Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Computer Vision, all have become buzz-words in the past few years. With almost continuous breakthroughs in every field known to mankind (yet), the brightest minds are competing with each other trying to make the most human-like piece of metal no one has seen before. But, in the mad haste of trying to impart known ideas into a metallic body, the society is gradually losing its touch of originality.
People are more wowed to see a metallic arm paint something that looks uncannily similar to Claude Monet’s Camille and fail to notice the budding Picasso in the corner. When a software, which has trained over millions of games, and would have a counter for every move the opponent makes, bests a word-champion team in a game of Dota 2, it is because the AI has effectively seen every move and has predicted how the game would go.
If it takes a human between 12,000 and 20,000 hours of practice to master a certain skill, then the bots burn through ‘100 human lifetimes of experience every single day’.
-OpenAI CTO and co-founder Greg Brockman to The Verge
However, when a team does something different, something no one else has done before, something original, the AI has no response for it, being as dumb as any other bot and ends up losing.
What we fail to realize is that what Artificial Intelligence does, it does based on the experience of thousands of others’ experience which was fed into it as data-points. This makes it incredibly monotonous and after a while, even the human mind- which needs change to survive- gets bored of it.
Obviously, this dilemma concerning the brain of an intelligent machine has not escaped the minds of AI researchers and developers. Thus, in the past few years, another new field has popped up in the AI department, aptly known as Synthetic Consciousness. It essentially deals with the philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, that is whether a machine is capable of having a mind and a mental state. With the continuous breakthroughs happening in this field, Skynet taking over the world has suddenly become much more realistic than it originally seemed.
Artificial Consciousness has had its fair share of representation in fiction novels,movies and video games as well. The Terminator scared us, WALL-E made us cry and Detroit: Become Human made me change my perspective about AI and intelligent machines. At present, it is taken for granted that robots cannot break our bones nor can they make us cry over them. But the promising question holds, what if they could? As with all academic issues, a long-standing debate is in motion with the world’s brightest minds in on it, from cognitive scientists to biologists and engineers; pondering over one single, colossal question- What would it mean for a machine to have a soul? Some say, it would be impossible; because to essentially ‘put’ a soul inside a machine, we first need to understand ourselves, what actually is a soul? With authors defining the process of Machine Consciousness as the creation of an immortal soul, the conversation is usually steered away from theology. Most argue that one cannot make metal sentient just by piecing together certain algorithms. Even today, even though we understand how our brain perceives the world, neuroscientists struggle to define as to why we are conscious and depict it in the terms of neural activity.
Sophia was successful in stirring quite the commotion when she was released in 2016 with most people taking it as a sign that Artificial Intelligence had finally broken new boundaries, eagerly and with apprehension, waiting for what’s next. Being something people usually just casually chatted about, it was a bit frightening when a former Disney Imagineer made it into reality. However, to the relief of some and annoyance of others, it turned out to be what was described as partially-intelligent with the ability to mimic the human nature on an unprecedented level. Thus, the debate of Synthetic Consciousness was never laid to rest, and is still not.
Originality, along with other things comes to a person when one becomes fully self-aware, completely familiar in one’s own skin.In the end, machines in today’s age are just contraptions that take inputs, perform complex processing and churn out outputs. Thinking has still not been considered completely analogous to computation and Long-Term Planning is still something which humans are capable of performing. A machine may be able to replicate a world famous painting with a few touch-ups along the way, it is the complex mind of a person that would be able to portray something entirely new on the canvas.
As of today, we are unaware of the eventual steps that would lead us to machines that would be emotionally intelligent and truly introspective. But that does not render the task impossible in any way. The human mind, as it has been demonstrated in history, is always hungry for answers to questions it cannot solve. As we write code for things machines will do tomorrow that we could not begin to comprehend yesterday, in the end we just want to know where it would lead to.
Will we be a Da Vinci, painting a picture that would be admired for centuries or would we be Uranus, creating Gods who will eventually overthrow us? At present, AI would do what we tell it to, but if we want to move towards a future with sentient machines in our society, we must figure out what sentience itself means.
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