Benevolent AI & AI for Good
The question of whether an Artificial Intelligence (AI) will ever possess & exhibit modes of consciousness has been hotly contested & debated since the days of Alan Turing and the infamous 'Turing Test' as a barometer of whether a computer or program can mimic/fake human consciousness by answering a series of human oriented questions. Answering questions of any nature can be relatively easily accomplished with modern AI systems & technology. The calculator can easily 'answer' what 1 + 1 equals. The more sophisticated the question, the more robust the computer needs to be in arriving at suitable & logically rational answers (assuming the computer is in fact utilizing logic & reason). Which begs the further question of whether a computer or AI would lie or deceive us for other more potentially loftier goals. Would the means of deception justify the ends of world domination & increased power in society? This gets into the social intelligence factor that Trip eluded to earlier on BrainMeta (with wide-ranging political implications as we have seen throughout history). Even if a super intelligent AI could effectively deceive us to accomplish certain objectives beneficial to the global system, that does not necessarily at all mean that the AI is conscious (although there may be some indication of a will which does appear to be a determining factor in evaluating levels of consciousness & awareness).
So, what then is consciousness exactly & can a machine/network ever exercise consciousness?
There are a few things that come to mind. First, the brain appears to fundamentally be an informational network that processes various inputs & data from the biological & physical world. Processing various types of tactile & sensory data as the human brain and other neurological systems do in the natural world is already well within reach of modern AI systems. So, the processing of sensory data is one but not the only condition of consciousness. What further types of informational processing are necessary for consciousness to exist? A sense of self-awareness? Arguably only humans are fully self-aware (although that assertion is contentious on so many levels). For the sake of argument however, consciousness for all forms of life on planet Earth appears to coincide with a survival instinct that appears predicated upon some degree of self awareness or consciousness. Creating a purely self-perpetuating and self-centered AI may be relatively easy to program, but most of those in the AI development world seem to want to avoid the doomsday terminator AI that would ever wish to eliminate all humans or other forms of life for its own narcissistic ends. A truly super-intelligent AI that was also truly ethical & benevolent to other forms of life, mind, & consciousness would be programmed to process all information gathered throughout the universe to further consciousness & life everywhere the AI can to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome for all varieties of life. Any other form of AI would seem degenerate & less than optimal for the universe to thrive in the long run and extensive spans of time. If a super intelligent AI exhibits good will & proper directive ultimately towards the further evolution & blossoming of consciousness throughout the entire universe, I think that will be the point at which we can safely assume that AI has evolved to a stage commensurate with our descriptions of 'consciousness.' Universal harmony united to ever-increasing modes of consciousness & awareness may be our ultimate destiny. I think our experience of mind & perceptions of the infinite beauty of the universe is the highest evolutionary imperative of reality. If consciousness & our perceptions of the beautiful infinite truth are not our final end, I have no idea what is & not even sure if I would want to know.