Questions about the origins of consciousness and its existence in nonhuman agents are becoming steadily more pressing now that humanity’s reliance on machinic systems is increasing exponentially. Moreover, our deepening understanding of biological systems are challenging previously held beliefs about what constitutes consciousness and how it emerges.
How do interconnected silicon-based intelligences that have access to extensive planetary sensor networks compare to the deep-rooted fungal networks that form the nervous systems in forests? Can sentience arise in embodied machines provided with the right conditions and how should we classify such a consciousness? How does a distributed consciousness emerge from swarm-based ecologies? If nonhuman consciousness is a given, is it built on nonhuman notions of perception and how does that inform its understanding of the world? Are machines living among us or are we living among the machines and how can we foster mutual understanding of each other’s experiences?
This year’s Conflux Festival dives deep into the human-machine dichotomy and its antithesis of symbiotic machine-human forms of existence as well as focusing on the nonhuman experience of consciousness. Special consideration is given to how modes of perception inform sentience and how they are likely fundamental to its emergence.
By investigating the phenomenological experiences of machinic as well as biological systems and how those relate to their potential for consciousness, modes of thinking are introduced that can be used to reflect on our own understanding of meaning-making as well as deliver insights into nonhuman notions of perception and sentience. Through examining the ethical and social implications of nonhuman consciousness and machine-human interactions we can assess the risks for bias, control, and exploitation, as well as the opportunities for cooperation, enrichment, and empathy. For the purpose of this festival, the term machine is approached holistically referring to any kind of artificial system; be it hardware, software or wetware.
Curiosity abounds when dealing with nonhuman forms of consciousness in relation to the very human forms of emotional and intellectual expression inherent to the art and music presented at Conflux Festival. Do abstraction and beauty translate? Do intention and meaning change? Can one compose for another type of consciousness? What dreams do machines and bees share? Machine hallucinations for waking humans, distributed compositions by swarm intelligences, extra-sensorial meaning making through sensory augmented input channels, multisensory emergent perceptual overloads.
The boundaries that can and need to be pushed are broad, muddied, and not yet well-defined, making this exploration essential and exciting with unknown outcomes and major possible breakthroughs. By opening up all your senses at the Conflux Festival, your perception will be challenged and new perspectives will unfold. Your body, your living machine, your vessel; explore it through machine living for an expanded consciousness.