If computers were made to think, and to be creative, this would mean a great leap forward in terms of world power. The importance in world politics would be greater than the atom bomb. All of a sudden the new ruler would start to produce Nobel class discoveries and solutions to order. We would be able to create new solutions in energy and medicine.
René Descartes (1596-1650) started it all by introducing substance dualism. Thinking matter and bodily matter. His division is so strong that the main critique is that it would be difficult for the mind to actually influence the body, something we know happens frequently. Today most people believe we live in mental materialism. The mind somehow exists among the brain cells. But Descartes idea is not completely dead.
What actually happens then is that our mind starts to exist some time during embryogenesis. A time point important for determining when abortions should be performed. However, the mind of a mouse starts to exist as well, so the size and the number of neurons might not be so important for igniting this spark of life--consciousness. This is the so called hard problem. Our thoughts form from biochemical reactions among action potentials and furthermore they take over command of the body.
The formation of thoughts and consciousness is a new principle of existence on Earth. The important question is then will this phenomenon happen in a computer when it performs a certain amount of calculations per second or is the aqueous environment of the brain necessary for its formation? Craig Venter recently replaced the DNA in a mycoplasma, a type of bacterium, and this new life form actually reproduced. He did not create life de novo but he did an important advancement in the maintenance of biological life. Will it be possible to make computers conscious, ie, give them life of this sort.
Well, my guess would be that it will not be possible. Something unique, that we do not yet know what, happens when consciousness is formed. And this something takes place in our tissue, not in copper and silicon. It is interesting to contemplate when consciousness occurred in evolution. How complicated a nervous system must become before it occurs. Discussing the matter in this fashion makes it clear that something might actually form, ie, not just being an idea, and thus prove the 350 year old idea of Descartes right.
Descartes said that metaphysics is the root of a tree and physics is its stem. The branches then form other sciences. I have noticed competition among scientists for having the most basic problems to ponder. I would suggest another classification than that of Descartes. One based on the three most philosophical questions. Origin of the Universe. Origin of Biological Life. Origin of Consciousness.
If computers will not make us more creative, speeding up human evolution with molecular genetics for us to evolve to more intelligent beings might work. Also, whatever consciousness is, it might hold clues that are invaluable.
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