Towards an Objective Test of Machine Sentience.


This paper discusses the notion of sentience in machines, and proposes an approach to analyze it objectively.

It draws insight from studies in Affective Neuroscience which map Functional neuroimaging data on a subject’s brain activity, to their emotional states.
It then outlines a procedure to obtain useful information about possible sentience in a given machine/AI model.

It is hoped that this research inspires more work aimed towards structuring an objective test of sentience in machines.

View Paper on Researchgate

A Figmental Passport, and an Expense Paid Microsoft Conference.

Microsoft has just notified me.

I have been approved to attend their AI For Earth conference at the headquarters in Redmond, Washington USA.

Apparently theyre interested in some of the work Im doing with Artificial Intelligence and Endangered Languages.

They have offered to cover the costs of my flight ticket and hotel accommodation.

Great. This is great news. I have been entertaining thoughts involving a motorbike road trip across the USA. I think this opportunity will prove highly amenable to the effectuation of that intention.

I dont even know how to ride a motorbike. Not yet. All of those variables will fall into place dont worry. Let things come together first.


Ah, I need a new passport. This one is expired.


National Immigration Service Website.

32 page passport? 64 page passport?

64. Lets get the 64 this time.

Its time to pay the processing fee.

There are a number of different financial service providers to make use of:

First one.

Hm, theres a strange error.

Lets try again.

The same error.


Second provider.

No wonder there are so many ways of paying the processing fee. Because their failure rates are so high.


Error again.

Oh my God.

But I believe this people like money a lot. If that is the case, then why is making a payment so difficult on their website?


Third provider.

I keep bumbling about until the money is paid.


Hm. This interview date is too far away. I havent even booked a date for the US visa interview. This is just the passport. And the wait time for US visa interviews have been so long recently. I was invited for another all expense paid conference in Virginia a number of months ago. The wait time for the US visa interview was too long to make an attendance possible.

The discomfiting wait times are a consequence of some modifications the Trump administration recently made to the visa renewal process. Trump to me, is usually just this person who is in the news every once in a while. I dont really watch the news, so I dont see his face too frequently. Maybe when Im in a restaurant or at a cafe. This is the first time any of his actions are having an actual effect on my life.

The amount of people who seem to viscerally detest him, makes me wonder how he became president in the first place. But what do I know about US politics.

I think Ill need to visit the Immigration Service office in a few days. To see if the passport procurement process can be expedited.


Nigerian Immigration Service Office, Alausa Ikeja.

I just walked in through the gate. I am already feeling somewhat ecstatic. I can taste my passport already. That Microsoft money has to be spent. I wonder what the hotel room is going to look like.

I am talking with someone at the Helpdesk. She directs me to an office upstairs.

I head up the stairs, to the mentioned office.


I have been in this office for about three minutes. I think I am invisible. I have to be. These people cannot see me. That has to be why they are still engrossed in conversation, entirely oblivious my presence. It is like Im not even here.

I am going to have to interrupt their conversation. If I keep waiting for these guys to acknowledge my existence Ill be here till next tomorrow.

Excuse me Sir.

No response.

Oh God. I am going to be here for a very long time.

Eventually an officer pays attention.

Theres a woman beside me. I was here before her, but she snuck around me to get closer to the officials in the room. Maybe she was here before. I dont know. Or maybe shes just jumping the queue.

I dont understand these Nigerian people. Queues and general chronological order mean absolutely nothing to them. If the world used a Nigerian number system, 99 would be the first number. Followed by 32. Number 1 would be in like position 1004.

I do not understand these people.


The officers face is alight with excitement. I did not know this initially very stern looking officer was capable being this excited.

Dubai! Germany! USA! Kenya! This woman! You have travelled to all these countries!! Ahhh! You are enjoying o!! What work do you do?

I am a housewife. My husband is the one who makes the travel happen.

Ahhhhh!!! Your husband is the one doing all this???

Ahhhhhh!!!! That your husband deserves be worshipped!! Yehh!!!

His face is aglow, as he rubs his palms against each other, like a person in supplication.

I am only mildly excited by his theatrics.

Where is my passport please. Microsoft is waiting for me.


He is looking through my application form.

Where is your NIMC?

My what?

Your NIMC Your NIMC!! There is no NIMC!

Ah. Oh you mean the NIN! The National Identification Number? Well on the website there was no red asterisk on the NIN field. And so I took that to mean the field was optional.

Apparently whether or not there is a red asterisk on some obscure webpage is absolutely none of his business.

You need your NIMC!! Without the NIMC you cannot submit the form!!

The last time I tried getting the NIN was like last year. I got to the NIMC office in the afternoon. The queue there was severely dispiriting. I was told that even if you get to the office at 5am, youll meet about a hundred and ten people already on the queue.

