Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thoughts on AI

Thoughts on AI. I am a materialist. I think the entity typing these words in an emergent property of my brain. My consciousness arises from the functioning of my brain. As I have constructed the story so far, there was a big bang, stuff started and matter rained out of energy. Stuff has binding rules and the binding rules of matter support chemistry. Some chains of chemistry support replication with variation enabling the powerful if mindless (for now) design principle of natural selection. These chemical loops became metabolism and life arose. Cells started to function in interrelated groups and formed complex organisms. The level of complexity grew until we had things that walked around on dry land. The problems of navigating a physical environment and managing flexible behavior were solved 200,000,000 years ago. From this complex information processing system based on neurons, our own brains emerged. We are from here, so to speak. The observed laws of our three dimensional space seem sufficient to produce consciousness as an emergent property of a complex neural net.
From this narrative of emerging consciousness I would make these conjectures. First, the physical laws of chemistry – the binding rules of matter – are sufficient to support the emergence of consciousness. Second, consciousness emerges from the patterns of energy exchange in the mind. The metabolic processes of neurons and associated cells supports consciousness. Third, these patterns of energy exchange emerged from biological metabolism but these patterns are not restricted to only biological platforms.

Our own human consciousness is starting to come under our own conscious control. Psychotropic drugs are a start. They change the feeling of what happens They reassign meaning to experiences. As we begin to understand this better we can start to engineer consciousness and the feeling of what happens. I would not speculate about alternaive types of consciousness that might already exist around us - I only suggest that we should not be surprised if we either discover or create alternative kinds of consciousness in the near future. If consciousness is a pattern of movement of energy, then it can be designed. It can evolve and I do speculate that if we were to make a 10 generation leap into our future, we would find a consciouness as radically changed as if we were to make a 1000 generation leap into the past.