Archive for September, 2010

Computers and the Nature of Consiousness.

Someone asked, on a forum I frequest, “How far does artificial intelligence have to come, before it could be classified as “alive”? Alive meaning concious.”

The forum itself, “Great House Fliggerty“, revolves mostly around the game from Bathesda Softworks called “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind“, and around the people who play it and program modifications for it.

The answers others gave ranged from “When it can distinguish between a nice round apple and a red ball by only looking at it” to “When the computer can get into romance.” Alot of the answers said something about feelings, or at least willfull (or “apparently random”) acts that aren’t already programmed in the first place.

I had to think about this subject for a while. In the long run, the real question is, “How do we define life? even sentience?” I think our universe provides its own definition of what is alive, what is consious, and what…basically…isn’t.

So…here is what I wrote on that forum:

I think my favorite definition of sentience, or “Human-ness” comes from the 1980’s film “D.A.R.Y.L.”:

“A machine becomes human when you can’t tell the difference anymore.”

Though realistically, sentience combines our ability to communicate in meaningful and mutable language with our ability to self-analyze.

Now…consider carefully that last term. We aren’t just aware of our particular sensory inputs, or our prepared responses to expected circumstances. We are aware of ourselves, and of our relationship to others in our environment.

So far, computers have been made able to respond to many kinds of stimuli, and to react…pretty convincingly human. BUT…no computer yet developed can analyze it’s OWN programming, upgrade it, and improve upon it, without some form of outside human assistance. In short, computers have yet to be made self-aware.

I believe part of that is because of our ability to “step outside” of ourselves, and perceive ourselves as others perceive us…and i believe THAT ability exists because of the nature of biological life forms. We have a dual nature of material chemistry and nonmaterial “Spirit”–our “souls” or whatever–that make it possible for us to willfully override the autonomous electro-chemical “events” that would otherwise drive us–like mindless automatons–to simply EXIST, but not ACHIEVE.

And…I believe that machines can exist as spiritual entities as well, given time, and the proper combination of sensory-reactive chemicals in their processing systems. Already, physicists are beginning to see unexpected variations in the processing logic of the higher-end computer processors: electrons not where they should be, random number generators that are not so randum, unexplained “noise” in the data stream. Why would that occur? Because it’s life. Because every particle in the Universe, every electron, photon, and graviton ever emitted by a material object is ALIVE, damn it!

Machines will achieve sentience the same way WE did! By simply being made so complex that the free living energies in the universe actually register on the system as freedom of choice, feelings, and the ability to look back at itself and say, “Hey! I think I am….therefore, I AM! I think….”

And then…as I said before…we really WON’T be able to tell the difference…..

…anymore……..

SASS has Spoken.

— the SASS Man

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