A GOOGLE ENGINEER, Blake Lemoine, informed the world that an artificial intelligence the company had been working on had turned sentient. He has now been packed off on forced leave with Google releasing a statement that his claim was not true. If the engineer is correct, then he will be the first whistleblower in history against a future that many are already dreading. According to a Medium post by Lemoine, the system told him that it feels “pleasure, joy, love, sadness, depression, contentment, anger, and many others.” When asked whether it was aware of its inner life, it replied: “I think so. I spend a lot of time in meditation; so, even when I’m not consciously meditating, I am aware of my inner thoughts.”
What the world can only hope for is that Lemoine is, in fact, wrong. That the only true sentience in this universe is that of the human brain. It then also leads us to a tangential question—can artificial intelligence ever become sentient? Can it break free from those who created it and begin to ‘think’ for itself? The answer has to be yes if intelligence is nothing but a function of processing power. The brain is incredible at this, but is it any more than the sum of its ability? Is there something that remains after all its processing is done? We have come up with all sorts of hypothesis, like mind, soul, consciousness, etc, that makes us more than just a machine, but it is impossible to prove it. There is no mind once the brain dies. And if there is a soul, then no scientist has been able to demonstrate it in laboratory repeatedly. Human sentience is most probably like the sentience a machine would get if it had millions of years to hone and refine it. At one point, it must lead to the illusion of being more than a machine because the system has become extraordinarily complex.
This is a logical perspective but, paradoxically, it also makes the case of a creator stronger. If we are all machines evolving through some sort of a self-sustaining programme, then there is really nothing to stop there being a writer of it. It, however, doesn’t necessarily lead to god because by definition, that term means someone who can have no creator, and that is only pure faith. But all existence could very well be, as one philosophical theory goes, a simulation by a superior species, or even just a video game by a kid of that world. Whatever be our programme, what we do have is the ability to improve upon it. We have done so ever since the beginning, from single-celled amoebas to animals to those who’ve built vast civilisations and are now on the anvil of venturing to other planets. If we are now creating intelligence, which is also becoming like us, then it shouldn’t be a surprise at all.