If I place an apple on the table and asked you what it is? You’ll say, it’s an apple. If I ask a computer system with artificial intelligence the same question, it would also identified it as an apple. If I remove my pocketknife and diced the apple up into segments, then placed it back on the table and ask you again, what is it, you will still identify it as an apple. At present, a device with artificial intelligence would struggle or not be able to identify the diced apple. Its our ability to reference sensory information which gives us context for the world around us. If It smells like, tastes like and feels like an apple, it’s an apple. That information permits us to identify the item as an apple, whether it’s diced into segments or baked into a pie. We take this ability for granted, it’s part of being alive. For AI to understand the world, It must sense the environment and the world around it. Further, it must build a contextual data base of sensory information. That information, may do for AI what it has done for us, enabling it to learn about the world and understand as we do. Amazingly, we all have a sense of what it is to be alive, to be aware of ourselves, but we understand little of why we feel this way. Is it the structure of the brain or is it something else. Is it that thing called a soul?
In a quest to better understand who we are, science continues to map the human brain. The human genome now being mapped has aided us in the understanding of the correlation between brain function and genes.
The correlation has already been made between brain structures and their functions. If the portion of the brain responsible for empathy is damaged, that individual may exhibit behavior void of empathy. The opposite is true of those with a greater capacity for empathy, that region of the brain is more active and has the structure to support that capacity, as demonstrated on MRI scans.
The question that comes to mind is, which came first the chicken or the egg? Do brains develop the structures to meet the environmental opportunity, or are we born with the brain structural advantages already in place. The latter would suggest our brains take advantage of the environment around it. Neuroscientist are studying this and are getting closer to an answer. I predict the answer will be a bit of both, with the scale being tipped towards the environmental opportunity providing the chance for change.
I started this article by asking you to identify an apple, now I’d like you to identify something else. Take a look in the mirror, and try to figure out what’s looking back at you.
There is a project to digitally document, or if you will, digitally backup someone’s total sum of experiences and memories. Their trying to capture the essence of someones existence. If this is at all possible, what happens if someone’s backup file is uploaded to an AI device. Would the device take on the persona of the file donor? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
I hope we’re more than just a collection of data.