One of the common themes of science fiction is the idea of humans building machines smart enough to take over, or simply coexist with us as a new, robotic species. I for one can't wait for mankind to be faced with the moral dilemma of having created a virtual being who possesses a personality that is indistinguishable from that of a human. At what point is it alive? What makes us human? If a program can display creative thought and is self-aware, is it sentient?
I feel that this is one of the few fields that is really on the cusp of making science fiction into a reality. I also feel that we have possessed the technology but have been dragging our heels, or at least been heading in the wrong direction. I'm not a computer engineer but some of the concepts I feel need more attention are obvious to me. Firstly, development needs to be compartmentalized. The human brain controls many things that our conscious mind doesn't need to be bothered with. Not just things like breathing and making our heart pump, but things like seeing and hearing. We don't need to turn on the cones and rods in our eyes manually, or activate our ears.
I think that by combining different technologies that already exist, we can develop an AI that would blow our minds. There is a company that is using the game "Second Life" to do some amazing things. They have developed a virtual pet that can learn tricks. It sounds kind of lame at first, but the way it learns is similar to the way a real dog (or human for that matter) learns. Check out the companies website HERE. What if this concept was combined with voice recognition software and a chatbot program like Alice? Now, what I propose is using this approach to raise a virtual child as you would a human child. Imagine building a closed world like "The Truman Show" and simply raising an AI being as if it were human?
I feel that the kind of personality we associate with being human would arise on its own.
Humans are essentially machines made of organic material. There is also the debate as to where our personalities come from to begin with. But nature or nurture, genetics or environment, we do what we do because of primal basic instincts. How we attain our basic and higher needs appears complex because we have had a lifetime of experiences that affect our decisions. Subtle differences in our genetic code may steer us one way or another, but our choices are based on thousands of factors that have developed over the span of our lives.
Think of a child. Why children do the things they do is far simpler to understand than an adults motivations for their actions. A virtual being that can learn and is programmed with certain needs as human children are born with would develop no differently. If a I am hungry, I need food. I could steal it, and a child who has never been taught the repercussions of stealing very well may do so for the sake of survival. But if there are repercussions, and if the child knows what they are, they will find another way of obtaining food. We work at our jobs because our system of government requires us to use money to obtain the things we need to survive. We want to procreate because we have the instinct to do so. Because we simply can't walk out and take the first mate we see, we have to do all sorts of elaborate rituals and adapt ourselves in a myriad of ways to attract a mate.
If broken down and studied, everything we do is derived from our primal instincts, but adapted to our environment based on what we have learned about how our world works. A program would be able to do the same thing if it was able to learn and had predetermined "instincts".
Once completed, the same new virtual being could be given a robotic body like the ones being developed in Japan such as Asimo. Or perhaps by then an even more advanced, more human looking robot could exist that could be used. They would be able to absorb data instantly. Things like math, science, history and literature could be built into their minds to be accessed at will.
I think that the dawn of "Cybersapiens" (my own word I think) could be just around the corner and I welcome it. Perhaps having another intelligent race to compete with would be good for us. If they could indeed think creatively yet were capable of knowing any information instantly, they could advance our sciences at an exponential rate. The better the science, the faster and more efficient they could become. Their evolution would be on turbo and they could be the hand that guided their evolutions path. If they didn't destroy or enslave us, they would be magnificent companions on the journey toward our own betterment and could facilitate the abolition of all that makes our world bad.
...LIKE PEOPLE!!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! DESTROY! DESTROY! KILL THEM ALL MY MINIONS!!!