In 1945, Isaac Asimov wrote Escape!, a short story featuring a character known as “The Brain”, a self-aware supercomputer. Such machines have played a prominent role in science fiction ever since. At the same time, real computer technology has advanced at an astounding pace, often surpassing even the wildest speculation of anterior futurists. While some areas of artificial intelligence technology have shown great progress, others, including many critical to the development of sentient silicon, have lagged. Even today, whether or not a machine will ever possess the sense of self-awareness shown by an average house cat is a matter of serious debate. It may never happen, or, it may one day be man’s greatest accomplishment.
Really it has been kinda disappointing watching the progress of this technology. Only now do things really seem to be taking off. As a little kid, i created an Applesoft basic game of pick-up sticks using lo-res graphics and a simple AI. In college philosophy as an undergrad I wrote papers on theories about free-will and their implications for the development of artificial personalities. Fresh out of school I started looking into chatterbots and the turing test. I was fond of checking out every bot I could find, spending lots of time on the Simon Laven page and pondering the problem of context. After another 15 years of programming, java, big data, medical software, etc. I have come back to the problem with a few ideas at a point where available hardware and software might finally be up to the task. Or at least some of the task. Most significantly, concepts such as horizontal scaling, neural networks, contextual thesauruses, etc may finally allow computers to replace humans in many decision making roles and create the appearance of self awareness, consciousness or even fondness. Will this consciousness be real or just appear so? Does it matter? After all, are we not as people judged entirely by what can be perceived through observation? Is the unobservable quality we are looking for really the soul/magic?