Yes, I like to make up cool titles, even if the accuracy of them as far as the chapter is concerned may not be of the highest quality. This is something I hear often in these modern days, that in some near future, computers will be conscious.
That is no little claim. First of all, who does understand what it means to be conscious? I don't. I am conscious, and I never understood how this was possible, and how it could ever work at all. I could literally spend hours just trying to analyse my own consciousness; and despite this worthy effort, I would still not figure out anything whatsoever.
The scientists who claim that computers will some day be conscious tend to think of the brain as the seat of consciousness. They think the brain is a machine, which it is, and that this is the only thing there is to consciousness; and thus, in all logic, that a machine can somehow create consciousness. I am a total ignorant of informatics on that level, I'll readily admit to that, but I think that reducing consciousness to the fruit of a machine is wrong.
How do you create consciousness? Computers are very dumb, which itself is an anthropocentric comment. They are mere machines. No matter how much you multiply the operations they make, they will always remain nothing but machines. Even if you managed to create a brain, and have it function like a human brain, it would still remain nothing but a machine. I cannot picture how a machine would produce consciousness.
What is at stake here is the very nature of humanity. If machines can be made conscious the way we are, then what are we? If your memory and thoughts can be transferred into a machine, then we will be immortal, but will we really exist? Maybe there's a way to transfer human ideas and brain data into a machine, but I'm not convinced you'd still exist, even if there was a machine that seemed to think just like you. This pseudo-scientific notion of the brain and consciousness implies that there are no souls and that our consciousness is purely material (which I'm not saying is an idiotic conception, but I don't think it's the only way). I base most of my idea that there are indeed souls on NDE's (Near Death Experience) and everything we have on ghosts and spirits. Maybe that sounds shaky to you, maybe not. But the fact remains that people whose brains were clinically dead without any activity were still able to recall moments and exact details as seen from outside their bodies. What this entails is that consciousness can work outside the brain, and more importantly that the brain is not the seat of consciousness, but a useful machine for it.
I'm not talking with much authority here, but I think that even without those considerations on souls we can still say that making conscious machines is impossible. Consciousness can't be an addition of maths! I don't care how many trillions of operations you have a machine make, that is no direct cause of consciousness! There is no reason to think, as far as I can see, that mechanical operations somehow create consciousness in the long run. I just don't see it, and no scientists ever explained that one. I'm familiar with this stuff about "firing" neurones and all, but that too doesn't explain consciousness.
I might be wrong but I see no good explanation on why and how we are conscious. I'm familiar with Jung's theory on how consciousness evolved, though, and I think it has a point, but that doesn't explain how we had anything to evolve in the first place. You can have your consciousness analyse itself for years and still never know how it works. It's like driving a car from the driver's seat (where else...), you'd never find out how the engine functions.
Moreoever, I'm really against all this crap that scientists want to do on us, apparently. They think of updating our brains with computer material, to give use bigger memories, and more abilities. Well, I don't want to have humans mess with my body in that way. I don't trust humans as much as I trust nature itself. The human body is a pretty damn well made thing, and to mess with it on such a high scale would be both pretentious and irresponsible. We don't know all that much about things, so we shouldn't alter so radically something whose entire set of functions we mostly ignore. They say we are unaware of 80% of what the brain does; I don't know if that number is true or what, but if so, that's pretty big an unknown.
We have to remain humans, and, I think, have more faith in what we are than in what we think we know. I also think, on another level, that scientists should concern themselves with the topic of souls much more seriously. I may be wrong, as often, but having souls is the only way I explain consciousness. It's nothing but magic! It's beyond our understanding, apparently. I emphasise that I might be completely wrong on this, but so far, I don't see any other edible explanation.
There is probably a reason why our brains function the way they do, why we have an unconscious, and there is probably a reason for every mechanics of those cortexes of ours. I don't think it'd be wise to go meddle with this stuff before we have a full understanding of it (which we may never have). Here is the problem: if I have a computer which doesn't work as well as I think it should, I could consider opening it up and messing with its electronic innards, but, since I am no professional of computer engineering, I would certainly not try that. Why would you go on about altering a complicated machine whose functions you ignore? That is, I think, where the scientific community in general falters. While they claim to be objective and empirical, they completely set aside certain questions, and that for no objective or empirical reasons. The question of souls comes to mind; I never hear of that one when it comes to computers becoming conscious.