Maybe a philosophical talk about whether computers could ever become conscious wasn’t the best choice for someone already worried about that prospect. But it was the only science-related talk of the Raising the Bar event that wasn’t sold out (though I later found out “selling out” didn’t mean anything and every talk was first come, first served).
I knew I was in for trouble when the first speaker told us that we all know what’s going on in our own minds. Uh, do we, really? That’s a generally accepted premise? Okay, I’ll play along…
The talk continued on to focus on what separates a conscious being from an unconscious one. And, surprise, there’s not exactly agreement within the philosophical world on this point.
The second speaker brought up the movie, Her, and then told us she doesn’t believe in free will–which I recognize is a valid philosophical and scientific view, but I definitely don’t want to think about it when I’m busy trying to convince myself I’m a human and not a computer. Especially when the other speaker said it’s much more likely that we are all computers vs. humans. (He then went on to reassure us, “We’re not computers,” though I’m not sure how we were supposed to know whether he was right, if in fact we were all computers who didn’t know it.)
And finally, the speakers ended by saying there’s a good possibility that computers can one day become conscious. Just what I needed to keep fueling my fear of the robot takeover.
Incidentally, I was recently telling someone on a first date about the robot takeover, and I could tell at first he thought I was sort of joking so he found it funny, but then as I went on, it was clear he was starting to worry that I was being completely serious. Unfortunately, we had zero interest in each other as humans, so he’ll never find out whether my robot theory was real or just a good conversation starter when you don’t feel like answering the typical date interview questions.