Black conscious dating
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That lump of goo knows about neutron stars, black holes, neutrinos, and a middling number of the flora and fauna here on planet Earth. That lump of goo has worked out mathematical truths, moral half-truths, and philosophical ambiguities.
They are the substrate of all argument and discussion. They might land in ships from faraway lands (highly unlikely).
Self-consciousness isn’t even very useful (which is why research into consciousness rarely goes anywhere—it spends too much time assuming there’s a grand purpose and then searching for it).
Perhaps the best thing to come from AI research isn’t an understanding of computers, but rather an understanding of ourselves.
Just as a child grows taller than both parents and reaches new peaks while those parents decline, our creations will take our places as the coolest damn things in the universe. Some will make sure your dishes are dry and spot-free, or that your laundry is properly fluffed and without wrinkle. But humans are something I like to call hyper-conscious.
Countless numbers of these intelligences are being built and programmed; they are only going to get smarter and more pervasive; they’re going to be better than us, but they’ll never be just like us. What separates us from all the other life forms on earth is the degree to which we are self-aware. There’s an amplifier in our brains wired into our consciousnesses, and it goes to 11. There isn’t a single day that a human being becomes self-conscious. The world very likely appears upside down to us for the first few hours of our lives, until our brains reorient the inverted image created by the lenses of our eyes (a very weird bit of mental elasticity that we can replicate in labs with goggle-wearing adults).
Our brains have been likened to little more than Theory of Mind machines—almost all of our higher level processing power is shunted into this singular task.
So what is Theory of Mind, and why is this topic so rarely discussed if our brains are indeed so obsessed?
And yet, even as these intelligences outpace human beings in almost every intellectual arena in which they’re entered, they seem no closer to being like us, much less more like us.
This is a good thing, but not for the reasons that films such as The Terminator and The Matrix suggest.
One thing they are certain to replicate is the gradual way that our consciousness turns on. A light in the distance, over by the far bleachers, is humming. One of the pioneers of computing, Alan Turing, described an ultimate test for “thinking” machines: Could they pass as human?
Ever since, humanity has both dreamed of—and had collective nightmares about—a future where machines are more human than humans.
Not smarter than humans—which these intelligences already are in many ways.