Machine Self-Reference

Machine Self-Reference

The robot pictured below has a transparent front and is facing an (expandable) board, a little to its right, and a mirror, a little to its left. It's transparent front enables it to see in the mirror its complete underlying mechanism, flowchart, or program. The board serves for input, output, and intermediate computations. Such a self-referential or self-reflecting robot has data access, then, to a complete (low level) self model.

It is depicted already having copied onto the board a portion of its ``program'' (corrected for mirror reversal). Note that the robot's self copy is projected externally to the robot itself. In this way infinite regress is not required for the robot to have complete (low level) self knowledge. The use this robot makes of its complete (low level) self knowledge is whatever was built into it, but it could have been anything algorithmic.

For general computer programs, in contexts where mirrors may not be available, a quiescent (low level) self-model can be obtained by a mechanism logically similar to the self-replication mechanism employed by single-celled organisms. See the second reference under REPRESENTATIVE PUBLICATIONS below or click here for an brief essay of mine on the subject. For more information on self-replication mechanisms, see Moshe Sipper's Page on Machine Self-Replication. For connections to self-modification, see this link to the work of J-Paul Moulin.

I am interested in three aspects of machine self-reference.

For example theoretical applications, see the papers below and also those in:

Historically, machine (or program) self-reference started with the well-known mathematical logician Steven Kleene (see references just below). Kleene's predecessor was the mathematical logician of the century Kurt Gödel who introduced the use of self-referential sentences in formal languages of arithmetic.

I plan to write a paper revisiting self-referential sentences, which paper will be based on machine self-reference. I also plan to write a paper, based on a new machine self-reference argument, which will point toward the nicely controverisal philosophical stance that human cognition is mechanistic. Regarding this latter issue, see also my article

In progress is an article employing machine reference to the understanding of the self-modeling component of human consciousness. An expanded variant of the conference slide version of this article is referenced below.


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May 29, 2013
John Case