The goal of artificial intelligence (AI) is the creation of a machine that can think. However, this then raises an important question:
If a machine can think, is it alive?
Certainly, one day, an AI sentient life form may exist, however it is not a foregone certainty. At this point in time, in spite of all the technical achievements that have led to the information age, computers are still essentially only very fast computational engines without intelligence or self-awareness. One of the biggest problems is that we do not yet really understand how our own intelligence works or what we really mean by sentience. Therefore, the development of AI will involve a journey of discovery about the very essence of humanity. However, if we can develop artificial intelligence, we may also have to consider whether such life forms would, either in part or in totality, live in an extended or artificial reality (AR).
If so, would such an existence question our own perception of reality?
Initially, this section set out to evaluate whether artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial reality (AR) would be possible, based on extrapolating future advances in computer technology. However, in the process of researching the technical potential to create an artificial intelligence, the question of the sentience of that life form also arises. If AI were sentient, issues of morality would have to be addressed. Likewise, the ability to create an artificial reality that was indistinguishable from the physical reality that surrounds us would also raise further fundamental questions. All of a sudden, the research was generating more questions than answers and the scope of the questions was becoming increasingly broad in nature. These questions encompass issues of theology and philosophy and require an evaluation of the changes in science, technology and society that would allow the concept of AI and AR to evolve.
While this website, as a whole, is not attempting to provide answers to 'Life, the Universe & Everything', the subject of AI does demand some discussion of many accepted and possibly profound beliefs, both in theology and science. Therefore, an attempt is made to understand the true scope of the changes that would have to take place for AI & AR to develop. However, equally important, this discussion also tries to consider the potential implications should such developments occur. It is highlighted that many people might not like some of the implications drawn, not because they are necessarily that wide of the mark, but because the implications for mankind in such a future may not appear promising from our present perspective. Unfortunately, just because we do not like the consequences does not necessarily make the conclusions wrong.
It is in the nature of paradigm shifts that they are often unpalatable to the majority, when initially presented.
A paradigm is a term often used in physics to describe a new model of how 'things' work. For example, Copernicus overturned the view of the universe by placing the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the centre of our solar system. Today, most people accept this paradigm as a statement of fact, but when first introduced in 1514, it started a process that shook the belief system of contemporary society. In order to accept Copernicus' idea, society had to undergo a paradigm shift of thinking from one model to another. Different generations and cultures grow up within a 'belief system' encompassing various theological, philosophical and scientific paradigms, which collectively are referred to as a worldview. These belief systems can be the bedrock that gives meaning to people's lives. Therefore, challenging any established belief system with a new paradigm can be both difficult and possibly dangerous. However, paradigm shifts are a mechanism through which mankind has evolved and developed its ideas from initial concept to accepted reality.
Undoubtedly, in order to truly understand the potential implications that AI and AR may have on the future of the human race will involve further fundamental paradigm shifts. It has been the nature of human thinking to place itself at the centre of the universe. But, as we grow from childhood, we learn to accept that we are not the axis on which the world spins, equally our world is but a planetary satellite within a solar system that is but one of billions in the Milky Way that is, in turn, but one of billions of galaxies. While most of us come to accept these humbling facts, many still hold to the notion that mankind will simply continue to evolve in order that one day, according to the creed of science fiction, we may 'bravely go where no man has gone before' and in so doing, come to understand the meaning of existence. Of course, many religions will continue to argue, not necessarily in unison, that the meaning of life will never be found through science, as life is simply the first step in a larger journey.
So the potential of successive
AI paradigm shifts may not only come to underline mankind's peripheral
position in a very large universe, but also come to challenge our ability
to remain the dominant intelligent sentient race on planet Earth. Within
a future paradigm, Homo Sapien could become the first species ever to
have to accept its own biological extinction, in fact, it may have already