AI and Time Appendices — Observer, Causality and Consciousness
Due to the large amount of very interesting observations and opinions from the contributors, it was impossible to include everything in the summary document (parts 1 and 2). But we offer below a few bonus segments that might be valuable. These are only bits and pieces from the original papers we received, but in our opinion, they help to raise or reframe some of the questions brought up here, and thus they give additional context to the topic.
Time and the Observer
Time, the 4th dimension, is something very natural and, at the same time, very mysterious to human beings. In terms of metaphysical speculation, time exists concomitantly with the Universe itself.
Starting with thermodynamics and quantum mechanics, The Observer Effect dictates that the observer can no longer be inert and that by observing he/she influences the experiment: this effect is well understood from the concept of the Schrödinger‘s Cat thought experiment. In a sense, then, these concepts can be classified as objective-subjective scientific models, which relate to the human perception of time. Time is seen from a human perspective as a 4th dimension of our perception of reality, as compared with our perception of space, which comprises the first three dimensions. For us, the perception of time is a dimension and not a parameter of existence. Hermann Minkowski is credited with being the first to notice this correlation, in his reading of Maxwell’s studies on electrodynamics.
At what point will we be able to call some AI system — the observer (of time)? Is that the moment when we pronounce it sentient?
On the other hand, in a quantum approach to the matter, defining the “now” is an arduous task: if the perception of time takes place from the measurement of light as it travels across the Universe, the observer will never be seeing the “now”, since, even for the smaller distance, one will be experiencing the result of a photon that was deflected or reflected from the object some time ago in the past, thus there is no “now”.
The outputs of current artificial intelligence tools result from inputs provided by big data, which stems from human beings. Humanity marvels at GPT-x’s responses, fantasizing about it being alive, as Michelangelo has marveled at Moses, hitting the sculpture’s knee with the hammer, and daring it to speak.
Time and causality
Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, at the moment, can only perceive time in a limited sense. They can process and analyze time-based data, such as time-series data, and use it to make predictions or decisions.
One potential issue with AI and time is AI’s limitations mean it cannot deal with the complexity of time and its non-linearity. For example, AI may not be able to work with the concept of causality, where a cause leads to an effect in the future, or the concept of simultaneity, where multiple events happen at the same time. These limitations may lead to AI making decisions that have unintended consequences in the future, or not being able to account for the impact of their actions on the present.
Thus, AI may not be able to fully able to integrate its actions with the complexities of human emotions and decision-making, which are often based on past experiences and future expectations.
For example, should AI be allowed to make decisions that could have long-term consequences for humanity? And what will be the definition of long-term for AI?
Similar to how introducing the concept of attention in modern transformer-based AI systems has dramatically improved their performance in analyzing and processing natural language, maybe introducing the concept of time perception to AI systems will have the potential to once again cause a significant breakthrough in what these systems can do.
Perception of time emerging from consciousness / Attribution of relevant biological features
The study of consciousness, time, and reality is complex and evolving fast in many fields, including metaphysics and fundamental physics.
The notion of time is an integral part of consciousness. Consciousness experiences the causation or changes in the environment and so perceives time. The assumption of sequential awareness in consciousness enables the mapping of the perception of time onto consciousness.
Therefore, many believe now that consciousness is fundamental and that time and causation are derived from consciousness
In ancient Greece, there were at least three gods representing different time forms: Chronos, Aion, and Kairos. Chronos represented linear time flowing from past to present into the future. This is the time that humans feel as life passes. In contrast, Aion represented the cyclical nature of time experienced from natural events such as weather patterns, rebirths, etc. The third god Kairos represented opportunistic time, which reflects the appropriate time to achieve a task.
What would be the AI equivalent to the biological cycles that play a fundamental role in human behaviors and the perception of time — for example, mood cycles, circadian rhythms, and the menstrual cycle?
It is important to match the relevant features of biological processes to digital processes when training AIs, which raises more awareness about humans.
Recent discoveries in quantum physics indicate that our reality is non-local, and so awareness can happen instantly, faster than the speed of light. In other words, physicists and neurologists think brain neurons might be aware of the quantum world through the orchestrated collapse of microtubules in the neurons in the brain; according to this hypothesis, there are possibilities that human awareness can be linked with non-local realities to expand our consciousness across the universe instantly.
While our own perception of time contradicts quantum physics, the human concept of time also influenced the formation of diverse customs, values, and cultures based on patterns that emerged from nature, particularly around the regularities in the earth’s movement, environment, astronomy, and biology. Therefore, understanding time and related artifacts (i.e., cultures, beliefs, values, customs, physics, health, etc.) are very important to realize a deep understanding of the perception of reality.