Micro-essays by Philip Dhingra

On Artificial Consciousness

We project consciousness onto machines the same way we do to animals. For example, when we watch a squirrel pause and scan its surroundings, we feel as if there is a mind there, even if it's not fully ours. Or consider the simple starfish. When we poke it, we sense a consciousness when it curls up. We know that it felt something inside as if it was saying "ouch." Likewise, when we watch videos of Deep Blue defeating Kasparov at chess, we get a funny feeling, like maybe the machine were thinking. Or when we ask Siri a question, and she says "Sorry, I don't know the answer to that right now," it sounds like those feelings are genuine.

We'll find out soon enough whether Daniel Dennet was right, that there is nothing special about consciousness, as artificial intelligence gets better and better at approximating it.