What does it feel like to be a conscious AI?We may never know

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Humans are active listeners; we create meaning where there is no or no intention. Bender said that it is not that the octopus’s words are meaningful, but that the islanders can understand them.

Although very complex, today’s AI is smart, just as calculators might be called smart: they are all machines, designed to transform input into a way that humans (thinking people) choose to interpret them as meaningful Output. Although neural networks may loosely model the brain, the best neural networks are far less complex than mouse brains.

However, we know that the brain can produce consciousness as we understand it. If we can finally figure out how the brain does it, and reproduce this mechanism in artificial devices, then surely a conscious machine might become possible?


When I tried to imagine Robert’s world at the beginning of this article, I found myself drawn to the question of what consciousness means to me. My conception of conscious machines is undeniable—perhaps inevitably—like human beings. This is the only form of consciousness I can imagine, because it is the only one I have experienced. But is this really a conscious artificial intelligence?

It might be a bit arrogant to think so. The project of building intelligent machines is biased towards human intelligence. But the animal world is full of all kinds of possible substitutes, from birds to bees to cephalopods.

Hundreds of years ago, the accepted view promoted by René Descartes was Only humans are conscious. Animals without souls are regarded as robots without thoughts. Few people today think that if we are conscious, then there is no reason not to believe that mammals with similar brains are also conscious. Why draw lines around mammals? Birds seem to reflect when solving puzzles. Most animals, even invertebrates such as shrimps and lobsters, will show signs of pain, which indicates that they have a certain degree of subjective consciousness.

But how can we really portray that feeling?As the philosopher Thomas Nagel pointed out, it must “Like” something like a bat, But what it is we can’t even imagine-because we can’t imagine what it would be like to observe the world through a kind of sonar.We can imagine what it will look like We To do this (perhaps close your eyes and imagine a kind of echolocation point cloud of our surroundings), but this is still not what a bat looks like, a bat’s mind.



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