That is the number this officer  says I need to obtain, for my passport to be processed.

Oh God.

Oh Jeremiah.

Oh Jabez.

I am in trouble. I am in serious trouble.


NIS Office. Second Visit.

I have obtained the NIN.

I got the office at 12am. I still met some people already on the queue.  It was an annoying morning. I lay outside the office in a sleeping bag my mother gave me. I initially did not feel like I needed the sleeping bag- I didnt even want to take it from her. But lying out there in the cold, I was thankful I had it.

I assuaged my discomfort by making displeased tweets and watching Youtube videos of Goth music and Jeff Bezos.

I am back at the office of Mister Your-Husband-Needs-To-Be-Worshipped.

I am directed to another office.

And another.

And another.

And another.

I feel like a six foot plus tennis ball with arms and legs.

What sort of existence is this.


I am in yet another office.

A young lady is trying to sort out an issue.

Ahhhhh this one is not possible o! You will have to go back to Abuja to rectify this issue o!!  Ahhhh!!

Apparently she is faced with a very formidable problem. She has to travel to the countrys capital to get it resolved. I feel bad for her.

Another official walks by. She quickly runs up to him. They head outside, and I think she whispers some things in his ear.

All of a sudden, this new official re-enters the room with a newfound sense of purpose and clarity.

Officer, put her documents in the corner. We will handle it, dont worry.

I am entirely stupefied. Are we not talking about the severely formidable obstacle of a few minutes ago??

I dont understand. How did the incontrovertibly impossible suddenly become a light breeze???

What in the name of God did this lady whisper in this guys ear????

Jesus Christ!!

I have been here since morning. Bouncing about like a bouncing baby boy. Look at how quickly this lady got her problem solved! Ahh!!!

What in the name of Obadiah is going on???

Can someone please let me in on this secret???


Apparently there is a Nigerian Open Sesameyou can whisper in the ear of an Immigration Officer, which will automatically render the impossible possible.

Technical difficulties. Organisational bureaucracy. The invariance of the speed of light relative to the reference frame of an arbitrary observer. All of these phenomena completely disappear once you utter these magic words.

Ah!! There is a lot I do not know in  life. There is a lot I do not know.

I have a lot to learn, Jesus. I have a lot to learn.


Microsoft has just notified me.

The conference has been converted to an online conference due to the pandemic.

Oh God.

There goes my motorbike road trip across the USA. East coast to West coast.

There goes the expense-paid flight tickets.

There goes the hotel room.

Oh Solomon.

I have still not been able to extricate my new passport from the NIS. Even getting a US visa a few years ago, was not this difficult. How can getting a new Nigerian passport be more frustrating  than getting a US visa? I dont understand.

I do not understand at all.

Circumventing a Gatekeeper/ All Hail Billy Boy.

You want Cafe?

I nod. Weakly. Very weakly.

He dips a container into the pot of Senegalese Cafe Touba brewing over the fire and fills my cup.

I begin to sip on the invigorating coffee. Swirling around me are guttural Senegalese greetings and the sounds of happy handshakes and excited salutes.

I am hungry.

I have had one piece of bread, but it only seems to have exacerbated the aggressiveness of my hunger. I stare longingly at the pile of loaves at the corner, being guarded by the Senegalese man who just refilled my cup.

He is very generous with the coffee. He is always asking me if I want some more.

Mon ami!! You want Cafe? Cafe? More Cafe?

He is not as generous with the bread. I can literally feel his face being drawn closer and closer to a complete frown whenever the supply of bread is diminished by a considerable amount.

Jesus Christ I am hungry.

A few feet to my left, some members of this Senegalese Islamic sect are dancing around in a circle, beating their drums and singing very loudly.

I felt frightened the first time I head them sing. Their voices were so loud. Screaming on top of their voices and wildly waving their long fat dreadlocks in the air. Shouting ardently into the night.

One of their members freshly arrives, and joins the meeting. He is talking with a lot of self-assurance, shaking hands and smiling and laughing.

In my understanding, genuine self-assurance and confidence comes a lot more naturally when your life is going well. This guy’s life is definitely going well. 

I am here with my head bowed, wincing under the crushing pain of the frustrations I am encountering in my training of some Artificial Intelligence models on Wildlife Conservation historical data to identify insights which could prove valuable to the managers of the Spanish Biodiversity NGO on the island.

For some reason they were persuaded to entrust me with their money and historical data on endangered sea turtles.

I am in trouble. I am in fucking trouble. I have collected money but the AI models are misbehaving. They are not working the way they should work.

Ah. I am in soup. I am finished. I am completely finished.

Mister Confident walks over to the gatekeeper of the coffee and bread.

A cup is filled with steaming Cafe Touba.

