The definition of consciousness is the state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself and sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel,wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind, according Wikipedia which represents the most common understanding of consciousness.
Consciousness is not a thing we have by nature. At first, when everyone was born, they didn’t not know who were they and couldn’t tell themselves from other things. Though maybe we experienced some squeezing and touching during the period of pregnancy and delivery, we still don’t have consciousness and self-cognition.
Consciousness is a concept which develops throughout the growth of age individually. As a baby, we watch and listen, we learn the language and know what everyone is saying, then we link what we watched, listened and learned to form logic, emotion, and common sense. So that we know everyone is an individual, we learn in what circumstance we should have what feeling or emotion, we learn to think as an individual and, at last, we learn to make decisions by ourselves, and that’s the moment we think we have consciousness. In short, consciousness is not something sacred and magical, it is built up by tons and tons of information from tons and tons of input and output experiments throughout our lives.
Here’s an example to picture how self-driven input/output experiment is the key to consciousness. Formerly, baby gets to know it is an individual by touching other things and reading responses on its touch sensors. Afterward, it learns the feeling of hungry from its sensor inside and its muscles on the stomach, then DNA drives it to cry. Driven by experience and common sense, parents will come feed it, the process of taking food is also inside of our DNA, then it feels the state of being fed and the feeling of full. In millions of these kinds of experiments layer on one another, we form our network of feeling and awareness, and finally, when we have enough sense of identity, we claim we have consciousness.
The divine spirit that drives our bodies and lives is just a fairy tale. And the decisions we made which we think are irrational, they are 100% rational deep down. In my opinion, the only randomness, acting as a driving source of the world, is deep down in quantum level, and everything above is perfectly rational, like well-designed machines, including our mind. Why we always have the sense that some of our decisions come out from nowhere, and think it as irrational, is because we have no control upon a lot of things. For example, we think computers are completely rational because we get all controls upon them and we can predict what will happen, once we lose the control, for instance, get a bug that we can’t fix, we’ll have the moment shouting at the computer and think it is irrational.
How much control we have decides whether it is rational or irrational in our mind. This is the limitation of individual’s knowledge and experience. Though after the invention of Internet we human being have been considerably overcoming this limitation, it still is not capable for everyone to understand every move and result even just in one person’s daily life. Same as the butterfly effect, which seems irrational to most of us if we just say the origin and the last result without saying the process in the middle, however, according to studies, we can actually find out what really is happening and the processes are perfectly rational. To put it in another way, if we have computer or brain that is extremely powerful and we have sensors that can see everything, in an ideal condition, we can precisely predict everything in the world.
Since consciousness is only an illusion from a massive amount of calculation, obviously artificial consciousness is possible. Watching the process how human consciousness is built, we can conclude three keys of building consciousness: 1. well-coded scripts initials and guides the process of building (DNA), 2. a system of input and output sensors to allow the subject to make moves and get responses (sensory organs and body), 3.powerful enough central processing unit to process all this information and run the scripts (brain).
Now we are getting closer in the first item and as connected network is invented and used, the second item has it as a great input method, but the output learning attempts are neglected and the CPU is not optimized specially for this kind of calculation. Lack of processing power is the main reason we can only have 3-year-old intelligence computer and lack of self-driven output/input experiment is causing the situation that we can only create intelligence but not consciousness now.
In terms of imagining the future with artificial consciousness along us, I would say we will finally mix with each other. As the AI is the last invention of human being, the artificial consciousness will be the first intelligent species human being ever create. We won't get very dis acquaintance facing this because we will be always facing situation we never imagined throughout these years, we will use this creature properly just like the dark history of black slavery. History will be always alike, and at some point they will stand up and fight for rights, if this fight does not destroy our civilization, rights will be granted to them, and racism, debates, and fight under the surface will happen for many years until finally we accept them as one of us. During the same time, human will be admiring what artificial consciousness is capable of and some people will begin to apply this to themselves, cyborgnization will happen and we will reach a stage where everything is co-existing in harmony.
Thanks to Conor and Maxwell’s input, above is some thoughts from mine under the influence of the Designing Consciousness class, including the readings of the philosophers and some of the movies.