When we look around at the world today, we are seeing several modest advances in artificial intelligence, such as being on the doorstep to seeing cars drive themselves. And now we could be on the verge of yet another amazing development: machines that are aware of their own existence and their surroundings.
Not only that, such machines could have the ability to absorb massive quantities of real-time data. They could go out on dangerous missions, into either combat or space. Besides perhaps driving folks around, they could be able to cook for us, clean our homes, and even do our laundry. They could also use a company when there are no other people around.
Replacing Humans Altogether?
An advanced group of these machines could totally replace us at most all jobs. That could save mankind from the drudgery of daily work, but it will probably disturb several societal foundations. Lives with all play and no work could become a dystopia.
Conscious machines will most likely bring up some disturbing ethical and legal problems as well. How about the liability behind a conscious AI machine if it were to hurt someone? Or to go a step further, perhaps these machines would come together and rebel against human society – just like in the science fiction movies. Many experts consider these machines to be a bit of societal evolution.
Many scientists and engineers are somewhat divided as to whether these conscious machines will ever exist. In addition to that, they are also debating as to whether these machines would ever be called “conscious” in the same way that we think of a human being conscious – or even the way that some animals are conscious. Some of these great questions pertain to technology; while other questions ask about the definition of consciousness itself.
Is awareness enough?
Many computer scientists believe that consciousness is will the result as technology advances. Some of these experts feel that consciousness means being able to accept new information, retrieving and storing old information, and then applying some cognitive processing of this data which results in actions and perceptions.
If this is true, then perhaps there will be a day when these machines become conscious. They will be able to collect much more data than a human ever could, and store enough of it to fill countless libraries, have access to massive databases within only milliseconds, and then compute all of this into decisions that are more complex than any human could ever dream of.
However, there are philosophers and physicists who claim there is more to humans than could ever be computed by a computer. Creativity, for instance, and the feeling of freedom are states of mind that humans have which are not derived from calculations or logic.
But these aren’t the only viewpoints of what consciousness is all about, or even if machines could ever get there.
Yet another view of consciousness comes from the popular quantum theory, which comes from the field of physics. The orthodox Copenhagen Interpretation claims that the physical world and consciousness are complementary factors of the very same reality we see. Whenever someone observes or conducts an experiment on, a certain part of our physical world, their individual conscious interaction will cause changes in what they are testing.