The philosophy of artificial intelligence.

Is it conscious?

Consciousness is different than self-awareness, although many people use the two terms interchangeably. Being self-aware is exactly as the term implies: being aware of one's self. I can know that I'm angry, that I'm sitting in a chair, or that the wind is blowing on my face without being conscious. Consciousness is the subjective experience associated with all of these things. Knowing you're angry is different that the true experience associated with anger. Knowing you're sitting in a chair is different from enjoying the chair's texture, how it contours to your body (or fails utterly to do so.) Knowing the wind is blowing on your face is vastly different than truly experiencing it.

Materialists would argue that consciousness arises from the incredible complexity of the human brain. As we map the brain, we'll better understand how such subjective experiences work. In time, we could easily emulate such experiences in a machine.

Dualists, however, would argue that the brain (no matter how complex it is) cannot truly experience these things. They would argue that some sort of non-material mindstuff must exist and be the seat of true consciousness. If such mindstuff exists, then one could argue that all self-aware intelligent machines couldn't be truly conscious, unless they had this mindstuff too.

A Star Trek fan might argue that Data was conscious. But how would one prove that? Ultimately, the question remains: how does consciousness arise? Is it an illusion, created by our brain? Is it an integral part of our soul (if such a thing exists?) A dualist and a materialist would answer each question very differently, and volumes have been written on the subject. But for now, nobody has this answer.

Next: Can it have faith?

Jump To:
Is it alive?
Does it have emotions?
Is it conscious?
Can it have faith?
Can it have hope?
Can it love?
Does it have a soul?

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