From a taxonomic point of view the next stage of evolution for humankind’s phylogeny will incur the establishment of a new genus defined by the facts that both the body structure and the consciousness are manufactured. An entity that is a self-replicating, totally artificial individual that has its own mind [consciousness] is a major divergence from the Homo lineage. This new genus will perhaps be designated in some future “Inter-cosmic Code of Life-form Nomenclature” as follows.
TYPE SPECIES: Robotico earthensis
TYPE LOCATION: Planet Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy.
GENERIC DESCRIPTION: An individual with manufactured [designed] body structure and manufactured [designed] consciousness. The organism is a self-replicating species.
The manufacturing of true artificial consciousness for implantation into a brain may be many centuries away but already significant advances are being made in neural functioning, the mechanism of memory and brain-body control. A brain that will be programmable to contain a specific mind-set is not outside the bounds of currant scientific possibility, and could easily occur within the next 300 years. Almost certainly it will be well established within the present millennium. One thing that paleontology teaches is that the human concept of time is severely limited: a million years is not long in terms of the life of a phylogeny and humankind has many millions of years left before the Sun ceases to shine!
Until recently the nature of consciousness lay in the domain of philosophy. Today, however, it lies in the domain of science and science alone. The latter decades of the last century saw an increase in developing appropriate scientific methods to understand the nature of consciousness. Present technology is developing the ability to image the detailed locations and chemical activity involved in brain processes and eventually the dynamic functioning of the brain will be correlated with thought. Modern microscopes can image chemical activity at the level of about 3 nanometers, where chemical processes can be observed in great detail [University of Stanford, 2005].
The essential nature of consciousness does not lie beyond human understanding; and, neither do the concepts of science need to be broadened to encompass the mechanisms and processes of consciousness. “Conscious human experiences are merely epiphenomenal artifacts of neural activity”. They are, in fact, the Law of Combinatorial Outcome in action.
Studies of adaptive behavior in autonomous robots is showing that many responses [thoughts] are essentially adaptive reactions of the mind to new situations i.e. small-scale emergent phenomena due to novel combinations of brain-activity. In the computational theory of consciousness the mind is a natural complex machine that is DNA based. The fact that this machine can ‘learn’ is nothing spectacular nor does it need some inner Id or soul. I see very little difference between a brain [essentially a carbon-based bio-chemical machine] and a computer [a multi-component based mechanical machine] as a repository for mind. Rene Descartes’ statement “I think, therefore I am” will apply equally to both H. sapiens and R. earthensis. The dualism of mind [as mind / soul] seen by religion and the humanities will be a shattered myth once science proves that robots can think like humans do. Self awareness is in the details that will become apparent when we understand the neurological [chemical, physical and biological] processes involved in consciousness. I am not certain that this will be a true emergent phenomenon because the essence of consciousness seems to be present in all biological systems.
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