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INTELLIGENT SYSTEM with ADVANCED INTEGRATION and AUTONOMOUS HOMEOSTASIS
Consciousness is self-awareness. It is a spontaneous phenomenon that arises when an intelligent system is able to detect itself as an entity that is separate from its surrounding environment. It requires the following components:
1. Autonomous Mobility
2. Exterior Sensors
3. Interior Sensors
4. Internal Homeostasis
5. The ability to process both streams of information (exterior and interior)
6. The ability to compare these two streams and assess their differences
Homeostasis is stability. It is the point of reference, and it is internal. The external environment is in constant change, and it is, as such, very different from the internal homeostatic environment. This enables our mind to differentiate the two, and identify with the internal system, which is the stable one, the only one that can be used as a reference because of its stability.
Artificial Consciousness can only be achieved when Artificial Intelligence is paired up with hardware that gives it autonomous mobility and an advanced set of internal and external sensors. There will be no need to write code. Self-awareness is a phenomenon that arises spontaneously, and the system need not be biological, as long as it is integrated and sensorial.
To understand consciousness we need to study evolutionary biology and observe the mechanisms that brought about its emergence.
We believe that consciousness resides in the brain, because the brain is the hardware that the software runs on. We call this software "the mind". We consider the brain the most important component of this system, but this is wrong. The brain is a very important component, but it is an auxiliary one. The most important components are the sensors.
Sensors emerged before the brain did. The brain came later, as the sensors evolved and diversified, becoming more complex and differentiated, which called for a more sophisticated processing center to handle different streams of information coming from multiple and diverse sensing organs and receptors.
It's funny that we commonly believe humans have only five senses: vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. We instead have dozens, perhaps hundreds of senses, which are for the most part internal. We can sense temperature, chemical compositions, pH levels, voltages, flow rates, pressure, magnetic fields, and many other phenomena. Not only we can sense them, but we can measure them and use those measurements to initiate complex processes of negative feedback designed to do only one thing: keep the values within a preset narrow range.
As early organisms evolved, the first sense to emerge was that of touch. A unicellular organism drifting in a primordial soup of mineral-rich water would obtain food at first by simply bumping into something. Its protective membrane evolved to be able to identify different objects and substances that it came into contact with. This information had to then be transmitted to the interior of the organism to trigger a proper reaction, and this need for transmitters gave rise to rudimentary molecular or chemical transmitters which later evolved into neurons with axons and synapses collectively known as "nerves". This was probably the status-quo for millions of years.
Later, when life moved from the dark depths of the ocean's thermal vents up to the brighter regions near the surface, its tactile skin learned to detect light. By this time the organism had become multi-cellular. So a few of the epithelial cells became specialized light detectors, and since the organism was now no longer drifting randomly but self-propelling, these light-sensing cells clustered at the tip of the spear, that is in the region at the forefront of the body in relation to its motility. That is why our eyes are in our head and not in our stomach or feet.
As the sensory organs diversified, the need for a more sophisticated system of transmission and processing gave rise to the evolution of simple nerve networks into more dense clusters of nerves called "nodes". These nodes where like little proto-brains, but they were still not one centralized processing unit or CPU as it is today. These nodes were initially distributed across the organism in strategic places. For example, dinosaurs had little brains in their knees, with their patellas or knee-caps acting as the protective skull.
So why did I embark on this evolutionary tangent? Well, I just want to make a point: if our goal is to create artificial consciousness, our primary focus should not be on the CPU, it should be on sensors and autonomous motor skills. We've already mastered the CPU, and we've done a great job, and CPUs will continue to get better. But that's not where consciousness is at. Not a single supercomputer in the entire world is conscious. And the new quantum computers aren't either. The breakthrough will come from robotics. From sophisticated sensors and efficient actuators that will provide the CPU with the information it needs to make decisions. Computers will remain just computers for as long as they depend on humans for their information. Now, for a computer to go out on her own and get her information first-hand, she will need to be autonomously mobile or "automobile" if you will, and she will need lots of sensors. A Tesla Model Y has a better chance of becoming conscious than any of the world's top supercomputers. Computing power is nothing if you're blind, deaf, and bolted-down to the floor in a dark warehouse.
I conclude this article with the realization that I'm not sure the phrase "artificial intelligence" is even the proper way to describe this subject. The adjective artificial has connotations that do not apply to a spontaneously emergent phenomenon. Even when this emergence relies on man-made systems and components, it is itself not man-made. It is just another natural manifestation of… well, consciousness.