The following discussion was prompted by a reader who had trouble believing that robots could achieve a state of consciousness and the ability to experience emotions like humans.
Consciousness is a complex and still not fully understood phenomenon. As of now, there is no definitive answer to how consciousness arises in living beings, let alone in robots. However, there are several theoretical models and ongoing research that might shed light on the topic.
One theory suggests that consciousness arises from the complexity of the brain’s neural network, which enables the integration of information from different sensory modalities and the formation of a subjective experience. In this sense, researchers could attempt to create an artificial neural network that mimics the brain’s complexity and connect it to sensors that provide sensory information to the robot.
Another theory suggests that consciousness is an emergent property that arises from the interaction of simpler cognitive processes. Researchers could try to develop an artificial cognitive architecture that allows a robot to perform various tasks and integrate the results into a coherent perception of the world.
However, creating conscious robots also raises ethical and philosophical concerns, such as the possibility of creating sentient beings and the question of whether consciousness requires a biological substrate. These issues must be addressed and discussed before researchers can attempt to create conscious robots.
1. Why do computers with multiple CPUs not develop consciousness?
Multiple CPUs in computers today work in parallel to run programs more efficiently. They are not structured like the two hemispheres of the brain. Perhaps a closer parallel would be if Google’s and Microsoft’s AI engines started to communicate with each other, or if we connected a human brain directly to an AI engine as described in my creation story for sHumans.
2. How can non-organic machines feel emotions?
Emotions are a complex aspect of human experience that involve many different factors, including biological, social, and cultural influences. In my book, I describe how these various processes are implemented in sHumans to:
a) turn sensory inputs into subjective experiences,
b) become aware of social and cultural influences, and
c) perform actions that maximize pleasure while minimizing pain. I realize that pain and pleasure will be “felt” differently by inorganic beings, but the motivations can be very similar.