Are brain organoids or sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) systems conscious? In some cases, it seems hard to determine whether consciousness is present or not. These entities may be minimally, i.e., just about (hence 'borderline') conscious. But how can we tell for sure whether they are conscious at all? The question matters. Neurosurgeons are now confronted with new brain entities such as isolated brain hemispheres after surgery or lab-grown brain parts, that may potentially support consciousness, and some AI systems (ChatGPT) have already been claimed to be conscious. If some isolated brain organoids or ChatGPT are somehow conscious, they may need to be protected from harm.
The 'Towards New Demarcation Criteria for Borderline Consciousness' project aims to make progress in this respect. It is an interdisciplinary project involving a collaboration between philosophers of Bonn and Cambridge and neuroscientists from the epileptology clinic in Bonn. Its main purpose is to create an international research forum to develop new criteria for determining whether and when non-human entities, such as non-linguistic animals, new brain organisms, or advanced AI systems can be considered conscious. The project includes the borderline blog on which articles but also interviews of various actors of the departments of epilepsy and IT are regularly posted and an international conference in Bonn in September 2023.
The projects is funded by the Transdisciplinary Research Area (TRA) “Individuals, Institutions and Societies” (University of Bonn) as part of the Excellence Strategy of the federal and state government.