Hand tools and fabrication machines
This project provides fresh ideas about the true meanings of being Alive and being Aware according to a roboticist's perspective. When building the project in the video, one must remember that there are beings who are (i) ALIVE but without brains, (ii) ALIVE but not conscious, (iii) ALIVE but not aware, (iv) aware but not conscious, (v) aware but no brains, (vi) conscious but not aware, and (vii) conscious but not self-conscious. Life, living, alive, aware, conscious and self conscious have their own categories in the biotronics world. This project focuses on such new ideas. As a starter let us find some answers to this question: What does it take for something to be considered alive and aware?
Once in my biology class, we had an experiment about differentiating living and non-living things. Our teacher instructed us to gather at least 5 specimens of living and non-living things. Afterwards, the class individually classified all these collections either living or non-living things in the lab. Leaves, butterflies, worms, dragonflies, flowers, roots, twigs, birds, bugs, fruits, dogs, squirrels were regarded as living things, while soda cans, plastic bottles, stones, candy sticks, paper bags, dirt, water, air were viewed as non-living things.
Once everything was sorted accordingly, my teacher asked the class about what make living things different from nonliving things. From a very interesting lengthy discussion, two kinds of classifications came up on the board. The first one was according to how science defines life; and, the second one was according to how the court of law defines death.
My teacher told us that for an object to be considered alive or with life, it must have or had all the following criteria:
•Living things consume food in the form of energy (eat).
•Living things take and expel gas (breathe).
•Living things are moving or in motion (perform).
•Living things reproduce with an exact copy of itself (replicate).
•Living things grow with its surrounding environment (thrive).
•Living things respond with their sensors (sense).
•Living things are made up of cells.
Aside from the above criteria, living things can also talk, walk, see, feel, think, swim and some even fly.
However, there are living organisms that lack one or more of these characteristics but are still considered alive like the non-cellular micro-organisms that exist without cells. A seed is a non-living thing, yet it produces a tree, a living thing. A virus is a chemical machinery, yet it becomes alive when living with a host. A neuron is a non-living thing, but as a network, it produces awareness.
On the other hand, being Alive can also be defined based on the criteria of being dead. By Law, the following requirements should be present to be considered dead namely:
•Total failure of the heart.
•Total failure of the lungs.
•Total failure of the brain stem.
But again, there are living organisms without brains, lungs, and hearts but are considered alive. Trees, flowers, and jellyfish are living things, but they do not have hearts, lungs or even brains. Another example is the Monera, an organism without organs. This animal life form can walk without feet, eat without a mouth, digest without a stomach and reproduce without reproductive organs.
From these two illustrations, there is really no definite criterion that can be used to identify when an object is alive. However, by deduction and some elimination techniques, we can find one common criterion that shines among the list of the requirements. In order for something to move, reproduce, react; and make the heart, lungs, and brain to function, it needs one thing - energy. Energy must be present. Without energy, all the vital conditions in the list are nonviable.
Therefore, when an object consumes energy, it is ALIVE. When it stores and uses energy acquired from food, batteries, sunlight, chemicals, mechanical, sound, electrical, motion, or thermal, then such object is alive but again not living. The self-ability of an object to consume energy is the litmus identifier that indicates when an object is alive. Alive equals Energy (consumption).
Now, what about being Aware?
Awareness is usually equated with consciousness. But awareness and self consciousness are two different species. Someone might be aware of something but might not be self-conscious about it. A newborn baby might be aware of the smell of milk but not self-conscious about what kind of milk was served. A puppy might be aware of the noise around him, but not self-conscious of where these sounds originated. A solar sensor might sense light but not self-conscious of the experience that it senses light. Thus, awareness is more of sensorial, while self-consciousness is more of experiential.
In other words, Awareness is to senses, while Self-consciousness is to experiences. Without sensors, awareness is dead; without experiences, self-consciousness is dead; and without energy, life is dead.
But, if self-consciousness is experiential, what is consciousness then?
In these three popular arduino projects: (1) The Robot who passed the Consciousness Test! (2) The Making of a Conscious Robot! and (3) The Four Marks of A Self-Conscious Machine, experiments were undertaken to examine and test the essentials elements and integral mechanisms of consciousness. The empirical outcomes derived answer the questions of (a) Why or how consciousness occur? and (b) Why certain agency gives rise to consciousness instead of something else?
"To define life is to define the meaning of death." ~ Joey Lawsin