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"The unexamined life is not worth living." - Plato


Man-Made Conscious Computers: Not Possible

- R. Totten (c) 2008, 2011

The notion of conscious machines (computers) in the realm of artificial intelligence does not at all promise to be a realistic possibility. This is because actual "intelligence" is necessarily connected to awareness or consciousness of a living thing --such as a person or an animal. Consiousness is part of a spirit inside a sentient being.

Some people suppose that computers already "think" and are "intelligent," and to these people this seems to be so, because computers are able to accomplish amazing calculations and logic-processes at tremedous speeds which make virtually all people appear stupid in comparison. Many elderly people feel that computers are already conscious and able to reason and think.

--However, such machine "intelligence" only appears to be the case --and this is only because the people making this claim have an inadequate understanding of what computer information is, and that such "information" has nothing to do with actual awareness or consciousness on the part of the computer. Uninformed people don't realize that electronic computer information (and "memory") is actually just tiny electronic switches (in the form of transistors) that are either turned "on" or turned "off." These switches are no more profound (with regard to the computer being sentient) than the much larger switches which turn off and on lights in the rooms of a house. There is no more consciousness involved in such electronic "memory," than there is in having information written on a piece of paper.

In computer information and memory, a switch that is on is called a "one," but a switch that is off is called a "zero." Any piece of data contained in the switches of computer "memory" is actually a lengthy series of these ones and zeros which stands for that string of information. Larger amounts of information are stored in longer series of ones and zeros in the transistor-switches of computer memory. In addition, operations of computer "logic" are also lengthy series of ones and zeros which cause various transistor-switches and "logic-circuits" of the computer's processors and electronic "memory" to respond in particuar ways. The computer itself has no actual awareness of any logical necessity in any discussion or argument, but it is the human programmers whose logic is reflected.

Again, since the switches of computer memory are actually no more profound that the larger light-switches we use every day, we can easily see that there is no actual consciousness or information of which a computer is really "aware." -- And it doesn't matter how huge the memory-banks of computers become --even 20 or 100 years from now--, there will never be any more actual consciousness in computers than there is in the light-switches on your wall. 1000 trillion electronic switches are no more conscious than one switch... though the illusion of consiousness may be much more convincing.

Oh yes, of course, artificial intelligence will get more and more sophisticated and fast --appearing to be truly intelligent-- but the operative word there will always be "artificial" intelligence. A famous example is the supercomputer from IBM called "Watson," which competes very successfully with human competitors in an information game of "Jeopardy." --Still, the machine is only a machine, and it will never include actual intelligence with awareness, because true intelligence must unavoidably include consciousness, which is a property of a spirit. So, an AI computer like "Watson" doesn't actually "know" anything. Machine learning pioneer Doug Lenat of Cycorp Inc. in Austin, Texas, says that such a computer just strings words together and uses liguistic rules and statistical algorithms to arrive at a certain level of statistical likelihood that the information will correspond to the question being asked. Then when the computer reaches a pre-determined threshold, it flips another electronic switch to indicate that it has the answer. -- It is still all a bunch of cleverly arranged switches. No actual intelligence linked to awareness.

10 years from now, some computers will undoubtedly be able to carry on a sophisticated "conversation" with people about a variety of topics, and some people will surely insist that those computers have become conscious, but this will be a fantasy and an ever more effective illusion of intelligence which people will choose to believe, in an act of self-deception. However, those computer "conversations" will be no more real interactions of conscious entities, than if we tie a question written on a piece of paper on one end of a string and pull the string so that the pre-programmed answer pops up at the other end of the string. -- If there is no awareness, there is no actual thinking or conversation.

So, enjoy the speed and sophistication of improving computers through the years, ...but much more than that, we should be deeply amazed that we have other people around us with whom to truly converse, and to share actual intelligence. No person we meet is merely a machine, but also includes a personal conscious self-awareness.

- - And here is the original source of such truly intelligent interaction: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27).

Again ...enjoy!


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