Self Awareness

“I think, therefore I am” (cogito ergo sum) – Rene Descartes

Consciousness or awareness of self existence, seems to be a combination of a sense of limitation of self, of distinguishing between self and “other than self”, of past history relevant to self and perhaps most importantly of current reasoning and analytical processes being used to predict the future and make decisions on actions to take.

It would seem that we have evolved a defacto standard of applying the definition of self awareness in a scalar fashion. It can be argued that some animals are self-aware and yet, because they are considered to be “just animals” and not human, we don’t grant them the same considerations that we give a human for self awareness. In order to be considered as a rational, reasoning, sentient being, it is necessary to pass some undefined threshold of awareness.

It could be argued that if a monkey or dolphin can demonstrate a high degree of self-awareness, we should then feel compelled to grant them status as an equal, but it seems more likely that they will then be required to meet some further test of intelligence to prove they are worthy of our consideration as a peer. This process could go on without end unless we define some standard of a threshold for when non-human forms of consciousness might be just as worthy of respect as humans. When we finally reach that point, it should also mean the subject will be granted rights we now reserve for humans. As it stands now, if they exhibit self-awareness to a limited degree, they are granted limited rights and considerations for their limited self awareness.

We also need to work to apply these tests to forms of self-awareness and intelligence with which we don’t have much understanding. If self-awareness exists in a group when it seems to be minimal in the individuals that make up the group, we may need to consider granting status and rights to the group. Likewise, we might need to consider self-awareness that is only obvious over a longer frame of time than we are used to observing in human behavior. And we also need to use the definition of self awareness to define whether or not it exists in artificial intelligence. When an AI agent can successfully demonstrate an awareness of self and of it’s own reasoning and analytical processes to an extent comparable with human beings, at some point, it will have qualified as sentient intelligence and will need to be granted rights and considerations.

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