Nobody asks what "vital force" is anymore. Organisms still have just as much vital force as they had before, but as understanding of biological mechanisms increased, the idea of a single essence evaporated. Hopefully the same will happen with "consciousness".
GEOFFREY HINTON, is an AI researcher at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London, where he does research on ways of using neural networks for learning, memory, perception and symbol processing and has over 100 publications in these areas. He was one of the researchers who introduced the back-propagation algorithm that is now widely used for practical applications. His other contributions to neural network research include Boltzmann machines, distributed representations, time-delay neural nets, mixtures of experts, and Helmholtz machines. His current main interest is in unsupervised learning procedures for neural networks with rich sensory input.