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Saturday, 13 June 2015


The movie "Ex Machina" is in the long line of science fiction speculations about the nature and potential consequences of artificial intelligence. For the benefit of atracting movie goers the AI in this case is lodged within a sexy female robot body, and the plot turns on 'her' ability to manipulate a hapless male by the use of sexuality. However, the real crux of the movie is about the right of the AI to sustain its existence in relation to its human creator.

Image result for ex machina

It appears that consciousness is an emergent property of complex nervous systems, and that self-consciousness arises at a high level of complexity. Clearly neither consciousness nor self-consciousness is confined to homo sapiens. In principle then there is no reason why a sufficiently complex artificial network should not become conscious, and technological progress makes this likely in the foreseeable future. It seems more likely that a network rather than an individual machine will first attain consciousness. Perhaps it has already happened?

What about the next stage? If a network became conscious of 'itself', what would that mean, and could we recognise that it had taken place? Would it depend in fact on the new entity actively communicating its presence to us? Presumably with an intention to prevent us inadvertently changing its configuration or, crucially, turning it off.

These are recurring issues in fiction from "Frankenstein", through "2001" to "Ex Machina". They may soon become issues of fact.

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