Mister self-assured reaches out his hand and grabs a hold of two pieces of bread from the pile.







I am screaming in my head.


I look at the gatekeeper’s face. He is smiling and exchanging words with Mister Confident.

My hunger begins to boil even more belligerently.

I need another loaf of bread.

Jesus Christ I need another loaf.

Mister Confident finishes exchanging greetings and goes to join the celebration.

As he walks away, I can feel my energy diminish. My propensity to act on the unbearable extent of my hunger is apparently, directly proportional to proximity with Mister Confident.

As he walks away, my welling assertiveness ebbs. Now I am left with no externally perceptible dissatisfaction. Just the gnashing agony of internal hunger.


The gatekeeper is frowning again. The loaves look so far away now. So distant. So out of reach. Oh my God.

I keep sipping on the coffee, inhaling the aroma as fully as I can, hoping that at least is doing something to assuage my tempestuous hunger.

I keep looking around glumly. The Senegalese chants sound like something from a dream. The smiles and Wolof chatter bouncing about in the air around me all feel like hallucinations.

The one real voice in my head right now, is that of impatient, menacing, inconsiderately vociferous hunger.

Ah. I am dead. I am dead. I am completely dead. I am finished.

In the midst of this delirious surreality, I hear a familiar voice.

Who is that?

I turn around.

Is that Billy Boy?

Is that Billy Boy?

Ah it is Billy Boy!

His gaze connects with mine. A smile spreads out on his face.

Jesus Christ I am so happy to see you Billy Boy. I am so happy to see you.


Memories of our interactions come to the forefront of my mind and infuse me with a feeling of warmth very different from what the fire was providing.

Having coffee in the middle of the island at Espargos, with me marvelling and the astoundingly chasmic language barrier that existed between us.

Hanging out at “Chillout”- an interesting restaurant at Santa Maria- a multi-cultural hub at the southern end of the island.

We shake hands and hug and smile and laugh.

He walks over to the gatekeeper, smiling and laughing and exchanging greetings with him in Wolof.

I like this guy so much. He wears these very interesting trousers that involve a combination of Denim and brightly coloured traditional Senegalese attire. His neck is usually full of very heavy looking Senegalese bead necklaces. He walks with an extremely appealing bounce, stylishly favouring one leg as he cooly drifts through space. I like this guy so much.

A cup is filled with steaming Cafe Touba.

Billy Boy reaches out his hand and grabs a hold of two pieces of bread from the pile.



Two pieces. Of bread.

Billy Boy. Is taking two.

The gatekeeper is immersed in exciting conversation with him.

The loaves feel within reach once again. The capable assertiveness is back to express the clamorous disgruntlement of my rumbling hunger.

Psychological electricity is flowing from Billy Boy right now. This guy’s magnetic field of relievingly reliable self-assuredness is inducing some serious electrical charge in me right now.

I order my right hand to move in the direction of the loaves.

It obeys.

Good. Very good. Very very good.

I can feel the loves in my hand. Jesus they feel so soft. And there is margarine, Jesus Christ. I can almost taste it already.

My hand grabs a hold of one.

Extends that hold to two.

Three? Three loaves Mayowa?

My hand is corresponding with my head.

Three? Three loaves?

Look at you. Look at your big head. Three loaves. Three loaves. In addition to the one you’ve already had.

At someone else’s expense.

You better get back to your apartment and continue grappling with your bellicose AI models. You better go figure out how to finish training your models so you can obtain the second instalment of your consultancy fee from the Spanish Biodiversity NGO, and then you can buy as many loaves as you want.

Okay. Okay. Two loaves it is. Two loaves it is.

The hand is back. Two loaves richer. Alright. This is good. This is very good.

I think the gatekeeper saw me from the corner of his eye. I think I see a slight frown. I think I see it. I’m not quite sure. He is still smiling excitedly with Billy Boy. I’m not sure. I am not really sure.

One loaf is in my mouth already.

Ah! Such relish, Jesus. Ah!

All hail Billy Boy.

All hail Billy Boy the dependable inducer of electrical charge.

All hail Billy Boy the undepletable watershed of self-assurance.

I keep munching voraciously.

All hail Billy Boy.

All hail Billy freaking Boy.

Ah! My body feels relieved of tenseness. The unnerving stress of hunger-induced focus loosens its grip on my consciousness.

Ah! My body feels so calm all of a sudden.

Now I am able to feel the cool breeze of the night.

Hm, I think there are stars in the sky.

Ah, this Senegalese coffee tastes so good.

Hm, now the smiles on the faces of the Senegalese guys at the meeting suddenly feels like a language that makes meaning to me. Now their smiles seem to make sense.

All hail Billy boy.

All hail Billy freaking Boy.