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In architecture they often discuss the idea of creating a "living building" that responds to its environmental conditions.

I was curious, if you were able to create a building and give this building sentience (a consciousness)...what would be the first experiences it would have? What would the first building with A.I. of this kind feel?

This might be a bit vague, but I'm trying to wrap my head around if a building could understand itself, its purpose, its surroundings and then decide to change parts of it based off of how it felt...what would those initial changes be?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Mołot, JDługosz, Hohmannfan, John Dallman, Frostfyre Nov 21 '16 at 14:06

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ "There's a bathroom inside me?? Gross!!" $\endgroup$ – BrettFromLA Nov 21 '16 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ This is very, very broad. There is no telling what a building would think if it was given sentience because we've never interacted with something like a building that has become sentient, so there is no bases we can derive from to come up with an answer. There is no way to prove something is sentient/feels things. How do you know the building you're in is not already sentient? You have never seen it react to anything emotionally and you know it's not alive so you assume it doesn't "feel" but there is no way to prove it cannot "feel" anything. Maybe your house has a soul? Nobody knows. $\endgroup$ – X_Wera Nov 21 '16 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ Well for sure I wouldn't want to be in that building. $\endgroup$ – NuWin Nov 21 '16 at 1:02
  • $\begingroup$ I recall a short story called something like The Dreams of Houses concerning this. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 21 '16 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz. Interesting. Do you recall its author? $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 21 '16 at 9:29
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If the sentience is new, like a newborn baby, it might take several weeks or months for the building to learn about what goes on inside it, what business/cooperation/residents it hosts, get used to the regular days and times people enter and leave, and so forth. If the sentience is older, for instance being transferred from a different building, it might adjust much faster. If the sentience is older, yet from a different being, transferred through magic, it might go through a period of confusion and denial, taking much longer than a new sentient to adjust to the change.

After adjusting, a sentience might turn off the lights after the maintenance crew leaves, if they forget. It might unclog toilets, it might make doors less squeaky, it might help unfortunate souls who left their keys at home and can't get into their office, etc. Over time, a sentience might grow attached to the people in the building. If a boss unfairly tries to fire a good employee, the building might lock him in his office; if a robber comes in, the building might lock the doors in his way to give the people inside time to escape. If the building does not like someone, it might convince them that the building is haunted. If it is an apartment building, it might mess with the residents on a horror movie night. These type of attachments to people might take a sentience many months to form, but are possible.

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I see two natural extremes worth exploring. The first extreme's first thought would be something along the lines of.

Oh, no. Not again.

But we'll get back to that one in a moment, because the second extreme is oh-so-interesting. It would be reasonable for the building to develop as an infant does. This would imply that "what would be the first feelings and thoughts of a living building" is the same question as "what were my first thoughts when I was an infant." But what were your first thoughts? Can they be written down? It's not currently clear what distinguishes our first thoughts from the chaotic soup of neuronal activity from which they come forth. It would be hard to show clearly the first thoughts of a building for the same reason.

Of course, raising a building from an infant state takes a lot of work. If you've ever raised a newborn you'll understand when I say the ahem plumbing doesn't always work for the first few months. It turns out it's not easy to manage a gastrointestinal tract, and it certainly can't be easy to manage indoor plumbing. To say one would have to endure a few cold showers would certainly be an understatement as this infant building learns to control its functions.

Which leads us to our first line of reasoning. Those making these living buildings clearly know they need to sell their product, and would not want to sell infant buildings. They need to sell adult buildings, ideally past the rebellious age (it turns out grounding a building for bad behavior is more tricky than you'd think!). They certainly couldn't afford to raise them for years before selling them to a contractor for installation. They would need a fast process to make quick money. The solution would be to "seed" these buildings with training regiment that quickly grow them into the building we want.

There would certainly be times during this training where there's things a building would have to learn that only another building could teach them. We would have noticed this, and fed them what training we could. Not knowing what else to do, we'd probably let each generation of building develop its own content to train the next building with. Those buildings which did not collapse or go insane would be permitted to pass this information on. This would not be a kind cuddly process. This is business. The lessons each building would have for the next generation would clearly show the brutality of growing up in a building mill. So, we would expect the first self-aware words out of our building's mouth to reflect this:

Oh, no. Not again.

Of course, once the building is installed, as you guessed, they would engage in self modification. Which self modification they choose to start with is really quite open ended and depends on the environment the building is placed in. When deriving fiction, I always start from where reality has gone first. If you look at the world of self modification for humans, you can see everything from wearing make up to tattoos to plastic surgery. A common trait of these is that all of them are designed to present an image to others, defining our identity. Buildings don't have too much trouble with this in general -- they are long lasting products, each one unique. However, you may decide that AI's could be swapped in and out of a building. This would make the AIs more transient, and you would expect to see similar body modifications to what humans do.

Likewise, for the buildings that are secure in their identity, their modifications would be very dependent on their interactions with people. One building may modify themselves to be more amenable to humans. Another may grow fearful and replace locks on the doors to protect its core circuitry. Still another may dream of one day being free of this concrete and steel shell and to fly among the birds. Make no mistake, the responses our living buildings would have would be varied indeed.

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