"Self-Conscious AI" – our podcast to the project

Can artificial intelligence develop consciousness? How could this work at all, and what would it mean for us? 12 episodes, 12 discussions with experts and a joint final round.

The discussions in our science podcast have been conducted with the following specialist experts: Andreas Bischof, Antonio Chella, Andreas Eschbach. Thomas Fuchs, Christof Koch, Janina Loh, Thomas Metzinger, Ralf Otte, Frauke Rostalski, Junichi Takeno, Christian Vater and Joachim Weinhardt.

We received great support within the episodes from ambitious questioners: Urs Andelfinger, Jascha Bareis, Gerard Blommestijn, Murad Futehally, Armin Grunwald, Jennifer Heier, Hyeongjoo Kim, Jürgen Manner, Michael Mörike, Munish Sharma and Hinrich Thölken.

Other sources to listen to the podcast episodes:

#11 Most SF novels are intended as warnings, not as instructions. In conversation with Andreas Eschbach. (German)

(24.11.2020) Feedback

For the author Andreas Eschbach, people without technology are unthinkable. However, the freedom of the individual is both enabled and threatened by technology, which he takes up and processes in his stories in different genres. What we are discussing today about "Conscious AI" is a basic motif with a long tradition in his profession. He can tell us how media narratives have always humanized computers and robots, and he knows from his own experience that program codes always reflect something about those who wrote them.

Questioner in this episode:
Dr. Hinrich Thölken, Ambassador and Special Representative for Digitization and Digital Transformation at the Federal Foreign Office, Germany

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor, Recording Manager and Production: Kayla Zoller

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: https://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000126701


#10 The greatest hope would be to prevent dystopia. In conversation with Joachim Weinhardt. (German)

(17.11.2020) Feedback

The theologian Prof. Dr. Joachim Weinhardt, PH Karlsruhe, classifies questions about artificial intelligence and consciousness also in scientific and ethical contexts. From a biblical perspective, he says, it is not intended that man should create other creatures. In principle, however, he considers it possible that consciousness could also be based on different material conditions than we humans have. But how could one guarantee that an artificially created consciousness would not become an unhappy consciousness? Perspectively, one should already prevent preliminary stages of developments that could possibly end in a take-off.

Questioner in this episode:
Prof. Dr. Urs Andelfinger, Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor, Recording Manager and Production: Annalena Hörth

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000126231


#09 That robots make us believe they have emotions can be very important. In conversation with Janina Loh. (German)

(10.11.2020) Feedback

The philosopher Dr. Janina Loh at the University of Vienna examines inclusive approaches to thinking, at the end of which it is no longer so important whether someone calls himself a human being or a machine. The author of the suhrkamp book "Robot Ethics" traces emotional bonds between humans and robots in the most diverse fields of application, and possible relationships that can arise between them. As a critical posthumanist, she suggests that diversity should also be taken into account in the production of robots and that varied robots should be produced.

Questioner in this episode:
Jascha Bareis, M.A., Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor, Recording Manager and Production: Matthias Gerz

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: https://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000125862

References mentioned in the podcast:

Janina Loh: Roboterethik. Eine Einführung, suhrkamp taschenbuch 2019.

Article at Zeit.de about the about the robot researcher Kate Darling from MIT and the example of mining robots.

Thomas Nagel: essay "What is it like to be a bat?", 1974.

Article at ze.tt about a woman from Berlin who has a relationship with a model airplane.

Janina Loh at the Homepage of the University of Vienna:


#08 We must build machines that have feelings. In conversation with Antonio Chella. (German)

(3.11.2020) Feedback

For the roboticist Prof. Dr. Antonio Chella, head of the Robotic Labs and the Research Center for Knowledge Technologies at the University of Palermo, consciousness goes far beyond the brain. For the editor of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness, only an empathic machine can also be an ethical machine. Therefore, it is desirable to build machines with emotions, and to be able to learn more about our own phenomenal consciousness from their behavior. According to his observation, many AI people are not interested in philosophical debates, which is why he tries to build practical bridges between disciplines and support interdisciplinary discourses.

