Blog: There will be conscious machines one day
Will machines be conscious one day? This is a question that has been subject to rough debates, and sometimes the debate tends to focus on what is consciousness, or what does being conscious imply? The debate is about whether machines could or should be called “conscious” in the way we think of humans, and even some animals, as conscious. Some of the questions have to do with technology; others have to do with what consciousness actually is.
First of all let’s try to give some definitions of the word conscious. Conscious can be defined as the following:
Aware of one’s own existence
Alert, awake; with one’s mental faculties active.
Deliberate, intentional, done with awareness of what one is doing.
As a software engineer, being a person whose work is to develop softwares, if we make a parallel to a human being a software may be considered as the spirit of a machine, I can’t say whether or not a machine will be conscious one day, but taking into account the technological advances over the years, we may be tempted to be on the side of people who would go along with the idea that in the future with the evolution of technology machines will be conscious.
As researchers are divided on whether hyperaware machines will ever exist, there are also divided on whether conscious machines are good for our societies. Some people think that conscious machines would raise troubling legal and ethical problems. Would a conscious machine be a “person” under law and be liable if its actions hurt someone, or if something goes wrong? To think of a more frightening scenario, might these machines rebel against humans and wish to eliminate us altogether?
Most computer scientists think that consciousness is a characteristic that will emerge as technology develops. Some believe that consciousness involves accepting new information, storing and retrieving old information and cognitive processing of it all into perceptions and actions. If that’s right, then one day machines will indeed be the ultimate consciousness. They’ll be able to gather more information than a human, store more than many libraries, access vast databases in milliseconds and compute all of it into decisions more complex, and yet more logical, than any person ever could.
On the other hand, there are physicists and philosophers who say there’s something more about human behavior that cannot be computed by a machine. Creativity, for example, and the sense of freedom people possess don’t appear to come from logic or calculations.
Yet these are not the only views of what consciousness is, or whether machines could ever achieve it. One thing that I agree completely is that the day where machine will be considered as conscious is not imminent.