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What Does AI Consciousness Mean For Humans?

As the world advances, the realities of artificial intelligence are becoming more glaring and unavoidable. Many are getting increasingly alarmed as the world takes on a different outlook, and they believe the world’s landscape will not be the same in the next 50 years.

As the world gradually transitions into the AI era, robots and super intelligence are taking the center stage, whether we believe in the unprecedented change or not. Many people eagerly look forward to this era with a great amount of joy, but many questions remain unanswered about how these machines will operate.

More importantly, there is a bigger debate over whether AI can become conscious one day. Will artificial intelligence have a consciousness that enables it to experience the world as we humans do?

The more disturbing question is, “What will become of humans when these super-intelligent AI ‘humans’ begin to take over our jobs and means of livelihood?”

What Does It Mean To Be Conscious?

Consciousness describes man’s ability to be aware and experience everything that is going on around him. Going by this definition, it becomes challenging to tell whether a person is conscious as it is unique to individuals. The reason for this uniqueness is that the concept is subjective.

However, many scientific studies are against the notion that consciousness cannot be studied or understood. The counter-argument is based on the belief that consciousness originates from neurological processes in the brain.

Therefore, if the particular sequence of the processes that make a man aware of his existence and experience can be understood, scientists believe that understanding this sequence in humans can also help determine whether or not other organisms are conscious.

Several studies have explored consciousness in humans using different scientific measures. For example, neurological studies of consciousness have helped scientists to discover several ways to check awareness in patients in a coma.

Furthermore, neuroimaging tools like EEG, fMRI, and MEG have been useful in helping scientists better understand what is going on in the brain, thanks in part to Stanislas Dehaene, who identified signals necessary for determining consciousness.

These tests helped predict accurately whether patients will regain consciousness. Another study by Sid Kouider examined neurological signs of consciousness in babies. For example, by citing their ability to recognize faces, this study concluded that babies are conscious in their own way.

Behavior and creativity are also used to evaluate consciousness. While experience greatly impacts one’s behavior, creativity is more of an impulse, making this correlation of consciousness partly flawed.

For instance, despite lacking consciousness, AI creatively produced a valuable art that was sold for $40,000. With this incredible ability, it becomes unreasonable to use creativity to measure consciousness.

However, various research studies are being undertaken to have a better understanding of consciousness and measure its effect on organisms. Although most of these research studies are at the initial stage since consciousness only recently became an acceptable scientific field of study, they promise highly beneficial results.

The bigger questions are: “Will AI become conscious one day?” “Will an improved understanding of consciousness keep us on alert when AI begins to show consciousness?” “When it becomes conscious, what threats will AI pose to human survival?”

Will AI Be Conscious in the Future?

Nobody has been able to say categorically that AI will become conscious one day! Predictors depend on trends and statistics to predict the future, but science-based predictions can also fail. Even though the future is uncertain, we can decide whether the AI will have a mind of its own.

In “Artificial You: AI and the Future of the Mind”, Susan Schneider examined the two broad spectrums of opinion about AI consciousness: the biological naturalists and techno-optimists. Biological naturalists believe that the entire body systems must work in sync to become conscious. As far as they are concerned, AI will never become conscious in the future.

In contrast, techno-optimists believe that AI can easily become conscious when it is more advanced. According to them, once the AI’s intelligence level improves (they believe they can achieve this by making technology imitate the human mind). By imitating humans perfectly, this will create a more intelligent and conscious AI.

However, Schneider rejects both opinions and suggests a “wait and see” approach. It is safe to be on the side of Schneider to assess the situation at hand better.

Consciousness is extremely important for two reasons: It helps us to think and solve problems, but active tasks like walking, buttoning shirts, and so on do not require active thinking.

Additionally, more complex tasks like driving a car or riding a bike require focus and active thinking. For example, it is easier to drive on a familiar road, but you’ll need to engage cognition when driving in a new neighborhood.

Now we have self-driving cars that can navigate through new neighborhoods easily as far as the routes are programmed into their database. From this viewpoint, it is safe to assume that the AI can easily take over from humans even without consciousness.

It’s rather disturbing to know that humans would likely become jobless if the expansive possibilities of AI are fully explored. When it becomes more sophisticated, AI can easily take over the economic and corporate systems with its superior analytical and problem-solving skills. Even without consciousness, it would make logical decisions without the risk of emotion.

When AI is fully developed, what would humans do?

What Would Humans Do?

The future is not as gloomy as it seems. We can look forward to an improved world where humans and robots coexist in harmony. In his discussion with Ezra Klein on The Ezra Klein Show, Yuval Noah Harari said that the era of human dominance on Earth is gradually coming to an end.

He argued further that in 300 years, AI would have evolved to take over our social and political systems, which would create a “massive useless clan of humans,” and that fewer investments would be made on human beings.

By comparison, Ezra expressed optimism in human’s unparalleled ability to adapt. He said that humans would have the advantage of emotion over the robot, and as long as this is the case, human beings will find useful ways to add value to the system.

They assume that robots might develop the ability to understand and mimic real human interaction and responses, and this further creates uncertainties regarding the role humans will play in the future when robots start doing most of our jobs.

Ezra further explained that humans might take virtual reality more seriously than necessary. Therefore, they can get lost in imaginary worlds when attempting to escape their mundane lifestyles. This further depicts a gloomy future where humans are practically useless.

So as we rejoice and look forward eagerly to a future dominated by AI, we should also consider the prospects of cooperating with AI and how we will conduct our lives. In conclusion, we need to look inward and create business models that will keep us relevant in the future when advanced AI completely takes over our current jobs.

About the author
Investor, Technologist & Chess Enthusiast. I cover AI & psychology. Follow Rafi on Instagram or read more articles from Rafi on Thought Catalog.

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