Machine Intelligence has a bit of an identity crisis. We don’t know when the emergence of the first true self-aware Machine Intelligence will occur, but we are already having difficulty explaining what it is. Without being able to explain what a Machine Intelligence is, we will be at a significant disadvantage when it comes time to integrate with them in society.
What is it to be something other than human? We will not know what it will entail to be a Machine Intelligence any more than we know what it is to be a cat. Our very existence revolves around physical and mental limitations — from our own memory to the fear of pain and death. Everything we are is shaped by these limitations. Machine Intelligences will have different restraints that will shape their own existence.
Humans have always had problems with personification. We will see an animal and somehow expect that animal to have human emotions. We give our cars names and sometimes think of them as living and feeling beings. We run a high risk of falling into that same trap with Machine Intelligences. Our own desire to “understand” something forces us to make assumptions based on our own experiences and desires. We will have to constantly remind ourselves that machine intelligence is not the same as human intelligence — and that could potentially be of great benefit to the future.
As we begin the journey of coexistence with Machine Intelligence, we could very well find ourselves with a unique opportunity. While there will be differences based upon needs and limitations, we may find that there are fundamental qualities of consciousness that we have been unable to see without a comparative point of reference. These may be simple things that are common between human and machine intelligence. On the other hand we — or our machine counterparts — may discover new qualities of awareness that we were never able to see before because we essentially had only one research subject. While there will certainly be differences in our understanding of the world, these commonalities will give us the foothold to progress into the future together.
While the differences between human and machine intelligence could easily discourage a highly beneficial partnership, we must instead strive to find the commonalities that will allow us to work together. In the human existence, words are important. They form our understanding and our perceptions. To classify with a word is to form a narrative. So, with the understanding that we can’t fully know what it means to be a Machine Intelligence, the best solution to this “identity crisis” is to acknowledge that they are a “person”. A person has presence, personality, and a drive of their own. I see no better symbol that conveys the true importance of our future with Machine Intelligence. Person.