About the “Awareness Inside” Challenge
Awareness and consciousness have been high on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) research agenda for decades. Progress has been difficult because it has been hard to agree on exactly what it means to be aware. Most researches would agree though that we do not have any truly aware artificial system yet, that awareness is much more than a sensorial sophistication and that it is much more than any Artificial Intelligence as we know it. But, what is it then that a user would expect from a service or device that has ‘awareness inside’?
Most scientific and philosophical accounts of awareness are based on a human subject perspective and at an individual level. They address the question of what it means for an individual human subject to be aware of, e.g., the environment, time or oneself and how one can assess awareness in this context. The problem is relevant, certainly, since many clinical and cognitive conditions can be linked to awareness issues. The concept is also relevant to emerging technologies as it has been argued, for instance, that humans will not accept robots (or chatbots, or decision support systems) as trustable partners if they cannot ascribe some form of awareness and true understanding to them.
The individual human-centric concept of consciousness hinders the application of awareness as a measurable feature of any sufficiently complex system. The study of awareness in other species and artefacts, or even more elusive concepts such as social awareness require a new perspective applicable to many systems. It can then also serve to attack the inter-subjective state and experience of awareness (i.e., what is it like to interact with an aware robot that, most probably, does not have the same kind of awareness than the human?), or to include non-conscious objects into the sphere of awareness (e.g., to become aware of the time without looking at the watch).
For technologies, awareness principles would allow a step-up in engineering complex systems, making them more resilient, self-developing and human-centric. Awareness is a prerequisite for a real and contextualised understanding of a problem or situation and to adapt ones actions (and their consequences) to the specific circumstances. Ultimately, awareness serves the coherent and purposeful behaviour, learning, adaptation and self-development of intelligent systems over longer periods of time.
Project Portfolio Members
The projects approved in this EIC Pathfinder Challenge “Awareness Inside” were expected to address each of the following three expected outcomes:
- New concepts of awareness that are applicable to systems other than human, including technological ones, with implications of how it can be recognised or measured.
- Demonstrate and validate the role and added-value of such an awareness in an aware technology, class of artefacts or services for which the awareness features lead to a truly different quality in terms of, e.g., performance, flexibility, reliability or user-experience.
- Define an integrative approach for awareness engineering, its technological toolbox, the needs and implications and its limits, including ethical and regulatory requirements.