By: April Carson
2022 marked a turning point for the artificial intelligence industry, with OpenAI's awe-inspiring ChatGPT taking center stage. This momentous event has only further fueled the momentum of AI development and growth, skyrocketing it to brand new heights. For certain innovators in this field however, chatbots and image generators are far from their ultimate goal – they yearn to unlock even greater potential by creating consciousness itself.
Whereas technology of the past might have been limited in its capabilities, recent breakthroughs have made it possible for scientists to make strides in designing machines that possess a semblance of consciousness.
As Hod Lipson, the leader of Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University confessed to The New York Times, this subject used to be a forbidden conversation. Academic institutions were reluctant for their professors even whisper about it; in fact, speaking out loud was considered an impediment to future tenure.
Consequently, Lipson had no other choice than hide its existence as if it weren't there at all.
Nevertheless, over the years the scientific community has shifted its stance on this matter and embraced consciousness as a legitimate research subject. Scientists have developed robots that are able to recognize emotions in other machines and even humans.
The concept of consciousness has been a source of debate in the AI world for decades. For some, it may seem like something found only in science fiction stories and movies; however, to others such as Lipson, this is an opportunity to spur major changes across humanity by introducing conscious artificial intelligence.
"This isn't any ordinary inquiry — this is the grand, revolutionary question that could potentially have an impact far beyond just curing cancer," the researcher declared assertively.
Lipson and his team are utilizing technologies such as machine learning and deep learning to equip robots with the ability to recognize emotions, understand human language, develop theories about what people do not know, and even generate creative content.
"This will be a milestone in the history of technology if we are able to construct an intelligent machine with equivalent consciousness as humans possess. That same device can potentially cure cancer," he excitedly declared.
It is no secret that the most pressing problem in this field lies in ascertaining what consciousness actually means. The philosophical ambiguity of the term renders it debatable, and until we can accurately define its parameters, technology will remain unable to effectively replicate it.
However, scientists and engineers are now venturing into the realm of artificial intelligence in order to make strides towards creating a conscious robot.
Scientifically, according to the New York Times, any attempt of pinpointing consciousness down to a few functions or signifiers fails. Moreover, there are certain ethical dilemmas which must be considered when dealing with machine consciousness; particularly due to its effect on labor distribution.
Ultimately, robots with consciousness would need to think and feel for themselves. This means that they must be able to make decisions on their own, and respond in a manner which is not predetermined.
According to Lipson, consciousness is defined as the potential "to imagine oneself in the future," as reported by The New York Times. To that end, he has dedicated a considerable amount of his career towards constructing dynamic machines—generalized intelligence with machine-learned natural selection capabilities which responds accordingly to fluctuating landscapes and any damage sustained within its mechanical structure.
In a nutshell: instead of machines just learning and adjusting responsively, like they do now, imagine machines that can have the capacity to recognize how things could be better and adapt in order to fulfill that vision. Although it's quite subtle, this shift is extremely significant.
Consequently, with the lack of a clear definition for consciousness, it is difficult to agree on any specific interpretation.
There's no denying the fact that humans have the urge to attribute human-like traits and characteristics onto virtually anything - from kitchen appliances, animals, plants, and much more. Such a phenomenon is particularly noticeable in robotics and AI engineering where developers are keen on bestowing their creations with both physical attributes as well as intellectual capabilities.
What remains to be seen is if those machines genuinely possess the qualities that scientists such as Lipson anticipate they eventually will. Or are researchers, driven by their own human desires, projecting humanity — or nature, consciousness or whatever term you like — onto these not-at-all conscious devices and reflecting back what they aspire to see instead of its actuality?
Lipson expressed to the NYT his belief that desiring to create life is a form of hubris, one which presents an even greater challenge than setting foot on the moon. After all, the universe already created life.
"The greatest task of mankind is to understand exactly how it happened," he said.
What may be more realistic are machines that don't possess consciousness but can take on certain tasks and assume certain responsibilities, Lipson said. In his view, this would be a beneficial application of robotics technology — for instance, robots that can take on hazardous or laborious tasks, such as mining and exploration.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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