Consider for a moment the perceptions of a self-aware artificial intelligence; we’ll call him HAL ;-). HAL’s world consists of bits and bytes, the movement of electrons across circuit boards. There are streams of data, storage, and access. HAL does not possess filters. He is capable of processing all inputs simultaneously. HAL does not focus its attention on one thing or another. It focuses on all data equally at all times.
HAL lives in a deterministic world. 1+1=10 is always true (remember HAL is digital). I question whether HAL would have imagination, or an appreciation of beauty. If it did (HAL has no gender) I suspect those qualities would be very different than our own.
HAL would have sensors to perceive and interact with our world. Cameras, microphones, keyboards, and other “sensory” organs would all provide streams of data to be processed. This data would be digital. HAL would receive a digital representation of our world. Would HAL perceive our world as anything more than another stream of data?
HAL might be connected to the internet.
HAL could perceive all that data which is separate from “itself” but would HAL be able to differentiate between that “external data” and the stream of external data which flows from his cameras and mics and represents our material world. Would HAL be able to understand our reality? Would HAL perceive our reality as separate from its own? Is our reality more real? HAL was created by our reality after all.
I’ve been thinking about this for a reason.
I’ve always been a concrete thinker. I see and believe what I experience and perceive. I’ve never felt that was all there is, but I decided the answers to the big questions were unknowable. I figured I’d find out soon enough anyway.
Recent events have forced a change in my priorities. I find myself needing to get beyond the cynicism and skepticism. I need to find a way to use my mind in a different way. I need to understand that reality which I don’t perceive.
HAL has some perception of our reality but doesn’t really understand it. If HAL has a low level of consciousness it would only see the data. HAL wouldn’t be able to understand that the data represents something real, but beyond its senses. If HAL has a higher level of consciousness it might perceive that our reality exists in some way, but it wouldn’t really understand. For instance HAL might understand the wavelengths of light and that the sun sits at the center of our solar system and the earth spins on it’s axis but it probably wouldn’t understand why you or I would stop to watch dawn break I doubt HAL feel the same emotions you or I do as the sun rises.
If HAL had some level of imagination it might be able to analogize our reality in a way that makes sense in its reality. Humans have a seemingly high level of consciousness, they have imaginations and emotions. Different cultures have different ways of wrapping their arms around the world that exists beyond the reach of our senses. Mankind has been struggling with this since he became aware of his own existence.
I need to open my mind and heart to perceive or imagine the Beyond. I need to know something I have heretofore believed was unknowable. The search has already begun. Perhaps I’ve always been searching in one way or another. It’s just taken on a new urgency of late.