sentience (which certain software has probably already exceeded). This idea of a continuum of sentience has been around for decades, here's one variation on the idea- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience_quotient

It can be useful to define a certain cutoff limit between sentience and non-sentience, and this is commonly assumed though people may not realize it- because too broadly defined, even a rock could be considered to have some near infinitesimal amount of sentience. Basically, like sapience, there is a problem of where to draw the line between sentience and non-sentience. If we want to draw the line at levels of sentience experienced by say, vertebrates, then there might not yet be a piece of software that is sentient.

It might be possible to create, for example, a superintelligent being that has abnormally low levels of sentience- a sort of "philosophical zombie"- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_zombie Personally, I am skeptical such a thing is possible- but if it were, as I said, I'd rather be a highly sentient being with lower sapience that a being with almost no sentience as compared to its level of high sapience.

Edited by |Velocity|

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would an "actor" be considered as a sentient when he/she plays a role that he which he/she was assigned? how do we know whether the sentient is "inside" the actor?

On 2015-04-07 at 3:52 PM, -Velocity- said:

All in all, I'd rather be a feeling, dumb being than an unfeeling super-intelligence.

there are many dumb people although they think about themselves as caring etc. How does anyone know whether someone else is an "actor" who mimic feelings or whether he/she/it is a true feeler?

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Well, when you put it like that... No... Just to be a contrarian. :wink:

EDIT and PS: Naw, I agree... but sometimes... I'm gonna use the wrong word... It happens.

 

Edited by 78stonewobble

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On 4/7/2015 at 2:16 PM, -Velocity- said:

If I was an alien, I'd be insulted to be compared to nothing but a mouse or a tapeworm :D

An alien mouse or an alien tapeworm would still be very significant discoveries. Don't write off people who talk about looking for "sentient species."

I tend to prefer terms that are easier to assess objectively, such as "space-faring." We can debate all day whether a given species is sentient or sapient based on this or that experiment, but when it comes to launching a payload into orbit, either you've done it or you haven't.

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On 7.4.2015 at 9:38 PM, -Velocity- said:

I disagree, because it is quite possible to imagine (and demonstrate) a computer that can feel but is not sapient. For example, your computer already responds to stimuli. You strike a key, and it responds. It sends out a ping to a website and sends data back and forth. A computer already has a level of sentience, but it certainly has no sapience. It is not self-aware, and it cannot reason or plan.

Imagine if a computer runs a neural simulation with as much complex thinking and feeling as, say, a mouse. This could be highly useful, for example, we might disperse a small fleet of UUVs with this level of sentience through the seas of Europa. They could try to sniff out organic molecules, and visually see the environment, and "instictually" know to return to "base" with whatever interesting things they could find (where their results would be radioed back to Earth). There was some article I read recently even talking about someone developing software to do something like this, specifically for Europa. It was software designed for UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles) that made them look for "interesting" things in the ocean. A UUV was loaded with it, and when released into the water, it started taking pictures of corals and fish, and eventually "noticed" the scuba diver that was monitoring it and started following the diver around! So one can quite easily demonstrate that our artificial intelligence software has already achieved a reasonable level of sentience!

So, again, sentient computers are not equivalent to sapient computers; in fact, sentient computers already exist.

Worse much simpler stuff like computers react to stimuli, an smoke detector does, however at this level its start getting physical. an thermometer show an reaction then heated too.
I say sentience is pretty pointless like this as it would include any animals with an nervous system or at least some sort of brain. And as you say pretty simple computer systems. 

 

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The problem with OP's post is that languages are not rational. Look at the constant misuse of "literally," for example.

So I would ask anyone in the cognitive sciences, or who is working on AI seriously to chime in with which word is actually used in the disciplines in question. It doesn't matter if they are using the "wrong" word, dictionaries don't tell you what a word means, they tell you how a word is being used. Huge difference.

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Totally on your wavelength, @-Velocity-. Unfortunately neither sentience nor intelligence are sharply defined. Anthropologists hedge and stammer when it comes to defining human intelligence. Imho these words are used in every day life to transport a message (intelligent windshield-wipers :-)), to induce a sales message or to distinguish between the one and the other.

So, as long as there is no waterproof definition, i think that if we use these words, maybe we have to sketch what we mean to avoid misunderstandings.

Edit: i personally for example thought about sentience as something anatomical, nerves as receptors, signal transport, and a brain as a processing unit like "This is hot, hands off !", so limiting sentience to "higher life-forms" like vertebrates .... seems i was wrong ...

 

Edited by Green Baron

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Not a native speaker, but it seems to me that - as no non-sentient being is possible at all, then either "sentient being" is a tautology, or it means "sentient" in particular meaning, say, "sapient".

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you can eventually sap-science but it's (weirdly) both within and against this subforum rules ^^ (gniark gniark gniark) ^^

Edited by WinkAllKerb''

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