Is AI a Conscious Technology?

In 2023 there has been so much hype about AI and how it can make work easier. AI has advanced such that it can drive cars, recognize voices or even compose music. Initially, people used AI in many ways, but they didn’t realize it. For instance, voice search and applications such as Siri have been there for a while. Surprisingly, many people needed to be made aware that it uses AI technology.

How does the human mind compare to AI?

One advantage of AI is that it can efficiently process complex information. Its downside is that it never does it consciously. On the other hand, the human brain can process complex information but does it consciously.

The fact that the human mind can generate subjective experiences is one thing AI will never beat. There’s likely no such thing as artificial consciousness.

AI consciousness research

There has been plenty of research that has been done regarding consciousness.

Ned Block, for instance, found out that consciousness is grounded in biology, and thus, synthetic systems such as AI cannot have absolute consciousness.

On the other hand, Cambridge believes that biological brains are not necessary for consciousness; thus, engineered solutions such as AI can still attain consciousness. Cambridge believes that engineered conscious AI is on its way and will be available by the end of the century.

Dr. Tom McClelland, a lecturer at Clare College, believes that both parties are wrong about consciousness as most people do not know much about consciousness.

Human consciousness is mysterious in a way. Cognitive neuroscience can tell what exactly is going on when you read an article, such as your perception, understanding, evaluation, etc. It, however, cannot tell your conscious experience. Is that consciousness?

Then neural patterns typically occur when you process information consciously, but there’s no distinction between conscious and unconscious neural processes.

If humans understand what makes us conscious, it’s possible to know whether AI has what it takes.

What makes us conscious is the integration of information in the brain. And if that’s the case, then AI can undoubtedly be conscious.

If humans are conscious because of neurobiology, no programming will make AI conscious. The problem is we are still determining if it is true.

When we know the limitations of human understanding, we can see the possibility of AI consciousness.

AI must be treated like any other tool if it does not have subjective awareness.

It’s still unclear whether AI is conscious or not. What options do humans have?

1. Assume AI is not conscious

Even though AI systems are getting more complex and sophisticated by the day, we should not consider them when making moral decisions.AI is a product of unconscious processes and should be treated that way.

2. Assume AI is conscious and treat it with caution

That means we should assume that sophisticated AI is sentient. This may, however, come with an ethical disaster. We might use valuable resources

but still risk our morality.

Since there are pros and cons to both approaches, it is better to take precautions until you clearly understand the consciousness

When proposing a global moratorium on creating artificial consciousness, Thomas Metzinger argues that if we wait to understand consciousness fully, we might wait for a very long time. This may deny the world the benefits of sophisticated AI technology. He believes that even with the moratorium, there is a risk of having conscious AI. There is also a chance that conscious AI is already here.

What does the future hold?

There is a need for philosophers and cognitive scientists to work on consciousness, but there is unlikely they will get a solution now. People should reflect on why they value consciousness. Are subjective experiences really worth it?

Undoubtedly, if conscious AI is not here already, it will be soon.

AI being conscious does not stop the technology from breaking barriers and causing an impact. AI will only improve with time, with more adoption expected in the market.

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