We hypothesize that the emergence of consciousness in humans is directly related to the complexity, number of, and evolution of specialized cognitive systems. Here, we present our rationale and plan for an ongoing project to investigate the pathway to the emergence of consciousness via computer simulations of humans’ evolutionary niche using artificial-intelligence agents. Agents will contain subsets of the specialized cognitive systems and will complete tasks modeled after pressures encountered by early humans. We will observe whether the increase in cognitive complexity, measured by the number and complexity of the specialized cognitive systems, leads to an increase in task performance.

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