Georg Zeißner: Building a conscious agent –Extracting an operational model of consciousness from its natural application

Consciousness is one of the prime topics of modern cognitive sciences. Its connections with ancientquestions about the human self (e.g. the existence of a free will) and new concepts from otherdisciplines (e.g. like the ability to collapse quantum wave packets) guarantee for atremendously complex and sometimes even mystified field of research in which most of thefundamental prerequisites are still subject to intense debate.
This talk will introduce an onoing PhD research which strifes to formulate an applicable theory ofconsciousness through means of qualitative research and cognitive modelling. However, thisdissertation will seek to avoid the above mentioned conceptual tar-pits and instead focus on a morepragmatic approach to consciousness. By tasking consciousness (in humans and autonomousagents) with a concrete problem, the phenomenon shall be elucidated from its accomplishments andfunctional role rather than from the complex underlying machinery.
To this end we had 16 human subjects think aloud while solving complex problems (a turn-basedPC-simulation and two sets of simulated decision-dilemmata) in order to collect online-data ofconscious problem solving. The resulting reports have been checked for signs of consciouscognition (i.e. self-reflection or self-modification) and integrated into individual generative theories.In this talk the fruits of the project so far and an outline of the following steps will be presented.