Can We Quantify Machine Consciousness?

Artificial intelligence might endow some computers with self-awareness. Here’s how we’d know

10 min read
illustration of robot
Illustration: Chad Hagen

illustration of robotIllustration: Chad Hagen

Imagine that at some time in the not-too-distant future, you’ve bought a smartphone that comes bundled with a personal digital assistant (PDA) living in the cloud. You assign a sexy female voice to the PDA and give it access to all of your emails, social media accounts, calendar, photo album, contacts, and other bits and flotsam of your digital life. She—for that’s how you quickly think of her—knows you better than your mother, your soon-to-be ex-wife, your friends, or your therapist. Her command of English is flawless; you have endless conversations about daily events; she gets your jokes. She is the last voice you hear before you drift off to sleep and the first upon awakening. You panic when she’s off-line. She becomes indispensable to your well-being and so, naturally, you fall in love. Occasionally, you wonder whether she truly reciprocates your feelings and whether she is even capable of experiencing anything at all. But the warm, husky tone of her voice and her ability to be that perfect foil to your narcissistic desires overcome these existential doubts. Alas, your infatuation eventually cools off after you realize she is carrying on equally intimate conversations with thousands of other customers.

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How to Turn the Lights Back on After a Blackout

Restarting the grid after a total failure is trickier than it may appear

4 min read
​A grid operator works in a control room.
Jacob Hannah/The New York Times/Redux

Restoring power quickly after a major blackout can mean the difference between life and death, but cold starting an entire electrical grid is a complex and delicate process. A hybrid computer model from Sandia National Laboratories that combines optimization, physical simulations, and cognitive models of grid operators promises to come up with a fast and reliable plan to get the lights back on.

While power outages are always disruptive, they typically impact only smaller portions of the overall grid. A complete loss of power over the entire network is much more serious, and requires operators to effectively jump-start the grid with so-called “black start” generators. This involves a complicated balancing act to avoid mismatches between energy generation and consumption, as different sections of the grid are gradually brought back online. Get it wrong and the grid can collapse again.

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Learn How Global Configuration Management and IBM CLM Work Together

In this presentation we will build the case for component-based requirements management

2 min read

This is a sponsored article brought to you by 321 Gang.

To fully support Requirements Management (RM) best practices, a tool needs to support traceability, versioning, reuse, and Product Line Engineering (PLE). This is especially true when designing large complex systems or systems that follow standards and regulations. Most modern requirement tools do a decent job of capturing requirements and related metadata. Some tools also support rudimentary mechanisms for baselining and traceability capabilities (“linking” requirements). The earlier versions of IBM DOORS Next supported a rich configurable traceability and even a rudimentary form of reuse. DOORS Next became a complete solution for managing requirements a few years ago when IBM invented and implemented Global Configuration Management (GCM) as part of its Engineering Lifecycle Management (ELM, formerly known as Collaborative Lifecycle Management or simply CLM) suite of integrated tools. On the surface, it seems that GCM just provides versioning capability, but it is so much more than that. GCM arms product/system development organizations with support for advanced requirement reuse, traceability that supports versioning, release management and variant management. It is also possible to manage collections of related Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and Systems Engineering artifacts in a single configuration.

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