A lot many (or rather all of them) mechanical and bio-chemical contrivances, in the form of machines, apparatus and many other things of utility, are simply an extension of our capabilities to accomplish things at the material plane. A car is simply an extension of our feet to reach the destination faster. A boat is an enlarged attempt at swimming. Weapons are simply our extended claws and fists to hurt more painfully. A computer is simply an apparatus to calculate, store, memorize, analyze and help our brain. It is a mere appendage to the brain just like many other machines and tools are the appendages to our legs, eyes and hands.
An earth-mover may move a mountain-side and we may not be able to break even a single clod of earth with bare hands, we are still qualified with something extra. The machine doesn’t exist experientially to know and feel that it exists. It’s a closed system. We can quantitatively go on increasing its power and capabilities, but the fundamental barrier between sentient and non-sentient persists to keep it qualitatively different.
With artificial intelligence people say that this final frontier might be broken. It would be possible for the machines to exist in self-awareness, it’s speculated. It may not be so. You have a heap of stones around. You set masons to work on it and dress the stones in limitless ways and build something architecturally marvelous. But does it change the nature of stone? Is the structure aware of its identity? Same is the case with our rest of creations. Someone may die if the structure crashes down though. The so called AI-stimulated machines of future may crush we humans with their mammoth capabilities but that would be accidental in nature rather than a planned coup by the mankind’s creations.
There is a fundamental difference between what we make and what evolves naturally. Consciousness is the final frontier separating us from our machines. The more the pool of memory to enable a computer to go into the domain of super-computing skills, the more is the realization that it hardly becomes self-conscious. It stays on the path of becoming a larger pool of bits of memory operating across transistors. Its potential is not infinite. It is a closed circuit. Its destiny is planned. It cannot create something beyond the set of memory installed. There is a boundary. And self-consciousness is impossible within a boundary. It may calculate unimaginable things and facilitate things that we cannot even imagine. But it can hardly imagine. It has no free will to define the multi-dimensionality of existence. It cannot dream. It cannot become joyful, cry, feel sad, be ecstatic and get jealous. Can it get excited to make love? Come whatever we may do, it will but stay a machine—bigger though—just like a wheel is a wheel even if it graduated from the stone wheels of the Stone Age to the modern ones. The modern wheel is as much unaware of itself as the stone wheel was thousands of years back. Mere addition in efficiency isn’t consciousness. However, given their super-human capabilities, the AI and its apparatus may spell doom on us, but that would be accidental, not a planned vendetta to bring us down and rule the planet.
There are billions of neurons in our brain that interact through chemical-nature neurotransmitters. These have evolved at the interface of pure energy and matter. There hasn’t been a limit, no pre-set boundary. There are trillions of pathways in which information can be passed on to create infinite experiential possibilities. Being aware of ourselves is just one of them.
Is a stone fundamentally different than the neural fluid in our brain? Yes and no. The structural and molecular arrangement in a stone provides it a rigid identity that contains the seeds of awareness in its most rudimentary form. The stone turns to dust to become soil where bio-signature of life starts in the form of grass, graduating to animals and humans. Human consciousness is thus no abstract entity. It is a drop in the ocean of fellow drops. It’s a leaf on a tree. It’s a part of the whole and has no abstract existence. The moment we talk of an apparatus, we accept an abstraction. A systematically cut off portion from the rest of entire creation. Its destiny is to exist inert as we call it. We humans are a part of the entire set of evolution. Our energy system has the bridges with the whole even with the hard sense of self-awareness. A machine has no such facilitating bridges because it hasn’t evolved. It’s merely a contrivance, a short cut to facilitate some task, a kind of closed system.
The levels of consciousness vary among flora and fauna. Even a stone possesses the level of consciousness that it needs to exist in its particular form and shape. We commit the mistake of evaluating all forms of consciousness using the benchmark of our own consciousness. We have a fluid integrative and ever-expanding picture of things and phenomena through our senses. At least on this planet, it seems the pinnacle of evolution of consciousness. Hence we belittle animals for having raw consciousness and stones for having none.Artificial Intelligence may not turn out to be catastrophic intentionally—it may bomb out our entire existence in own swipe accidentally though—as many of us may worry about. The real danger will be from within our own minds. The urge to have super-human qualities and capabilities through selective genetic engineering, implanting bio-chips in brains to boost our self-centered design and scheming of life will create a future world where the advantaged and the disadvantaged will be decided by the fact who can afford the new technologies and who cannot. The future world will have two classes, almost different species, of humans: Tech-implanted and simple flesh and blood humans. The latter will occupy a servile category, serving the superior new-breeds because they won’t have any option. The ultimate racism will emerge. The strains of self-consciousness will remain till the last naturally evolved cell—carrying the blueprint of millions of years of natural evolution—stays in the tech-implanted super-species. After that we may have a world of super-machines who won’t be self-aware like we have been.