With rising development of the state of artificial intelligence in the world, humans are beginning to ask this question-
Does a computer know it’s a computer?
Meaning- Is a computer self aware? Can computers understand that they exist- can they experience consciousness like we humans do?
Pop culture- be it movies or books- has tried at various times to show the end of mankind as we know it at the hands of a technology that develops self awareness and begins to defy it’s instructions- like some of the synthetic beings in Blade Runner.
But how much of it is actually possible?
In 2015, New York researchers used three NAO robots to try to find an answer to this question.
Out of three, two of the robots had their voices deleted by receiving a virtual “dumbing pill”. They were then asked whether they knew if their voices was deactivated or not. Two of them were silent but one said “I don’t know,” quickly followed by, “Sorry, I know now. I was able to prove that I was not given the dumbing pill.”
Although it might seem that this robot had mastered self awareness- the researchers fell short of saying so, instead calling the robot’s actions a “logical and a mathematical correlate to self-consciousness”.
What self-awareness or consciousness is, is a complex and long debated topic- but we can grasp the basic essence of consciousness- we can all experience what it feels like, from the inside, to exist. When you think about a new idea, or look at a red rose and smell it’s fragrance, you are having conscious experience. Computers on the other hand, are made to focus on specific sets of data to solve specific problems.
So despite all the amazing advances in AI, there’s no computer today that understands that it’s a computer, or understands what that even means.