When talking about consciousness we are presented with numerous predicaments, none more intriguing than designing machines with self-awareness potentially equal to human beings. We already have the power to make artificial intelligence (robots) appear alive. They move, talk, gesture and perform various simple tasks. When they get in the way, or we grow bored of their company, we simply switch them off and thus put them in a stand-by mode. They are our pets. But for how long?
Many scientists and philosophers believe one day we will possess the knowledge to design fully conscious robots. But here’s a million dollar question: How will we ever know whether they are fully conscious? Will we ever possess the capability to measure consciousness? We know ourselves to be conscious and we presume other people are conscious too, because they appear like us. But we can only ever be 100% sure of ourselves. But read on, it gets crazier!
Let’s presume we succeeded in designing a robot which we believe is fully conscious. Here’s a first predicament: If we can design a conscious robot then it’s only reasonable to assume we are able to isolate or separate the robot’s body-functions from its consciousness. This suggests consciousness should exist independent of the body. It also presents us with an even deeper predicament: at what stage does a robot qualify as being dead? We know a human being dies when we can no longer repair the body. But we just constructed a robot from scratch hence we should be able to rebuild or repair it, no matter what. Fact: artificial intelligence can always be brought back to life. Such deliberation implies two possible outcomes:
- If we succeed in the construction of fully conscious robots we will effectively discover immortality, or
- Making artificial intelligence conscious is an impossible task.
Conclusions are monumental for our understanding of consciousness, namely: artificially generated consciousness equal to human consciousness would effectively guarantee robot’s immortality: eternal life. Can we assume the same holds true for human consciousness? To put it in simple words: does consciousness equal immortality?