Theories allow us to reach emergent phenomenon which are more than the sum of their parts and transcend what they are made of. A simple example of this is wetness. It requires a whole system of molecules interacting in a specific way to produce this overarching effect.
The closest thing we have to a theory for consciousness is the integrated information theory (IIT). I measures the dependence between processes in a system. It has been used to effectively measure states of consciousness during wakefulness or dreaming, and the lack of consciousness during anesthesia or deep sleep.
Consciousness requires at least four principles:
- Information: it has to store information.
- Dynamics: it has to have the ability to process information.
- Independence: it has to be mostly independent from the outside world.
- Integration: It has to consist of nearly independent parts.
These ensure that the system can have a subjective experience by combining all the parts into something more.
Getting AI to the human experience requires four stages: remembering, computing, learning, and experiencing. We have mastered memory and computing for machines, and we are starting to understand the learning aspect. But, haven’t even defined what experiencing looks like.
Because modern circuits can communicate at the speed of line, much faster than our brain’s neural circuitry, AI stands to experience far more of it’s world at a given time than we do. This means that we may not even understand what AI experiences.
As we move forward, we must remember that the universe doesn’t give us meaning. Our consciousness gives meaning to the universe. So, no matter who inherits the universe, we must ensure that it’s conscious. Otherwise, we will regress the universe back to a meaningless void.