Questioner in this episode:
Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor and Production: Annalena Hörth
Recording Manager: Tobias Windmüller
Voice Actor: Konstantin Kleefoot

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000125589

References mentioned in the podcast:

Antonio Chella: Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness.

Quote from Woody Allen: “You rely too much on brain. The brain is the most overrated organ.“

The US-american science fiction film „Short Circuit", 1986.

Article at Zeit.de about the racist chatbot Tay (from 24.03.2020).

The science fiction drama Ex Machina by Alex Garland, 2015.

The science fiction film 2001: A Space Odysseey by Stanley Kubrick, 1968.

The black and white film Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1931.

The silent film Der Golem by Paul Wegener andHeinrich Galeen, 1914.

Antonio Chella at the Homepage of the University of Palermo:

#07 Consciousness is a causal power and not a clever programming hack. In conversation with Christof Koch. (German)

(27.10.2020) Feedback

For neuroscientist Prof. Dr. Christoph Koch, chief scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, there is a very close connection between the brain and consciousness. He does not believe it is possible to digitally simulate the structures of the human brain, but he does believe that it will eventually be possible to reconstruct it using technical materials. For him, consciousness is all experiences, feelings and sensations that are ultimately always related to the brain. So we do not love with the heart, but in reality with the head.

Questioner in this episode:
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ralf Otte, Ulm University of Applied Sciences

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor, Recording Manager and Production: Tobias Windmüller

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000125298

References mentioned in the podcast:

Christof Koch: The feeling of life itself. Why consciousness is widespread but can’t be computed, MIT Press 2020.

Aristoteles: Über die Seele. De Anima, Felix Meiner Verlag Hamburg 2017.

Article about about Floatation tanks at Faz.net (from 17.04.2017).

Information about the Integrated Information Theory.

Explanation of terms „CPU“ and „ALU“ at ITWissen.info.

Homepage of Christof Koch:

Christof Koch at the Homepgae of the Allen Institute for Brain Science Seattle:

#06 We have to be on the road with foresight and ask: What if? In conversation with Frauke Rostalski. (German)

(20.10.2020) Feedback

For the lawyer Prof. Dr. Dr. Frauke Rostalski, University of Cologne and member of the German Ethics Council, neither blame nor responsibility can be ascribed to AI robots - at least not by today's standards and technical realizations. AI systems can only represent parts of our thinking, and vice versa, humans do not function according to algorithms. However, we do not know what is yet to come and should think ahead of various futures in time. Future societies with e-persons, for example, are already debated scenarios.

Questioner in this episode:
Dr. Gerard Blommestijn, physicist and philosopher

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor: Kayla Zoller
Set manager on site in beautiful Cologne: Karsten Wendland
Production: Kayla Zoller

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000124841

References mentioned in the podcast:

Frauke Rostalski is a member of the German Ethics Council.

Article at Welt.de: Ingenieur „heiratet“ seine selbstgebaute Robo-Freundin (vom 07.04.2017).

Citation of the British evolution biologist Clinton Richard Dawkins:
“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.” (From his book „The Selfish Gene“, Oxford University Press: 1976).

Article about the Libet-Experiment at Planet Wissen.

The hippocratic Oath.

Scenario of the Black Swan by the publicist and stock exchange trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (Article at Risknet.de from 20.07.2020).

Prof. Dr. Dr. Frauke Rostalski at the Homepage of the University of Cologne:

#05 On refrigerator lights, AI puberty and sneakers. In conversation with Thomas Metzinger. (German)

(13.10.2020) Feedback

For the philosopher Prof. Dr. Thomas Metzinger from the University of Mainz, it is by no means impossible that artificial intelligence could at some point become conscious. We should already start thinking about our responsibility and about ethics, for example in the form of a global charter with AI rules that also cover the topic of consciousness. AI systems learn a lot about us humans, but they do not always have to be linked to the common good. It depends on us to regain our digital sovereignty.

