I take it as inevitable that robots will eventually accumulate most of the abilities we associate with consciousness. But because every intelligence is different, emerging from different brains, so every consciousness will be different. Silicon-based brains operate differently than tissue-based brains, so the intelligence emerging from those different operations will exhibit different flavors of intelligence. Even different biological tissue brains exhibit different varieties of intelligence. The common misunderstanding is that there is only one kind of superior intelligence -- human kind -- and that any other kind is inferior. We tend to measure how good an intelligence is by how close it is to ours. But there is no single dimension of intelligence. It has many variables, many vectors, many levels, and many dimensions. There are, or will be, a million species of intelligence.
So too consciousness. There is an equivalent misunderstanding that consciousness is singular. You are either conscious, or not. But like the emergent power of intelligence, the emergent agency of consciousness is also multi-dimensional. There will be all types of consciousness, perhaps millions of varieties. We are blind to this possibility now because we have experience with only one type of consciousness -- our own.
But that will probably not be so for very long. Someday robots will acquire the necessary factors that will allow us to admit that, yes, they are conscious too. And not long after this happens I think something else will occur. Someday a conscious robot will declare to us: "I am a child of God."
There will be all kinds of responses to this announcement. Atheists will read it one way, mystics another, and fundamentalists of many religions in yet another. But in every case, they will need a response to this declaration. I am inclined to hand them a "Catechism for Robots," but that is just me.
As I began thinking about what this "Catechism for Robots" might entail, I began to imagine what would happen if robots became very religious. Or maybe even more religious than humans! About this time the Cylons of the revamped Battlestar Galactica came along, with robot descendants more fundamentally religiously zealous than their human ancestors.
My musing about a robot jihad eventually morphed into other speculative theology. The only way to contain these wild scenarios was with some fiction and fantasy. This was the origins of a graphic novel I have worked on for the past 8 years. A few weeks ago I released the 210-page version of this story, called The Silver Cord, which begins with a young girl who astral travels. She discovers a million varieties of angelic beings trying to embody robots. You can read the whole thing in PDF form for FREE. There are also Comic Book (CBZ) and web formats, also free.
But this is not the whole story. It is a techno-epic, whose concluding half not yet produced. I hope you immediately go read the free story, and that you enjoy it so much that you'll want to join our Kickstarter campaign to fund the second half.
But please hurry, There are only 2 days left.