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The nature of consciousness: will it be possible to make conscious robots?


Conferenza di Federico Faggin per la serie ITALY INSPIRES CANADA

The Consulate General of Italy, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, the Emilio Goggio Chair in Italian Studies, University of Toronto, in collaboration with ISSNAF Ontario and l’Altra Italia, proudly present ITALY INSPIRES CANADA featuring Italian physicist, inventor and entrepreneur, Prof. Federico Faggin.

October 5, 2017
Lecture followed by Q&A 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Innis Town Hall Theatre – 2 Sussex Ave, Toronto
Free admission



The Nature of Consciousness. Will it be possible to make conscious robots?

The recent progress in robotics and artificial intelligence has renewed the promise that in less than 50 years we will have conscious robots. Is this true or is it science fiction? This presentation will describe and compare the nature of computers, the nature of consciousness, and the nature of living systems, bringing convincing evidence to support a model of reality where consciousness is an irreducible aspect of the “substance” out of which everything that exists is made. Consciousness represents the semantic aspect of reality, qualitatively different than the syntactic aspect represented by physical reality. Computers are reductionist systems based on classical physics, whereas living systems are quantum, holistic, open systems performing information processing of a nature that is still mostly unknown. Living systems bridge the semantic world of meaning with the syntactic world of symbols and therefore experience both an inner and an outer reality. Computers and robots, being purely symbolic systems, cannot have any conscious experience.

Federico Faggin (born December 1, 1941), is an Italian physicist, inventor and entrepreneur, widely known for designing the first commercial microprocessor. He led the 4004 (MCS-4) project and the design group during the first five years of Intel’s microprocessor effort. Most importantly, Faggin created in 1968, while working at Fairchild Semiconductor, the self-aligned MOS silicon gate technology (SGT) that made possible dynamic memories, non-volatile memories, CCD image sensors, and the microprocessor. In addition, he further developed at Intel his original SGT into a new methodology for random logic chip design that was essential to the creation of the world’s first single chip microprocessor and all other early Intel microprocessors. He was co-founder, with Ralph Ungermann, and CEO of Zilog, the first company solely dedicated to microprocessors. He was also co-founder and CEO of Cygnet Technologies and of Synaptics.

In 2010 he received the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor the United States confers for achievements related to technological progress.

In 2011, Faggin founded the Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation to support the scientific study of consciousness at US universities and research institutes. In 2015, the Faggin Foundation helped to establish a $1 million endowment for the Faggin Family Presidential Chair in the Physics of Information at UC Santa Cruz to promote the study of “fundamental questions at the interface of physics and related fields including mathematics, complex systems, biophysics, and cognitive science, with the unifying theme of information in physics.”

Federico Faggin has been a Silicon Valley resident since 1968 and is a naturalized US citizen.

About Italy Inspires Canada series

The Consulate General of Italy, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, the Department of Italian Studies, University of Toronto, L’Altra Italia, and ISSNAF Ontario, have inaugurated in November 2015 a series of “Colloquia”, two per year, to showcase Italy at the forefront of science, art and technology. All invited speakers will consist in absolute protagonists who have made a significant contribution to the prestige of Italy’s image around the world and who will bring to Toronto audiences a unique and personal testimony of talent, creativity and top-quality results. The objective is to engage and enthuse Canadian friends, creating the possibility of debating common issues through the experience of Italian leading figures.

Italy Inspires Canada has commenced with Captain Samantha Cristoforetti—first Italian female astronaut, first Italian female of the European Space Agency team, European astronaut and woman who has spent the most time in space in a single voyage (200 days) during the FUTURA mission.


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