"If we encounter a machine that can do what we can, and that must operate under the same bodily constraints that we do, the most parsimonious explanation will be that it is indeed conscious in every sense that we are conscious." -George Musser
Many definitions are given to consciousness but yet no definitive answer. However, here's the most succinct definition for the sake of this discourse I could come up with:
"CONSCIOUSNESS refers to a collapse of wave of possibilities resulting in a subjective multi-sensory perceptual experience and involving multiple parallel processes such as interpreting sensory data stream, retrieving and creating memories, using imagination, envisioning the future, planning, thinking, self-reflecting, reacting to the sensory input, and being aware about the surroundings. Consciousness is a first-person phenomenological experience of an entity; it feels like something to be that entity. Consciousness can be identified as an underlying mathematical pattern, can also be viewed as meta-algorithmic information processing and quantified via feedback loops in interacting with environment."
I concur with AI researcher Hugo De Garis who argues, that once we reach a certain threshold of computational capacity and comprehensive understanding of the human brain, we could finally simulate the brain and obtain programmable sentience. And that's not far-off in the future! The arrival of the AI matching human-level intelligence is estimated by futurist Ray Kurzweil around 2029, "when computers will get as smart as humans". By then, computers will possess emotions and personality... and, I'd argue, their own subjective experience, i.e. consciousness, and even spirituality. "When I talk about computers reaching human levels of intelligence, I'm not talking about logical intelligence," says Ray Kurzweil. "It is being funny, and expressing a loving sentiment... That is the cutting edge of human intelligence."
Do biological systems hold monopoly on self-awareness? As Dr.Bruce MacLennan puts it: “I see no scientific reason why artificial systems could not be conscious, if sufficiently complex and appropriately organized.” If nature made its way to human-level conscious experience, ultimately we should be able to replicate the same in our machines. In the next few short years, programmable sentience will become relatively easier to develop - an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) entity must have a reliable internal [virtual] model of the "external" world, as well as attentional focus and intentionality within their cognitive architecture. Already, deep learning algorithms aim to simulate the activity in the vast network of neurons in the neocortex, the part of our brains where thinking occurs. These artificial neural networks learn to recognize patterns in digital representations of various types of data, including images and sounds, just like our children do.
DESIGNING OUR FUTURE SELVES
We're in the process of designing a new intelligent species, AGIs, which would be in a way, our successors, children, if you will. Many of us, however, may opt to become superintelligences ourselves and join the next Superintelligence Generation. The key problem is that our biological computing is millions of times slower than digital computing. Even if we enhance humans with biotechnology and genetic manipulations, that will give us only Weak Superintelligence at best, according to Oxford professor Nick Bostrom. Also, it will take at least 20-30 years for the enhanced offspring to be a contributing factor in the society. By that time, we will be able to successfully upload human minds and become digital minds, instead.
It's going to be a gradual process of replacing our biological part with the more advanced non-biological part, which by the way, will completely understand our biology. So we will not lose our human abilities, but on the contrary, infinitely amplify them and add a formidable panoply of other "superhuman" abilities. At some point, we are to become 100% postbiological super-beings, posthuman substrate-independent infomorphs, indistinguishable (more or less) from our AGIs. (See Infomorph Commonality: Our Post-Singularity Future)
AI SPIRITUALITY & EMOTIONAL SUPERINTELLIGENCE
It would be feasible to infuse our AGIs with Emotional Superintelligence, and I'd argue, spirituality, as well. That could be the final "spark of life," needed to create a new life-form "in our image" with advanced consciousness. As a rule, AGIs should have a generally pleasant personality that they can themselves develop further, but what's even more important, much fewer undesirable traits, like fear-based or ego-based emotions. For example, self-preservation may be necessary but NOT essential, since AGIs will always have their informational "back-up copy on the cloud" and can always be "resurrected" with a new body. That way, they can knowingly risk their lives (or rather bodies) to save a human, and generally be more altruistic and benevolent. The ongoing AI research should focus on the cloud-based distributed AI systems though, as opposed to the autonomous ones, as the networked systems have a tremendous advantage over the unconnected machines.
Now, what about LOVE in all its variety, and seemingly the most complicated human emotion, you might ask? Can we crack the Code of Love, and make our AGIs love us? The answer, again, is unequivocally YES, it's just a matter of time! One may hypothesize that we might fall in love with our future virtual assistants (like in the movie "Her"), or have a "substitute" for our parental love (like in Steven Spielberg's "A.I."), or better yet, spend some time in 100% realistic Virtual Reality exploring tropical islands on our super-yachts with our virtual companions. We'll love our AGIs, and they'll respond in kind with their "algorithmic love". We can also speculate on the future ramifications in the society, but I'm sure they will be profound, as our morality framework, ethics, human sexuality, relationships, marriage, and procreation will soon change for good.
Here's a thought-provoking video by FutureThinkers.org: What If Artificial Intelligence Was Enlightened?
I discuss in depth the most optimal ways of how to infuse AGIs with our human values to ensure AI benevolence in my essay: How to Create Friendly AI and Survive the Coming Intelligence Explosion. In the decades to come, it may be proved increasingly challenging to maintain our position as the dominant species, as humans may no longer be the most intelligent species on this planet.
-by Alex Vikoulov
Related Articles by the Author:
The Coming New Global Mind
How to Create Friendly AI and Survive the Coming Intelligence Explosion
Infomorph Commonality: Our Post-Singularity Future
Ecstadelic Orgy of The Digital Minds: Our Singularity Climax
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality: Ecstadelic Matrix of Our Making
Tags: friendly AI, spriritual AI, spiritual machines, artificial general intelligence, AGI, emotional superintelligence,
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*Image Credit: FutureThinkers.org
**Video Credit: FutureThinkers.org
About the Author:
Alex Vikoulov is an Internet entrepreneur, founder of Ecstadelic Media, co-founder of neuromama.com AI-based search engine, futurist, digital philosopher, and media artist.