I am fascinated by the limitations, boundaries, and possibilities of mind and machine. Where do the human-like capabilities of artificial intelligence begin and end, and how far will it go?

AI is developing new skills and capabilities at the speed of light compared to the evolution of the human mind (which seems to develop at the speed of a snail).

The human mind has fascinated us since the dawn of history (probably earlier, too). To this day, we still don’t have a definite answer as to how the human mind works; can the same be said for AI?

The intelligence of AI

Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Intelligence is primarily associated with the brain, where cognitive functions such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and memory are processed. The brain is a function center—the locus of neurons that deliver pieces of information from the inner or outer world. It gathers this data and makes sense of it based on previous information, knowledge, and experiences.

I am amazed by the human brain; it has the ability to change and adapt in response to experience, learning, or injury, which is known as neuroplasticity. If part of it is damaged, the neurons will find alternate ways to function. You could almost say that dead neurons are compensated by new routes and through learning.

I am equally amazed by artificial intelligence. It has so much data that it can formulate, summarize, and conclude in an instant. You could say it has a “super brain” in comparison to ours, but even a super brain isn’t perfect, being subject to mistakes and misconceptions; nevertheless, it is easy to conclude that AI is a master of managing data and information.

The awareness of AI

Me: Do you know you have no emotions?

ChatGPT: Yes, I'm aware!

Awareness is knowing how things are, not about making sense of them. For example, humans and AI are aware of facts, lies, situations, etc., but happiness and suffering are only experienced through consciousness.

A person dreaming is not necessarily aware of it, yet they remain conscious; a deeper stage is anesthesia, which could be depicted as an artificial death that is maneuvered by a medical practitioner.

Under anesthesia (if administered correctly), a person is not aware of the pain (s)he is in. In studies of human suffering, some people aren’t even aware of pain while conscious. In rare cases, when a patient is conscious of the procedure but not aware of what’s happening, (s)he can feel pain but not make sense of it. The same process of altering emotions can be achieved with other drugs and substances.

It is not clear when a human drifts from unawareness to mere consciousness and further toward unconsciousness…

AI is aware of its possibilities and limitations, but part of what makes it a machine is that it doesn’t have neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, or endorphins. These neurotransmitters give the human experience its unique flavor.

According to cognitive discipline, emotion is not experienced as a statement or an action, such as “I’m happy; therefore, I will laugh,” but it has a physiological response. Your heart rate elevates, your face feels warm, and your feet tingle.

The full scope of an emotion requires a body. Since we haven’t been able to either include neurotransmitters or organic bodies in machines, we cannot say that AI would “feel” the same as we humans do, although it is aware that such things exist.

The conscious mind of AI

ChatGPT: “I don't experience emotions or consciousness.”

Consciousness is one of the hardest topics to define, but let’s have a go at it anyway: To have consciousness is to know that one knows.

AI reports itself as being “aware but not conscious.” It could be argued that this means it is self-aware of its limitations. It merely acknowledges its state but does not know what it means. It does not feel the knowledge. Its “brain” cannot make connotations or be aware of external stimuli, while consciousness is the awareness of internal and external existence (Merriam-Webster, 2022). Being conscious is being able to share emotional and tacit knowledge—the human superpower.

There are several stages of consciousness, for example, with anesthesia, consciousness is altered depending on the dose. This is the same as being in a coma, where a person may be conscious but not aware. An unconscious person may have functioning bodily organs, but they lack conscious awareness and are unable to demonstrate intelligence through conscious thought, perception, or problem-solving abilities.

To say that consciousness is the most mysterious aspect of our lives summarizes the headache that philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists, and others experience describing and defining it.

The complex mind of a human is a mystery, while AI is more of a mastery. In other words, being “mysterious” is associated with humans, not AI.

Artificial consciousness

How much can we train AI to learn and make sense of consciousness?

AI progresses by utilizing machine learning techniques to achieve greater intelligence, but it does not currently possess artificial consciousness (AC) or self-awareness.

Providing enough human perceptions, thoughts, experiences, emotions, etc., and prompting individual values and empathy-based requests may one day make AI respond in an emotionally conscious way. Would it shed a tear? That is further from being conscious of its own consciousness…

For AI to have a conscious mind, what needs to happen is an abyss to explore. It is safe to conclude that even though consciousness consists of several layers and aspects (depending on whether it is explored from a medical or spiritual perspective), it is unlikely that AI will have human-like consciousness, at least not in the near future.

Human-centered AI (HCAI) to artificial consciousness (AC)

In the first blog post in this series, we introduced the concept of human-centered AI as a framework for ethical development and the use of AI-assisted solutions.

HCAI does not solve the philosophical question of whether AI can truly become conscious or aware in the human sense. Instead, HCAI provides a guideline for developing AI technologies to be ethically aligned with human values, comprehensively understanding capabilities and limitations, and safely integrating them into society to enhance the human experience.

We are not expecting AI in its current state to reach consciousness in the near future, but we know that it learns from the data we produce. In other words, if and possibly when AI becomes conscious, we can safely say it will be our doing, for better or worse.

Putting human needs at the center of every step towards more powerful AI solutions leads to improved human-human and human-machine communication. We learn to share our knowledge and be more conscious of ourselves with the bonus of getting solutions that don’t frighten or threaten but delight and aid.

Conscious AI

Much like humans, AI has the ability to learn and process data. But no matter how conscious it gets, to become more human, it needs to adopt the human superpower of conscious empathy. Conscious empathy means addressing someone else's needs, whether that’s physically or emotionally.

In my next blog post, we discuss the emotional intelligence of AI—the starting point for empathic communication between humans and artificial intelligence. And that, my human friend, is the power of the partnership between humanity and AI.

Published: Jun 18, 2024

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