Questioner in this episode:
Dipl.-Phys. Michael Mörike, Integrata Foundation for the Humane Use of Information Technology

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor, recording Manager and Production: Robert Sinitsyn

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000124512

References mentioned in the podcast:

René Descartes: The passion of the soul (Les passions de l’âme), L. Heimann 1870.

The Minimal Phenomenal Experience (MPE) Project, leadership by Thomas Metzinger.

Article from Thomas Metzinger at Spektrum.de about machine consciousness with reference to the American philosoph Hilary Putnam and his opinion on roboter rights.

European High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence.

Thomas Metzinger: The Ego-Tunnel: The Science of Mind and the Myth on the Self, Piper Verlag 2014.

Digitization an the Green Deal of the EU commission.

#04 The founding fathers of AI did not care about consciousness. In conversation with Christian Vater. (German)

(6.10.2020) Feedback

For technical historian Christian Vater, who conducts research in Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, AI research has archaeological qualities. He excavates finds that shape our current understanding of AI, even if they were meant differently in their time. He explains from which point of view human consciousness could be understood as a "Turing Onion" with an empty core, and what role female researchers played in the early days of AI.

Questioner in this episode:
Jennifer Heier, Head of UX-driven AI, SIEMENS

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor and Set manager on site: Konstantin Kleefoot
Production: Tobias Windmüller

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000124235

References mentioned in the podcast:

Entry about  Zombies in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Hubert L. Dreyfus: What Computers Still Can’t Do. A Critique of Artificial Reason, MIT Press 1992.

Nick Bostrom: Are you living in a computer simulation?, Philosophical Quaterly 2003.

Article by Alan M. Turing in "Mind": Computing Machinery and Intelligence.

Alan M. Turing: On countable numbers.

The dramatized film biography about Alan M. Turing: The Imitation Game.

Article about the mathematician and cryptologist Irving John "Jack" Good and his idea of super intelligence at Spektrum.de. His essay Speculations oncerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine from 1966.

Isaac Asimov: All Robot Stories (Alle Robotergeschichten), Bastei Lübbe 2007.

Jennifer S. Light: When Computers Were Women, Technology and Culture 1999.

Article about the "Astro Boy" at SRF.

Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari: Rhizom, Merve Verlag 1977.

Christian Vater on the homepage of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology: https://www.geschichte.kit.edu/mitarbeiter_1906.php

#03 There is no spirit in today's AI. In conversation with Ralf Otte. (German)

(29.09.2020) Feedback

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ralf Otte, Ulm University of Applied Sciences, has been researching and developing AI and algorithms related to the brain for decades. For the expert for neuromorphic systems, the mind cannot be described algorithmically. Even though AI is sometimes assumed to be able to "think", today's AI systems are highly trivial - and by no means contain a mind.

His book "Artificial Intelligence for Dummies" was recently published by Wiley-VCH.

Questioner in this episode:
Prof. Dr. phil. Hyeongjoo Kim, Chung-Ang University Seoul

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor: Tobias Windmüller
Set manager on site in Ralf's Garden: Karsten Wendland
Production: Robert Sinitsyn

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000124010

References mentioned in the podcast:

Ralf Otte: Vorschlag einer Systemtheorie des Geistes. Nicht-energetische Wellenfunktionen und Vorschlag zur Lösung des Geist-Körper-Problems, Cuvillier Verlag Göttingen 2016

At the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Institute of Princeton University, researchers studied how random or machine-controlled processes could be influenced by human consciousness. After its closure in 2007, similar research was continued in the Global Consciousness Project. The focus is on using random generators to verify the existence of a global consciousness.

The Austrian mathematician, philosopher and logician Kurt Gödel laid the foundations of predicate logic. Summary article on Spektrum.de (from 01.09.1999)

The US-American science fiction film „Short Circuit“ from 1986 is about a military robot that suddenly becomes autonomous by a lightning strike.

