The gap between what AI enthusiasts think consciousness is, and what it actually is, is vast beyond the size of the Universe. Some of them (maybe even most of them) really do believe themselves to be “nothing but … complex machine[s]”. In other words, just so many noughts and ones.
Subscribers to such a mechanistic world-view might consider the price placed on human dexterity. To build robots that could stack shelves or stitch footballs together, for example, would cost millions of pounds, yet humans are paid a pittance for performing these seemingly simple tasks. Scientists can barely construct a root that can walk properly, let alone on that can ride a bike, juggle, wallpaper the living room, or even poach an egg..
It’s a sad fact that, in universities across the globe, people are paid to continue banging their heads against a computer screen trying to find the philosopher’s stone, i.e. to instil consciousness in a collection of plastic and metal. They should be made to write out, 10 million times, “I am not a computer”.
– James Dixon of Fallowfield, Manchester, United Kingdom, in a letter to the editor in the September 2012 Fortean Times (FT291), page 67
I read the Fortean Times as much for the letters to the editor as for the articles themselves. And in both I regularly find thoughts and concepts that make each issue worth the time to buy and read.