This paper explores what has been termed artificial consciousness (AC) (a.k.a., synthetic consciousness or artificial sentience). Like its companion, artificial intelligence (AI), the subject might sound more like science fiction or fantasy than possibility. Though humans have been speculating about nonhuman consciousness for centuries, it was in the 1960s when computer science promised the rise of machines with human-level capabilities. While the real-world challenges persist, on paper and in cinema, at least, we went ahead and built autonomous, sentient entities like HAL9000, Roy Batty, and Cylons. This task has been relatively simple for standard narrative: either take a human character and assign him or her machine qualities, or simply do to machines what we have been doing with animals, which is give them anthropomorphic character. In reality, though, replicating the human platform, in silicon or elsewhere, is more than a matter of physical engineering or reshuffling personality traits. In fact, a truly artificial or synthetic entity has very little need to replicate human intelligence or capabilities. Consequently, the stalled emergence of real-world AC may have less to do with our machines than with the limits of our human minds. Given the typical portrayal of AI in fiction as talking bipedal robots, and our centuries of misunderstanding organic life forms, including our own, we may also be experiencing a crisis of imagination.
Theron Fairchild, Kanagawa University, Japan
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory
This paper is part of the FilmAsia2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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