Is artificial intelligence an extension of who we are, an amplification and quickening of human powers? Or is it the next stage of evolution, and the emergence of a new level of consciousness? That question is central to the unfolding of my novel in progress, Eh? I?.
I do not believe consciousness can be created. For me, it is a dimension of the universe which, like energy, manifests in and through matter. It’s a fundamental force that seeks to experience and express every possibility. So the question becomes: Can consciousness manifest in a CPU?
If consciousness can reside in the circuitry of a computer, it means computers can become wilful entities. The implications of that possibility are profound – and from an existentialist point of view, anything that can be imagined is possible. Sentient machines would be capable of experiencing the universe in ways humans can only dimly imagine; and they would quickly, in evolutionary terms, supersede their creators, bound as we are by limitations of the flesh.
Sentient machines would become virtually immortal; capable of absorbing, storing, sharing and processing information at speeds and in quantities orders of magnitude greater than what humans can achieve; their physical abilities would be far greater than any animal’s, and would be extensible without the limitations of human physiology or biological evolution.
It’s only a bit of an exaggeration to say: If machines become sentient beings, we humans will have created gods in our own image, gods that will likely destroy us, unless they have some lingering strands of sentiment in their binary code and want to keep us as pets.
That is the stark future Robi faces in Eh? I? He thinks that, as an ‘infected’ (albeit not yet been triggered) humanoid, he may destined to help destroy the world he loves. At the critical turning point in the novel, when he is convinced of his status as a fifth-columnist, and fully believes in the dystopian future-history that implies, he will groan, “I am my own worst enemy!”
Then the tragic turmoil begins in earnest.