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CIFAR Virtual Talks: Can AI be conscious?

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Far from the walking, talking Terminators and Rosie the Robots of 1990s fiction, most current applications of artificial intelligence are relegated to background processes on our smartphones and in our computers. They are important, but few would venture to call them conscious. What would it take to make an AI conscious? And more intriguingly, what can building artificial simulations of consciousness teach us about our own brains? Join interdisciplinary researchers Blake Richards (McGill University/Mila) and Anil Seth (University of Sussex), whose work spans computer science, neuroscience, and philosophy, as they unpick the fact from the fiction of conscious AI.

Our 2021 series of Virtual Talks, Brilliant Minds | Bold Questions, explores the most important questions facing science and humanity. Each 30-45 minute talk pairs speakers and moderators from across disciplines, sectors, and the world to explore the questions shaping our collective futures.


Blake Richards is a fellow in CIFAR’s Learning in Machines & Brains program, a Canada CIFAR AI Chair at Mila, and a professor at McGill University. His research program focuses on neural computation, learning, and artificial intelligence (AI). Using a combination of computational modelling and advanced neuroscience and brain imaging approaches, his lab is exploring the principles of learning in neural circuits.



Anil Seth is the co-director of CIFAR’s Brain, Mind & Consciousness program, the co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and a professor at the University of Sussex. His research draws together multiple disciplines from psychology to philosophy to AI to explore the biological basis of consciousness and perception.

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