The ultimate goal of most high-level AI research is the development of general artificial intelligence (GAI). In essence, what we want is a synthetic mind that could function in the same way as a human if placed in a physical vessel of similar capacity.
Most experts – not all – believe that we are decades away from this genre. Unlike other incredibly complex problems such as nuclear fusion or readjustment the constant Hubble, nobody yet really understands what GAI looks like.
Some researchers think that Deep Learning is the path to machines that think like humans, others think that we will need an entirely new calculation to create the necessary “master algorithm,“And still others believe that GAI is probably impossible.
But the point is, scientists don’t really understand intelligence when it comes to the human brain, or consciousness when it comes to anything. We are just touching the surface of the gray matter to understand how intelligence and consciousness emerge in the human brain.
When it comes to AI, instead of GAI, we only have patchwork neural networks and intelligent algorithms. It’s hard to argue that modern AI will ever have human intelligence and even harder to show a path to the robot’s real consciousness. But it is not impossible.
In fact, the AI may already be aware.
Mathematician Johannes Kleiner and physicist Sean Tull recently pre-published a research paper on the nature of consciousness which seems to indicate, mathematically speaking, that the universe and all that it contains are imbued with physical consciousness.
Basically, the duo’s paper sorts out some of the math behind a popular theory called Integrated information awareness theory (ITT). He says that everything in the whole universe has the features of consciousness to some degree or another.
It is an interesting theory because it is supported by the idea that consciousness emerges as a result of physical states. You are aware because of your ability to “live” things. A tree, for example, is conscious because it can “feel” the sunlight and lean towards it. An ant is aware because it experiences ants, and so on.
It is a bit difficult to move from living creatures such as ants to inanimate objects such as rocks and spoons. But if you think about it, these things could be aware because, as Neo learned in The Matrix, there is no spoon. Instead, there are just a bunch of molecules grouped together in the formation of a spoon. If you look more and more closely, you will end up attacking the subatomic particles shared by everything that physically exists in the universe. Trees, ants, rocks and spoons are literally made of exactly the same things.
So how does this relate to AI? Universal consciousness could be defined as individual systems at the macro and microscopic level expressing the independent capacity to act and react in accordance with environmental stimuli.
If consciousness is an indication of shared reality, it does not require intelligence, only the ability to live existence. And that means that AI is already demonstrating a relatively high awareness of spoons and rocks – assuming of course that mathematics Is support the latent universal consciousness.
What does it mean? Nothing, probably. Mathematics and algorithms should not be capable of consciousness by themselves (can numbers feel reality? This is a guess for another day). But, if we apply the same rigor to determine if a biological system is conscious as we do for the physical computer on which an AI system resides, we can come to the exciting conclusion that AI might already be conscious.
The distant implications for this are staggering. At the moment, it’s hard to worry about what the experience of being a rock is. But, if you assume that everything involved in integrated information consciousness theory correctly extrapolates and we solve GAI, we will someday have conscious robots that are intelligent enough to explain what it’s like to to live existence as an inanimate object.
Posted on May 1, 2020 – 8:36 PM UTC