A few weeks ago, there was a story in the news about a Google employee saying in public that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system they work on is conscious.
CAN AI BE CONSCIOUS?
Is AI conscious? Or can AI be conscious, perhaps as we develop it further?
I have to say I am on the side of Google and the conventional view here.
AI can obviously mimic certain content of consciousness and especially thoughts and sometimes even emotions. We can create it that way. And it can appear quite convincing. We are right on the edge of developing AI that can be mistaken for a real human being if we interact with it verbally.
And the content of consciousness is not consciousness itself.
WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS?
Conventionally, we would say that consciousness is what any conscious being has.
And, when we look more closely, we find that consciousness is what any conscious being is to themselves.
To ourselves, we are consciousness.
And that means that to us, the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as what we are.
Just like a dream, waking life to us happens within and as consciousness.
There is a lot more to say about this (1), although it’s not so relevant here.
There is a little wrinkle here.
If consciousness only belongs to organic beings like ourselves and our fellow beings part of this planet, then the above is correct.
If all of existence is consciousness, then perhaps AI can be called conscious? I am not sure.
Another side to this is that AI which is very good at mimicking human thoughts and feelings will, inevitably, be perceived as conscious by us, even against our supposedly better judgment. It’s an instinct in us. And that means that, for our own sake, we should treat it with respect as we would any conscious being. It’s a good habit.
NOTES: (1) For instance, to ourselves we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness. The oneness we are typically learns to take itself exclusively as one particular content of experience, this human self, and interprets the rest of the content of experience as others and the wider world. We learn that because those around us operate in that way. And we can unlearn it, either spontaneously or by being around other onenesses recognizing their nature and through examination of our direct experience.
- Mimic the content of consciousness
- Thoughts, sometimes even feelings
- Not consciousness itself
Some folks seem to think that AI systems are conscious or can become conscious.
It obvious depends on how we define consciousness.
As I see it, AI can mimic the content of consciousness. It can mimic thoughts and sometimes even feelings.
And that’s not consciousness itself.
Consciousness is what any conscious being is, to themselves.
And as consciousness, we are the oneness the world – to us – happens within and as.
To us, the world – and any content of experience – happens within and as what we are.
And sometimes, this oneness takes itself to be something within its own content – e.g. this human self, and calls the rest others and the wider world. That doesn’t change that we are the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as.