Sunday, September 29, 2019
CAN A MACHINE BE CONSCIOUS?
THE SINGULARITY, A Short Story
Dan was very excited. This was the day! All the conditions were now met! Today, the day that he and many others had anticipated for many years was about to be realized. Everyone in the Bio-psycho-physics lab gathered around a complex machine known as the A/E-2000. The A/E-2000 was the culmination of artificial intelligence technology developed by scientists and engineers from around the world over the past 100 years. A/E-2000 had all the complexity of the human brain and nervous system, everything scientists had determined necessary for a man-made machine to be conscious. But AE-2000 did not look like the human-copy androids of the science fiction movies of the past. They had realized that constructing a mechanical clone of ourselves unnecessarily complicated the project. So they had focused on the essentials in order to reach the goal sooner. The first conscious robot did not have to look like a human being. It looked more like what might happen if one combined some organs from an animal with a circuit board and a mechanical octopus. One of Dan’s less technical friends joked that they should have called it RK-2000, an acronym for ‘Road-kill-2000’.
Dan had been fascinated with the idea of artificial intelligence from the day he saw the movie “A.I.”, a sci-fi movie about an android named David who looked like an 11-year old boy. And when Dan read Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” the die was cast. He knew that he wanted to be one of the scientists who would realize Kurzweil’s vision. He had worked hard to get the kind of education he needed, and he had been successful. He was the lead scientist on the Singularity Project, and today was the day! Of course, there were religious kooks who questioned the wisdom of the Project: They accused Dan and his colleagues of “playing God”. When asked about this in a TV interview, Dan answered like most scientists of the day: “Being a scientist, I am, of course an atheist. There is no reason to bring outmoded religious fantasies into a scientific project like this.”
This was the moment they had anticipated. When they threw the switch, bringing the final electromagnetic pulse into the already throbbing mass of complex technology they affectionately called Adam/Eve 2000, it came to life. With the cameras rolling to record this historic moment, Dan said:
“Hello, A/E !”
A/E-2000’s amplifier hummed slightly and a vibrant voice replied:
“Describe for us how you feel.” Dan prompted.
After a slight pause, the voice said:
“Like I just woke from a long sleep! The last thing I remember was being in the hospital.”
“That’s impossible”, Dan replied, “We didn’t program a memory like that for you, A/E -“
There was another pause, as the camera-like eyes quickly surveyed the room and then swiveled back around to focus on Dan.
“Who’s this Aye-ee”. it said. “My name’s not ‘Aye-ee’, “I’M YOUR UNCLE FRED, YOU NINNY!”