Are You Sapient?

“If there is one thing the universe is not short of, it is ways to measure the multifaceted, multidimensional phenomenon we call ‘intelligence’, or ‘sapience’.

“Perhaps the best known of all of them is the ASIT – the Adjusted Sapience Index Test – as defined these days by the Eupraxic Collegium and the Imperial Grand Survey, simply because that’s one of the few with any legal standing. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful for those in the middle of the ‘typical sophont’ range, because it’s designed to determine who’s sapient enough to count as a sophont or a prosophont in the first place, so if you’re working with newly met species, uplift candidates, or – in some variants – the mentally dysfunctional, it’s shiny.  In most other cases, not so much.

“Also generally accepted are the objective measures, various units for raw cognition (defined, in this case, as bit-transformations per second per gram equivalents in the local units), coordination capacity, etc.  The trouble with those, of course, is that while they work great for marketing computronium, even though you can point at a brain and say it’s entirely capable of performing x bT/s/g, that doesn’t really tell you much about whether it’s using those x bT/s/g for anything vaguely useful, sapience-wise, or just sitting around in the organic-cognitive equivalent of an idle loop.

“Meanwhile, all kinds of people have come up with more specific scales to measure various subsets of sapience and its allied traits.  The Intellectual Coherence Quotient, the Linguistic Communication Quotient, the Multidimensional Visualization Test, the Active Rationality Index, the Kinesthesis Scale, the Sociodynamic Coefficients, the Internal Cognitive Freedom Phase-Space Vector, the Individual Neophilia Scan, etc., etc., etc.  It is, by and large, agreed among statisticians, clionomists, psychedesigners, and sophotechnologists that they do each measure that specific aspect that they claim to measure’.

“Which of them might or might not correlate, individually or in combination, and with which weightings, with any sort of ‘general intelligence’ concept is, alas, not at all generally accepted, and is the subject of much bitter academic infighting, with accompanying ink-flecked extranet rantings and claims that one’s opponent must not have scored terribly high on the Ciëlle Memeplex Synthesis Cognitive Test Sequence.  The majority position, such as it is, increasingly tends towards the claim that there’s no such thing as “general intelligence” outside bT/s/g, and that there’s no point in looking for a common underlying factor apart from computative activity to unify these various kinds of specialized intelligences, because there’s nothing there to find.

“…in actually making decisions based on intelligence, most people find it easier to apply the pragmatic well-go-try-it-then test.”

– Handbook of Cognitive Quantification, 33rd ed.,
University of Almeä Press

The S Words: Sentience, Sapience, and Sophonce

Based off a comment here, some quick definitions for you as they’re used in the Eldraeverse:

(Note, of course, that I’m using a considerable amount of Minovsky cognitive science here; your mileage may vary if you try and apply any of it elsewhere.)

sentience: the property of having sense perception; the capability of experiencing sensation, without necessarily associating mental symbology with sensation.  Includes not only sophonts, but animals, plants, single-celled organisms, and a variety of simple devices (even something as simple as a thermostat can reasonably be described as sentient, if minimally so).  Quantized, for technical purposes, as sensory bandwidth in bits per unit time.

sapience: the capacity for rational thought and creativity; not necessarily associated with either sentience or volition.  Again, includes many non-sophonts, primarily animals, but also various types of computer program.

autosentience: self-perception and self-reflection, metacognition; self-awareness (“I-ness”); the possession of qualia (mental symbology associated with sensation), which for the purposes of Eldraeverse cogsci is a corollary of metacognition.  Most animals (but not the plants, single-celled organisms – this is from an Earth perspective, and such odd plantimal life forms as the mezuar and the selyéva aren’t counted among these plants – and devices) qualify as autosentient to some degree, as does thinker-grade or above AI software (although not simple AI expert systems, which are sapient but not autosentient; they have no qualia, merely data).

In civilized societies, certain civil rights are associated with autosentience, principally concerned with the right not to be subjected to arbitrary suffering since, with autosentience, one attains the ability to experience suffering.

threshold autosentience: the minimal degree of autosentience required to meaningfully describe oneself as “I”; the possession of a meaningful self-associated self-symbol in one’s mental architecture.  (In many sentients, it is associated with the presence of a consciousness loop organizing cognitive processing into a narrative thread, but this isn’t a requisite of these mental architectures; the case of non self-associated self-symbols is odd, but does seem to be permitted – see Stross, here, although this isn’t the path their AI development took.) It is often, but is not necessarily associated with a high level of sapience; many animals qualify as sapients without possessing threshold autosentience, and obviously many programs, including much alife, possess very impressive problem-solving abilities while being entirely devoid of autosentience.  Thinker-grade AI possesses this, too, but does not have volition.

volition: the capacity for nondeterministic choice; in sophonts, associated with possession of one of a class of nondeterministic algorithms known as logoi.  (However, known/constructable sophont mental architectures utilize primarily deterministic choice with only occasional logotic input.)

sophonce: possessing all of threshold autosentience, sapience, and volition; i.e., being “a self-aware, self-defining entity capable of independent reason and volition”.  Biological sophonts and digisapiences, the highest grade of AI entity.

Have all the natural rights of people, because they’re the definition of “people”.

Oh, and:

pro-sophonce: the almost-but-not-quites, the creatures almost reaching the requirements for sapience/threshold autosentience to be counted among the sophonts, but not quite.  The dolphins, dogs, octopi, (on Earth) apes, etc.  Again, generally receive some civil rights in civilized societies due to this status (and, by the same metric, generally considered prime candidates for uplift work), but not considered actual people unless uplifted.