The German physicist Thomas Görnitz researches quantum theory and its philosophical interpretation.

The English mathematician and theoretical physicist Roger Penrose researches mathematical-physical problems of consciousness and AI.

Google builds quantum computers: a summary article by Zeit Online (from 28.09.2019) and Stern (from 23.10.2019).

Research on neuromorphic hardware at Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS).

Article by the British logician, mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist Alan M. Turing in the British philosophical journal "Mind": "Computing Machinery and Intelligence".

Ralf Otte: Artificial Intelligence for Dummies, John Wiley & Sons 2019.

Expert Opinion of the Data Ethics Commission of the Federal Government (abridged version) of 2019, published by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community and the FFederal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection Page 19: Pyramid addressed in the podcast, which classifies the potential dangers of algorithmic systems.

Ralf Otte on the homepage of Ulm University of Applied Sciences:

#02 Robots get a Human Aura. In Conversation with Andreas Bischof. (German)

(22.09.2020) Feedback

Dr. Andreas Bischof, University of Chemnitz, thinks technical and social sciences together. He explains how the fine interplay between man and technology works and how mutual "understanding" can be made possible. His current book "Soziale Maschinen bauen" (Building Social Machines) has been published by transcript Verlag.

The opening quotation to learn by heart:
"If the reconstruction of the developmental practice of interactive technology is to become a method for that very practice, it must engage and compromise with the intricacies and complexities of developing technology for everyday social worlds." (Andreas Bishop)

Questioner in this episode: Prof. Dr. Munish Sharma,
MIT Maharastra Institute of Technology, Aurangabad, India

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor: Tobias Windmüller
Voice Actor: Konstantin Kleefoot
Recording Manager and Production: Johanna Müller

Licence: CC-BY, DOI: https://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000123896

References mentioned in the podcast:

Andreas Bischof: Building social machines. Epistemic practices of social robotics, transcript Verlag 2017. https://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-3881-3/soziale-maschinen-bauen/

"ReThiCare." Interdisciplinary research project on the challenges and opportunities of technical assistance systems in the care context. http://www.rethicare.info/

Sherry Turkle: Alone Together. Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other, Basic Books 2011. https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/sherry-turkle/alone-together/9780465093663/

Homepage of Andreas Bischof: https://andreasbischof.net/


#01 No Life, no Consciousness. In Conversation with Thomas Fuchs. (German)

(15.09.2020) Feedback

Consciousness in the computer is a simulation, says Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Fuchs, holder of the Karl-Jaspers Professorship for Philosophical Foundations of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Heidelberg, in the first episode of our podcast Self-Conscious AI (Selbstbewusste KI). His current book "Verteidigung des Menschen" (Defense of Man) was recently published by suhrkamp.

Questioner in this episode: Murad Futehally, Mumbai/Ettlingen

Author: Karsten Wendland
Assistant Editor: Tobias Windmüller
Set Manager and Production: Konstantin Kleefoot

Licence: CC-BY, DIO: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000123619

References mentioned in this episode:

The Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro is researching human-like robots that look like him. http://www.geminoid.jp/en/index.html

"Ceci nest pas une pipe" is an oil painting by the Belgian painter René Magrid

The humanoid robot Sophia of the Honkonger AI and robotics company Henson Robotics: https://www.hansonrobotics.com/sophia/

Angela Merkel talks with Sophia (Article from the FAZ from 28.06.2018)

Sophia receives citizenship in Saudi Arabia. (Article in the WELT from 27.10.2017)

The US-American romantic science fiction film drama "Her" by Spike Jonze from 2013: https://www.warnerbros.com/movies/her#content

Thomas Fuchs on the homepage of Heidelberg University: https://www.uni-heidelberg.de/fakultaeten/philosophie/philsem/phaenomenologie/

Trailer for our podcast series Selbstbewusste KI.
Foretaste and outlook.
Production: Matthias Gerz / Tobias Windmüller
DOI: http://doi.org/10.5445/IR/1000122828