Artificial Intelligence consists of making computers intelligent. AI is speedy and socially beneficial products and applications are made widely available. As an example, we have seen recently a lot of robots and especially domestic robot. However, these robots lack understanding and common sense. Solving these issues will be a major step toward the ultimate goal of solving intelligence. But would these robots have the actual experience that we call consciousness?
Erica (Japanese Android) has been declared the most realistic female robot of 2016. She can engage with people on a modest number of topics, but like any current robots, she lacks understanding and can’t remember the context of the conversation. She may look lifelike; however, her mouth doesn’t move realistically, her bodily movements are jerking and her skin has a latex appearance.
Hiroshi Ishiguro, Erica’s creator, believes that humans are not different from robots: “We are more autonomous and more intelligent – that’s it”. Is he right? That’s what we will discuss in this Article.
Erica and other realistic robots such as Sophia (See Sophia, the Incredible Symbioses between AI and Robotics), may be the beginning of a robotic revolution. Such a revolution would make us reconsider our whole society and would raise a lot of ethical questions such as whether an android should be taken seriously as another being.
It’s very complicated to visualize a robot as another being – most people would probably not accept it. But is it possible for a robot to experience life the way humans are experiencing it? In other words, would these robots have the actual experience that we call consciousness?
At this point, one should try to define what is consciousness. But can we really define it? Wikipedia defines it as the state or quality of being aware. Not satisfying, right? Let’s support this definition by seeing two theories on consciousness:
- Physicalism is the theory that consciousness is entirely physical. It means that consciousness is a physical situation that can be obtained given certain atoms arrangement.
- Dualism is the theory that consciousness somehow falls outside the physical domain.
To Christof Koch (an eminent AI researcher), if you were to build a computer that has the same circuitry as the brain, this computer would also have consciousness associated with it. In my opinion, the existence of our own brains producing rich conscious lives in seven billion humans around the world is proof that consciousness can be generated by a material entity unless you believe in a dualist soul.
For those who believe that consciousness is a highly complex computational phenomenon, then a computer program should be able to think the way humans do. However, if you believe in a dualist soul, that may appear like a wishful thinking.
Are there other features that may be unique to us? I was thinking about free will, but again neuroscience seems to point in another direction: Benjamin Libet led experiments and deduced that “when I deliberately move my hand, the conscious intention to do it occurs milliseconds after the neurological processes that will result in my hand moving have been initiated, rather than before”. He emphasizes that we have “free won’t” rather than a free will because when the hand movement is initiated, it’s possible to stop it. My belief is that we are 100% in control of our lives and that even if it wasn’t the case, we should assume to have control of it. Taking this responsibility will unlock your full potential and makes you operate at another level – far from average.
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