Sentience vs Artificial Intelligence 

There is Hollywood induced baggage to the term Artificial Intelligence, which assumes switching on a computer or robot with Sentience. Wikipedia defines Sentience as;

Sentience is the ability to feelperceive, or experience subjectively.[1] Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations (known in philosophy of mind as “qualia“). In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights, because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, and thus is held to confer certain rights.”

The conventional definition of AI though when you key in “define Artificial Intelligence” in google is;

Artificial Intelligence is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

It is a gigantic leap from creating rational sub routines and emulating of human cognitive functions to having a machine that is sentient. That’s why to avoid doubt on a popular level, I rather use the term Cognitive Computing then AI.

The mystery of consciousness

So the AI we have today, is still a long way of from the sentient beings from our SciFi tradition. Our systems at present produce models and processes that simulate human cognition and function in very specific scenarios. Sometimes we anthropomorphise human interfaces and systems to make the user feel as if they were interacting with a sentient being. As for having a sentient machine, it will only happen after we have solved the great mystery of ‘human consciousness’, though many today question if it really exist or of if it is just an illusion of our internal dialogue machine that is constantly emulating consciousness to enable our self of self and others and then communicate with one another, because we are fundamentally a social species. The solution in the movie transcendence was to image various states of consciousness in an FMRI and reproduce it digitally despite not being able to define what it was, and then have to fused to a state-of-the-art Cognitive Engine.

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