The notion of actually "conscious" machines (computers) in the realm of artificial intelligence (A.I.) does not at all promise to be a realistic possibility. This is because actual "intelligence" is necessarily connected to a real consciousness of a sentient living thing --such as a person or an animal. True consciousness is a property 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 tremendous 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; an illusion. Even A.I. computers with "super" intelligence would simply be a "super" illusion of highly effective human ingenuity at mimicking intelligence. --This illusion is even now assumed and accepted by observers only because the people making this assumption have an inadequate understanding of what computer information is, and that such "information" or "intelligence" 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 or electric charges) that are either turned "on" or turned "off." In the end, these switches are no more profound (with regard to the computer being sentient or conscious) 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. It is an illusion of "memory," but not actual memory connected to a thinking, reasoning mind.
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 such "digital 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 particular 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 and electric charges of computer memory are much smaller but actually no more profound (with regard to consciousness) that the larger light-switches on the wall 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 50 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. A trillion electronic switches (transistors) in a computer are no more conscious than one light-switch on the wall... though the illusion of consciousness will undoubtedly become very much more convincing (where it is already quite convincing today).
Oh yes, of course, artificial intelligence (A.I.) will get more and more sophisticated and fast --appearing to have true intelligence-- but the operative word there will always be "artificial" intelligence. Artificial is not actual ...in flowers or intelligence. --A famous example of A.I. prowess is the supercomputer from IBM called "Watson," which competes --and beats-- top human competitors in a knowledge game called "Jeopardy" --using every-day speech. A.I. also routinely beats human champions in highly complex games, such as Chess or "Go." A.I. also flies airplanes that humans are basically unable to fly reliably. People are also using voice-activated assistants to carry out many types of tasks. "Smart" phones do information-tasks much quicker than people can. --But as for me: I will be delighted if a computer will simply take verbal dictation and write down everything correctly ...which (despite Watson) doesn't happen at a 100% level yet --but this will undoubtedly come quite soon.
--But these are still only machines, and they will never possess actual intelligence, which must include awareness. True intelligence must unavoidably include consciousness and self-awareness, which is an attribute of a spirit, which will always transcend the mere machinery (even the neuron "machinery" of the brain). So, an A.I. computer like "Watson" doesn't actually "know" anything. It only matches digital patterns. Machine "learning" pioneer Doug Lenat of Cycorp Inc. in Austin, Texas, says that such an A.I. computer just strings words together and uses linguistic rules and statistical algorithms to arrive at a certain level of statistical likelihood that the informational pattern will correspond to the question being asked. Then when the computer reaches a pre-determined threshold of certainty, it flips another electronic switch to indicate that it has the answer. --However, it is still all a bunch of cleverly arranged switches and logic circuits. --Ones and zeros. --Electronic charges. There is no actual intelligence which is necessarily linked to true conscious awareness. The machine doesn't actually "understand" anything. There is no actual learning or intentional response or answering taking place. --And "emotive" computers --despite all the clever mimicry-- will never be able to experience actual emotions --not even to the level of a dog.
30 or 50 years from now, some computers will undoubtedly be able to carry on much more sophisticated and smooth "conversations" with people about an ever wider variety of topics, and many computers will be able to perform many kinds of jobs better than humans. As a result, some people will undoubtedly insist that those computers have become "conscious," but such "consciousness" will still be a fantasy --an ever more effective illusion of "intelligence" which many people will be deceived into or choose to believe. --But this will be an act of self-deception. This is because those computer "conversations" will be no more real interactions with conscious entities, than if we tied a question written on a piece of paper to one end of a string and pulled the string so that the correct answer popped up, which was tied to the other end of the string. The string may appear to have "answered" the question. In the long run, that is all computer intelligence is: Mechanism; not mind. -- Since computers will never have any conscious spirit with self-awareness, there will also be no actual thinking, learning or conversation with a sentient "being" in computers. -- Though the illusion of self-awareness in computers will be more and more convincing, it will still only be an illusion. A.I. Computers (robots) will never have the consciousness of even a mouse. -- It will certainly happen that A.I. robots will increasingly dominate humanity in certain ways --but that will only be because people will design those robots to act as if they are "thinking" and to so dominate as they will --just as computerized robots already dominate people on the battlefield, in the office and many other places.
A.I. Already In Action: Writing Online Articles
It now seems that A.I. computers are already writing things which show up "in Print" on the internet. --Cases in point:
- From Washington Post article, 2017, July 2: "Lt. Col. ...said... his forces have carried out about 20 airstrikes a day on IS-held territory within there are of operation..." --a real human should have caught this, but the AI got its way. (Article: "Airstrikes propel Mosul gains, despite toll on civilians.")
- From zdnet.com article, 2017, July 18: "Encryption: In the battle between maths and politics..." --the AI computer doesn't "recognize" that an adequate grasp of English would not make math a plural.
So, go ahead, enjoy the speed and sophistication of improving computers through the years ...I sure am a computer fan. --But much more than that, we should be deeply amazed that we have other conscious persons around us with whom to truly converse, and to share actual intelligence, awareness and true emotions, such as love. No combination of bio-chemicals (or of computer processors and software) will inherently produce a true conscious awareness. And no person we meet is merely a biological machine (made up of only chemicals), but these are "persons" who also include a personal mind and spirit, with conscious self-awareness. A soul ...which endures beyond the mechanism (and brain). Every single cell in the body (and brain) is periodically replaced with new cells --but the actual self-aware "person" persists for decades, with memories and emotions going way back to childhood. True persons are extremely valuable.
--Therefore, it will never make sense --nor will it ever be just or right-- for A.I. computers or robots to have "rights" similar to human beings. If granting such "rights" ever happens, that will be a foolish, ridiculous move, as well as a travesty and miscarriage of justice based on an illusion and self-deception connected to clever ingenuity, but not reality. --In fact, dogs and higher animals merit more legal "rights," protections and consideration than any A.I. computers ever will. Computers will only always be property.
-- And here is the actual source of such true, conscious, intelligent "persons," which are humans: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27). God is a being with "personality," and so is man. This means humans are actual personal beings who are self-aware --having intellect, emotions and a will-- and who have personal relationships and share complex culture with other persons. --The actual consciousness, personhood and moral responsibility of all of us human persons should point us to God, who loved all mankind so much that he sent his one-and-only Son --the God-man, Jesus Christ-- to die on the cross to pay the death-penalty for our sins (Rom. 5:8), so that if anyone truly surrenders to Christ's divine authority and sincerely trusts him, and believes that he died for them personally and then rose from the dead --then those people will be saved (John 3:16). They will then not be responsible to pay the eternal penalty for their sin, but they will instead have eternal life with God/Christ (1 John 5:12) along with all others who have truly trusted and yielded to Christ.
Blessings to you all!