Artificial Intelligence

The Limitations of Machine Learning in Creating Sentient AI


Published on Jul 19, 2023   —   2 min read

In the rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence (AI), a growing consensus is emerging among experts that machine learning alone cannot lead to the creation of sentient computers. This perspective was recently shared by Dr. Justin Lane, a cognitive scientist, computer programmer, and academic researcher, in an interview with Cybernews.

The Singularity and Transhumanism: A Skeptic's View

Dr. Lane, who holds a doctorate in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology from Oxford University and runs CulturePulse, a company that uses AI to predict and map consumer behavior, dismisses the idea of integrating human consciousness with machines. This concept, popular among proponents of the singularity and the transhumanist movement, is, in his words, nonsensical.

The Limitations of Machine Learning

Lane's skepticism extends to the predictions that technologies advancing at an unprecedented pace will soon force humanity to decide whether to merge with machines or become subservient to them. He also doubts the theory proposed by computer scientist and author Ray Kurzweil, who predicted in 2001 that machine intelligence would surpass human intelligence within a few decades, leading to the singularity.

According to Lane, the current approach to AI, which heavily relies on machine learning, fails to replicate the continuity of our perceptions within our minds. He argues that even if a machine possesses all of our knowledge, it doesn't necessarily have our stream of consciousness. He believes that until AI starts mimicking the evolutionary consciousness that has developed in humans over millennia, it will not come close to creating true artificial intelligence, let alone sentience.

The Role of the Human Body in Sentience

Lane also emphasizes the role of the human body in the experience of sentience. He argues that our consciousness is embodied not just in our brain, but in our physical being, through our external peripheral nervous system. This suggests that there's a whole body experience that we can't simply copy and paste into a machine.

The Importance of Innate Human Traits

Furthermore, Lane points out that there's more to human psychology than learning. Certain reactions and abilities, such as jumping at a loud noise or recognizing faces, are pre-programmed in our DNA through evolution. These are aspects that we have never needed to learn, and current AI technology falls short in replicating these innate human traits.

The Need for Evolutionarily Informed Cognitive Algorithms

Lane suggests that to achieve human-level intelligence, we need to supplement the current approach to AI with more evolutionarily informed cognitive algorithms. He believes that machine learning alone can't capture all the things that make us human. He also stresses the importance of understanding the things that are pre-programmed genetically in humans and trying to pre-program them computationally, which he sees as a missing piece in current AI research.


In conclusion, while AI has made impressive strides, it still has a long way to go before it can truly replicate human consciousness and sentience. As Dr. Lane puts it, "There is a way that a machine can think like a human, but it needs more than ML." For more insights from Dr. Lane, read the full article on Cybernews.

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