The book "Eseje o vědomí" offers five different points of view

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Foto: Roman Sejkot

The collection of Essays on Consciousness with the subtitle Towards Artificial Intelligence by the editors Vladimír Mařík, Tat’ána Maříková and Miroslav Svítek was launched at the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics CTU by the President of the Czech Academy of Sciences Eva Zažímalová. The book, which fills a certain debt on the Czech book market, tries to show human consciousness through the eyes of five different scientific disciplines. Among the authors of the individual essays are a number of prominent figures of Czech science, led by microbiologist Václav Pačes, neurosurgeon Vladimír Beneš and the most cited Czech scientist Tomáš Mikolov.

What is consciousness? The book offers five different perspectives – a philosophical, religious or spiritual perspective, but also a biological and medical perspective, a physical and systems perspective, and finally a robotics and artificial intelligence perspective. This last direction and the subtitle „Towards Artificial Intelligence“ are explained by the editors, cyberneticist Vladimír Mařík, geneticist Tat’ána Maříková and urban planner Miroslav Svítek, in the introduction to the book.

Although the book is three hundred and fifty pages long, he admits in his introduction that we still cannot define consciousness well and still know very little about it. There is something to be said for a negative definition, that is, for what consciousness is not, mentions the author of the chapter Anatomy of Consciousness, neurosurgeon Vladimír Beneš. In the introduction we learn that „consciousness is the subject of intensive research and yet remains shrouded in many mysteries and doubts as to whether it can be fully known and clarified by current methods at the present time, with the current state of knowledge“.

Foto: Roman Sejkot

This explains the wide-ranging approach to the topic and the attempt to look at the phenomenon of consciousness with the help of exact science and measurable variables, as well as from a philosophical or religious perspective. The book does not shy away from alternative approaches and spiritualism. Nevertheless, „the medical perspective remains the most important one – and the key objectively documentable conclusion is that consciousness is primarily a product of brain activity, although other processes and information flows in some other parts of the living organism are also involved.“ The last chapter deals with the possibility of artificial consciousness and machine consciousness. Which is a topic that keeps many people awake. However, according to the authors, we can be calm for now, because „for many decades, if not centuries, Kurzweil’s singularity, i.e. the domination of machines over humans, will not occur“.

The book was officially blessed by Eva Zažímalová, the President of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and the event was attended not only by almost all the authors, who number an impressive twenty, but also by the book’s expert reviewers, Prof. Olga Štěpánková from the CIIRC of the Czech Technical University and Prof. Emil Pelikán from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

The publication of the book was initiated by the Equilibrium Institute, z. ú. It was supported by the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics of CTU, the Karel Čapek Centre for the Study of Values in Science and Technology and CertiCon, a. s., and published by Pavel Mervart.

Foto: Roman Sejkot

Foto: Roman Sejkot

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