Thursday, September 12, 2013

Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Consciousness

So I'm sitting here today working on the next section of my manuscript: pounding out new scenes that need to be inserted so that the draft actually makes sense. Writing about robots, automation, and artificial intelligence. And it's got me thinking about artificial consciousness.

It seems to me that each and every piece of robotic sci fi of this century and the last (at least any that I've been exposed to, I've recently found out that Douglas Adams did a little robot something that was not The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! and featured a humanoid robot) presupposes that artificial intelligence -- in particular, The Singularity, encompasses by necessity artificial consciousness. This is a very self-serving presupposition for authors and movie makers, since it allows for the exploration of that scary concept named after the Frankenstein monster. But I think it's been done to death. Fear of our own creation? Haven't we had that before? Frankenstein has been beaten to death -- so many, many times.

No, my manuscript does not make such a presupposition. Instead, I begin with the more realistic stance that artificial intelligence, and by extension computers and robotics equipped with A.I., can become 'more intelligent' than humans without the need for sentience. In fact, in the real world, they kinda already have. Think about it: why would something that we created be endowed with consciousness when we, as yet, don't even understand how our own conscious awareness comes about? Fearing SkyNet is all well and good for sci fi action flicks but there's only one real monster in the universe capable of eradicating the human species. What's that, you ask? Look in the mirror. A.I. is a tool of humans. And like all tools, from ploughs to knives, is completely morally neutral when out of human hands.

The point of all this is that I don't want to explore the threadbare idea that artificial intelligence will one day 'wake up' to the world and immediately concluded that humans are reckless and all need to be destroyed. Yawn. What I want to explore is what happens when reckless humans wield powerful intellectual tools. Much more interesting I think.