The recent development of advanced computers capable of performing tasks at the same level as their human makers has opened up a whole raft of questions and the making of many sci-fi films.
After having watched four artificial intelligence films, A.I., Bicentennial Man, Transcendence and 2001: A Space Odyssey, questions popped up in my mind:
Is it possible for something made of silicon, wire and metal to have a mind and be like a human? If it is possible should we fear this process?
In the film A.I., a robot named David, an adopted child to a human family, has the capacity to “love” and he displays analytic ability to figure out how to get his “mother’s” love.
In Bicentennial Man, Andrew, the slave robot, wants the freedom and equality of a human.
So, what distinguishes a robot from a human at this point in time?
Humans have emotions, feelings and consciousness.
Humans are organic, flesh and bone, robots are made of metal, chips and wire.
Humans think, robots are programed.
In the future will we let the A. I. genie out of the bottle? Maybe there was a time when nuclear weapons could have been avoided, but we let the genie out of the bottle and now they are here to stay. Now, we are at the same position with A.I. What are the consequences of the continued development of intelligent robots?
Humans are conscious. Can a robot be conscious?
Consciousness means awareness of what we are sensing and what we are doing. This is internal monitoring. Robots don’t have this consciousness.
Are human machines possible?
Humans are aware of their surroundings, senses and what they are doing, plus they are intelligent.
An intelligent but unconscious being is a “zombie”. If we made lots of intelligent machines we would be facing a world full of zombies!
A robot has no internal mental world, no consciousness. We probably will be able to build “thinking” computers, but they would still be a zombie, an unconscious thinker!
The other day I watched a film called, “Transcendence”, where a scientist uploads his mind, his consciousness, to a computer. This is an interesting concept, capturing a person’s mind on the software of a computer. But it’s scary in that you would be reduced to a long list of binary numbers! Not quite human is it?
Apparently, there’s no limit to how smart a computer can become. They could become smarter than humans and then how do we control these machines?
Can we duplicate the human brain, or consciousness? The brain isn’t just electrical. It has a deep structure, billions of neurons and trillions of connections (synapses). As far as consciousness goes, we don’t even have a theory of consciousness, so it is still a mystery.
I always thought the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a marvelous sci-fi movie. But will it be science fact in the future? It certainly was very philosophical. The story follows Nietzsche’s magnum opus “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. The story goes from apes to humans to the “overman”, a futuristic being who looks at humanity as humanity now looks at the apes. The film tells the same story beginning with ape-men, then going through humanity, and finishing up with the “Star Child”, a planet-sized super intelligent baby.
In the film there is a computer called “Hal”, a powerful form of artificial intelligence. Hal can sense things and he runs the space ship. He thinks he is superior to humans. Hal is evil!
Should we be frightened of these super intelligent robots? The astronauts were. Hal wanted to get rid of the crew and he does except for astronaut Bowman.
Nietzsche said, “God is dead.” So we have to find another meaning to life. The whole film leads us to the “Star Child”, which was designed and directed by a race of aliens. These aliens have designed humans to become intelligent through technology. They direct Bowman, the surviving astronaut, to be transformed into the “Star Child”, the new supreme intelligence.
In the end, the death of God is achieved through science.
Whatever happens in the future, and it could be very scary, these films are incredibly interesting and enlightening.
But for the moment lets enjoy the present.
As the adage says:
“Fear of the future is a waste of the present.”