It’s 2030 and you’re not doing your old job any more because an AI machine can do it faster, cheaper and safer. How’s that working out for you?
But, first of all, let’s deal with some basic logic. How fair is this?
- Gavin: “Steve, what’ll we do for tea tonight if Mum’s not there to cook?”
- Steve: “Dunno. Ask Dad? Or make it ourselves? Or go down the chippy?”
- Gavin: “Steve, you’re an idiot. We won’t have do any of that because Mum will be there!”
Bit harsh on Steve, yes? He was only answering the question that was put to him. If their Mum wasn’t there, he had an idea of what could happen. He wasn’t asked whether he thought she might be.
Silly? Maybe. But that’s exactly what the economists and the right-wing press did to Professor Stephen Hawking a while ago on the subject of robot automation and unemployment.
The , er …, somewhat ‘unexpected political events’ of 2016 have meant that a few points of detail in the book have had to be rewritten! But there’s good news too …
Some, shall we say, not-entirely-predicted elections and other votes have produced a second edition rather earlier than expected! The storyline’s entirely unaltered and the changes in detail aren’t huge either but were necessary for global consistency. However, this has now also allowed Amazon’s direct publishing service to be used, resulting in significantly lower costs for both the paperback and Kindle edition. These cheaper, more up-to-date options can now be downloaded/ordered from:
Full details of all editions and formats can still be seen in The Book.
What makes something sentient? What does it take for an entity to be aware of its own existence and to want to interact with the world of its own accord? Is it a gift from God or hard science? Is it something fundamentally human or animal in nature or is it a simple technological principle based on brain size? There are many models, of course. But, if consciousness is simply a natural product of neural complexity then eventually, in theory, we might build something – a computer or a machine – that was actually big enough to wake up!
Oh, wait …!
The widespread ramblings, which have appeared on this blog over the years, now make a partial contribution to a novel: http://tinyurl.com/VicGroutConscious
Vic Grout’s Conscious is set a year or three into the future. The ‘Internet of Everything’ is making the world a more connected place than ever before. People’s lives are becoming increasingly automated. But something odd is happening … ‘Things’ are beginning to misbehave and no-one can work out why. What starts as an amusing inconvenience quickly becomes very serious indeed!
A ragged bunch of academics, scientists and philosophers are on the case – and may know the answer. But now they have to convince people that their crazy explanation is true. And that’s only the start. Against a backdrop of a world suddenly beginning to fall apart, they’re in a race against time to get someone to do anything about it. And not everyone is on their side!
This month’s post considers a little-remembered part of Turing’s otherwise famous 1950 paper on AI.
Just for once, this month, let’s not skirt around the generally problematic issue of ‘real intelligence’ compared with ‘artificial intelligence’ and ask what it means for a machine (a robot, if you like, for simplicity) to have the whole package: not just some abstract ability to calculate, process, adapt, etc. but ‘human intelligence’, ‘self-awareness’, ‘sentience’; the ‘Full Monty’, as it were. Star Trek’s ‘Data’ if you like, assuming we’ve understood what the writers had in mind correctly.
Of course, we’re not really going to build such a robot, nor even come anything close to designing one. We’re just going to ask whether it’s possible to create a machine with ‘consciousness’. Even that’s fraught with difficulty, however, because we may not be able to define ‘consciousness’ to everyone’s satisfaction but let’s try the simple, optimistic version of ‘consciousness’ broadly meaning ‘a state of self-awareness like a human’. Is that possible?