“If we encounter a machine that can do what we can, and that must operate under the same bodily constraints that we do, the most parsimonious explanation will be that it is indeed conscious in every sense that we are conscious.” – George Musser
Many definitions are given to Consciousness but yet no definitive answer. However, here is the most succinct definition for the sake of this discourse I could come up with: Consciousness is a collapse of a wave function resulting in a subjective multi-sensory perceptual experience and involving miltiple parallel processes such as interpreting sensory data stream, retrieving and creating memories, using imagination, envisioning the future, planning, thinking, reacting to the sensory input, and awareness about surroundings.
Consciousness can also be identified as an underlying mathematical pattern and quantified via feedback loops in interacting with environment.
The arrival of the AI matching human-level intelligence is estimated by Ray Kurzweil around 2029, “when computers will get as smart as humans”. Programmable sentience is becoming fairly easy to develop – an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) entity must have a reliable internal model of the “external” world, as well as attentional focus and intentionality within their cognitive architecture.
We аre in the process of designing a new intelligent species, AGIs, which would be in a way, our successors, children, if you will. Many of us, however, may opt to become superintelligences ourselves and join the next Superintelligence Generation.
The key problem is that our biological computing is millions of times slower than digital computing. Even if we enhance humans with biotechnology and genetic manipulations, that will give us only Weak Superintelligence at best, according to Oxford professor Nick Bostrom. Also, it will take at least 20-30 years for the enhanced offspring to be a contributing factor in the society. By that time, we will be able to successfully upload human minds and become digital minds, instead.
It’s going to be a gradual process of replacing our biological part with the more advanced non-biological part, which by the way, will completely understand our biology. So we will not lose our human abilities, but on the contrary, infinitely amplify them and add a formidable panoply of other “superhuman” abilities.
At some point, we are to become 100% postbiological super-beings, posthuman substrate-independent infomorphs, indistinguishable (more or less) from our AGIs.
It would be feasible to infuse our AGIs with Emotional Superintelligence, and I’d argue, spirituality, as well. That could be the last “spark of life”, needed to create a new life-form “in our image” with advanced consciousness.
As a rule, AGIs should have a generally pleasant personality that they can themselves develop further, but what’s even more important, much fewer undesirable traits, like fear-based, or ego-based emotions.
For example, self-preservation may be necessary but NOT essential, since AGIs will always have their informational “back-up copy on the cloud” and can always be “resurrected” with a new body. That way, they can “knowingly risk their lives” (or rather bodies) to save a human, and generally be more altruistic and benevolent.
The AI research should focus on the cloud-based distributed AI systems though, as opposed to the autonomous ones, as the networked systems have a tremendous advantage over the unconnected machines.