How do sentience, self-awareness, and consciousness differ?

Consider a machine that could monitor changes in its environment. When a monitored factor changed in the environment, the internal state of the machine would also changes to reflect that change. Such a machine would have a sensitivity or sentience with respect to its environment.

The internal changes in the machine would be consistent with the corresponding changes in its environment.

In fact, knowledge about the machine's internal changes could be used to recover knowledge about changes to those factors that the machine was monitoring in its environment. We might call those consistent internal changes the machine's awareness.

Now consider that the machine also has sensors for monitoring factors within itself, as if those factors were also part of the machine's environment. Just as changes to the environment induced consistent changes in the machine's internal state, changes to the monitored internal factors also lead to a certain self-awareness.

We would like to go further. Suppose that the consistent changes in the machine's internal state that made up its awareness could somehow also reflect those same consistent changes.

Consciousness is more than awareness, however, and more than awareness of awareness. Consciousness embodies an element of motivation. It perceives objects or events in terms of how they support the ends sought.

The discriminations and judgments that are a by-product of motivation are essential to consciousness. Awareness itself does not discriminate in that way.

Instead, awareness silently reflects what is perceived. Perceived and perceiver are bound to one another.

Michael Webb, 2002

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