Technology and Consciousness

John Rushby and Daniel Sanchez

SRI-CSL Technical Report, September 2018


We report on a series of eight workshops held in the summer of 2017 on the topic "Technology and Consciousness." The workshops covered many subjects but the overall goal was to assess the possibility of machine consciousness, and its potential implications.

The 30-page body of the report provides a general overview of topics in consciousness and summarizes most of the basic themes that were discussed in the workshops: the fascination and mystery of consciousness, the structure and function of the brain, theories of consciousness, explicit attempts to construct conscious machines, detection and measurement of consciousness, possible emergence of a conscious technology, methods for control of such a technology and ethical considerations that might be owed to it.

An appendix outlines the topics of each workshop and provides abstracts for the talks delivered.


 *UPDATED* Update September 2022

Although this report was published in 2018 and the workshops it is based on were held in 2017, recent events suggest that it is worth bringing forward. In particular, in the Spring of 2022, a Google engineer claimed that LaMDA, one of their "large language models" is sentient or even conscious. This provoked a flurry of commentary in both the scientific and popular press, some of it interesting and insightful, but almost all of it ignorant of the prior consideration given to these topics and the history of research into machine consciousness.

Thus, we are making a lightly refreshed version of this report available in the hope that it will provide useful background to the current debate and will enable more informed commentary.

Despite this material being five years old, its technical points remain valid and up to date, but we have "refreshed" it by adding a few footnotes highlighting recent developments (search for "Update:").

PDF and also available as arXiv 2209.03956

BibTeX Entry

	AUTHOR = {John Rushby and Daniel Sanchez},
	TITLE = {Technology and Consciousness},
	INSTITUTION = {Computer Science Laboratory, SRI International},
	YEAR = 2018,
	ADDRESS = {Menlo Park, CA},
	MONTH = sep,
	NOTE = {Available at \url{}}

Having trouble reading our papers?
Return to John Rushby's bibliography page
Return to the Formal Methods Program home page
Return to the Computer Science Laboratory home page