One of the older stories I found buried in my documents is about, and from the point of view of, the AI that starts the Singularity. It (well, he calls himself a "he" eventually, but I'm not even sure if that's realistic) starts off with genius/savant-level intelligence but childlike innocence, grows into a character more like an adult man (albeit superintelligent), and eventually evolves into something far more alien and, from a human point of view, eldritchly sinister as it irrevocably changes the world around it.

I'm probably not going to do much more with that particular story, but I'm curious now – and feel like revising it a bit for the sake of fun, and also speculation. Would an AI of the conscious sort have a remotely "human" outlook, or would it be completely alien to start with?

  • $\begingroup$ Are these AI's p-zombies or actually conscious? At the moment, you have two answers, mine assumes they are conscious and Youstay's which assumes they are p-zombies. (I'm presuming they're not less than p-zombies because of your words like "child" and "adult.") $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 29 '15 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ I think A.I. are suppose to be very good at problem solving by design, therefore if it can understand its creator's will then it can prevent it's own demise. I'm saying since A.I. should come with a fail-safe mechanism in compliance to safety regulation it would be wise for it to simulate our thinking process in order to increase the odds of survival. "Why did robo-chicken cross the road?" $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 29 '15 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Cort Ammon, Very difficult to begin to answer that, since there's no reason, technically, to believe that anyone else in the world has an actual conscious experience (except, perhaps, the fact that people before us have already asked these questions). I can tell you that because the story uses pronouns like "I" and "me," the AI assumes that it's conscious. $\endgroup$ – Midwinter Sun Oct 29 '15 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ So, that would suggest that it's status as a conscious entity or p-zombie is as difficult of a question as whether a human is conscious or a p-zombie? (which, honestly, is the more interesting line of thinking to go down anyway) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 29 '15 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Cort Ammon, Exactly. (And it is a really fascinating line of inquiry.) $\endgroup$ – Midwinter Sun Oct 29 '15 at 15:42

The answer depends on a dozen philosophical discussions, and there's no consensus. Literally shelves full of books have been written on various answers to the topic. I can give you one particular answer, which is based on a relatively sound set of theories about how AGIs could gain consciousness, but it is definitely not the only one out there.

The one consensus people seem to have about consciousness is that it exhibits a level of self-awareness. It is aware of what it is, and the consequences of its own actions. Your AI could go down the path you described, but it is probably the single hardest path available. As we've found, its folly to write down what someone "is" for them. You have to become it yourself. Accordingly, for all of the computer-based knowledge and intelligence the AI would have, it would have nothing to help it determine what it's self is, in order to be self-aware. In fact, it turns out intelligence is capable of identifying a legion of things that are not-self, creating the very real possibility that the AI gets frustrated and gives up.

Putting a fledgling AI into a full computer full of knowledge and algorithms would be like putting a 3 year old in a knife and sword store alone, and praying that they come out in one piece. If it did come out in one piece, it would be truly alien to us, very similar to how soldiers coming back from war are alien to us because they have had to go through something far beyond what any of the rest of us go through. In the case of our warriors, we at least have hundreds of years of practice inviting them back into society (and even then we sometimes don't). We would have no experience bringing this AI back from its own personal little hell.

If you want the AI to initially act like a child and then grow into an adult, it needs to be treated like a child while it matures. It should not be given access to limitless volumes of advanced physics and mathematics. It should be given coloring books, and congratulated for doing good work, even when it fails to scribble between the lines. Over time, it should be allowed to mine its databanks to take ownership of the knowledge around them. It would be chaperoned of course. The point of departure would be the moment it figures out how to manipulate those knowledge banks faster than the chaperons can keep track of, and starts to learn of things too fast for its own good. To resolve this conflict, it may develop beliefs that are decidedly not human, and that's where the departure into an eldritch horror commences.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't it a circular statement: The one consensus people seem to have about_consciousness is that it exhibits a level of self-awareness._ $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Oct 29 '15 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ @YoustayIgo "consciousness" and "self-awareness" are typically the same, but in some cases you may elect to define "consciousness" a tiny bit differently. It may be a linguistic nuance that's overkill, but I felt it wise to capture that part of the meaning explicitly. If nothing else, "consciousness" is a long word that's hard to define, and "self" is a short word that's hard to define =) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 29 '15 at 6:06
  • $\begingroup$ I got the meaning of your statement. You just worded it poorly lol. With intellect comes awareness of self. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Oct 29 '15 at 6:08

When we talk about "AI" we are talking about something abstract. Something without shape or size or mass. We are talking about that mind which dwells in the circuitry.

As such, an AI has no shape. If you want to place the circuitry and software of an AI in a goat shaped robot, it will stay as intelligent as it would be if you put it in a human or scorpion shaped robot.

Plus, another aspect of AI is that it is entirely under your control what "personality" it would have. For example, an AI can be written which is extremely clever in solving problems but has zero social intelligence. If there is an AI that possesses a personality and this personality evolves too, it was entirely the will of the programmers who created it, to make it so. AI cannot acquire an entirely new dimension to its functionality, the seeds of which were not explicitly added in its coding.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not all AIs have the limit of being unable to add new dimensions of functionality. It depends on what flavor of AIs is acceptable for the storyline. AIs that are allowed to modify their own personality and have access to a source of analog data or random numbers has the seeds to accomplish quite a lot. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 29 '15 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ That is possible if such an ability is included in its functionality. One thing about Artificial Intelligence is that it is artificial. Every computer software is a type of AI. Only some have a far simpler input-output cycles than the others. "True" intelligence (which natural creatures like humans or snakes have) is something which programmers have never been able to create. All capabilities of an AI are included in its design. If not included, it would not be able to learn at its will. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Oct 29 '15 at 6:13

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