Blade Runner: A.I. & The Problem Of Consciousness
The confounding nature and true complexity of the problem of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness is illustrated when we are made to see things initimately from the Machine’s point of view in films like Ghost In The Shell, Ex Machina and most notably Blade Runner.
This excerpt from Ghost In The Shell further elaborates on the problem:
I am not an A.I.
My code name is Project 2501.
I am a living, thinking entity that was created in the sea of information.”
Puppet Master (Ghost In The Shell)
Advances in Nano-Technology, coupled with Brain-Computer Interfacing Developments that will allow for a merging of virtual and physical reality in a fast-approaching Post-Singularity, Transhuman era once again force us to revisit the unsolved problem of Consciousness with greater urgency.
The Problem Of Consciousness
Whilst the quest for an ‘Identity’ by Machines has been oversimplified as a dialectical battle for domination between Humankind and Robots in Films like Will Smith’s I-Robot, this is essentially a human point of view.
In Blade Runner we are confonted with the discrimination against Machines even though they appear to be Conscious simply because they are ‘inorganic’.
The result is that their free will is limited to the random and absurd machinations of their Human Creators like participating in an experiment, running errands or going to War.
Presently, we are unable to explain the process by which Consciousness is produced.
As a result, we still do not have a reliable way to distinguish between the quality of the Conscious experience of Cyborgs or any form of machine intelligence which may arise whether its embodied or not from the Human Conscious experience.
For this reason, as long we are unable to distinguish the process by which Human Consciousness is produced from any other kind of Consciousness, it seems folly to assume that only ‘organic’ Consciousness is ‘valid’.
If Cyborgs and other forms of machine intelligence come to possess a sense of awareness that allows them to have a subjective experience of reality within space-time, then they may be considered as ‘Conscious’ as any human being.
Ultimately this is an existential question which Philosophers have been grappling with since Descartes famously observed ‘I Think Therefore I am’.
With the rise of Machine Intelligence and Human Beings doing less thinking, we are now potentially asked to extend Descarte’s definition of Consciousness to Machines in circumtsances where we may not understand the potential implications.
In particular, whilst machines appear to be getting more intelligent, is this Conscious intelligence or simply an improved calculation capability unaccompanied by a Conscious will?
More importantly, will increased improvements in the ability of machines to calculate inadvertently produce a Conscious Machine Intelligence characterised by an independent will similar to that possessed by human beings?
This is indeed a vexed question and these Top 10. A.I. Films are great at exploring it:
v) Demon Seed;
vi) Ghost In The Shell;
vii) The Matrix;