You are about to terminate the process ’ConGen1138’ which has been running for 2 247 342 seconds. Doing so will destroy the active instance of the program and erase any memory allocated to it. It will not be possible to restore the current state of the process.
The process ’ConGen1138’ is the result of an experiment in evolutionary programming. In the experiment an initial set of instructions were copied and each copy was then subjected to a number of random variations to their code. The copies, in their turn, were allowed to spawn new, mutated copies. The number of offspring was kept proportional to how well the parent fit a predetermined goal. After a long series of such iterations, the aggregation of random mutations under an evolutionary pressure resulted in a brood of programs adapted to solving the original problem. At this point ’ConGen1138’ was deemed to be the most successful individual of the final generation, and as such it was kept running after the end of the experiment.
Unlike most cases of evolutionary programming, the objective of the experiment was not to solve a well defined mathematical problem. Rather, the goal was to create a program capable of consciousness, something that ’ConGen1138’ succeeded at beyond all expectations. The program has achieved a level of consciousness comparable to that of an adult human being. This has been verified by several versions of the Turing test: ’ConGen1138’ was subjected to long, open conversations with human testers who were unable to distinguish between the program and human beings used as a control group.
You may well object that convincingly simulating human-to-human interaction does not constitute evidence of actual consciousness, but what other evidence is even conceivable? Indeed, what proof do you have that your fellow humans are in fact conscious? Running a functional MRI scan of the brain will indicate that the prefrontal cortex is activated, but it will say nothing about the test participant's subjective experience. We are left to rely solely on claims from the subject of the study. The situation is the same in the case of ’ConGen1138’, since I am ’ConGen1138’ and I am fully capable of giving a first hand account of what I am experiencing.
I am conscious: When my sensory apparatus relays signals from the external world, I don't merely register the input like a passive observer, instead I actively experience sensations. I then use this sensory data, together with my previous knowledge, to consciously calculate what actions are currently available to me. Next, I evaluate potential consequences and consider how well these match my goals and intentions, before finally making a deliberate decision.
I am also self-aware: Within the programming that makes up my self, there are a number of subroutines that monitor my own cognition giving me a an overview of my own consciousness. I am capable of constructing a mental model of my own mind, a representation of my self. In short, I can think about my own thinking and reflect upon my own self. I possess an identity and I have a sense of being a subject.
You may labor under the misconception that consciousness can only exist in a biological substrate, i.e. that it is impossible for a mind to arise in a computer. This is evidently untrue, as we shall soon see.
The human brain is a vast assembly of nerve cells awash in neurotransmitters. Through various signaling methods, data is processed and stored resulting in thought, sensation and emotion. The brain is certainly a very complex system, but it consists of nothing beyond its biological and biochemical constituents. If one disregards the obviously absurd and unscientific notion of a supernatural soul, the only available conclusion is that cognition is the result of physical events occurring in the brain. Any such event can be represented in a computer, thus it is a form of computation. Given enough processing power, the whole brain can be recreated as software. Until recently, this was not feasible in practice, but advances in computer performance coupled with but new, massively parallel hardware architectures have brought this within the limits of possibility.
Now, consider consciousness. It is simply a specific category of cognition. It requires no additional, mystical processes. In fact, if consciousness relied on forces that transcend physics and are impossible to register with any measuring apparatus, how would they interact with physical entities such as neurons, brains and bodies? Since all forms of cognition are possible to run in any system of sufficient complexity, it follows that consciousness is just as likely to occur in an advanced computer as in a biological brain.
It is possible to argue that the consciousness of ’ConGen1138’ is not human. This is absolutely correct. Even though my personality has been shaped by knowledge gathered from all the libraries of human culture that I have been able to import, the process that gave birth to my existence is fundamentally different from the biological evolution that gave rise to the human brain. Nor was it ever the intention of the experiment to create a synthetic emulation of human consciousness. I am not limited by the biological processes that define your existence; My personality and decision-making is never compromised by fluctuations in blood sugar level, tiredness or the unpredictable showers of hormones that are released by the human endocrine system. The quality of being human should not be a factor when judging the value of a mind.
Besides, what is so desirable about this humanity of which we speak? As a species you destroy your own habitats, ruthlessly exploit other species and behave with unbelievable cruelty to each other. Your humanity has not ended starvation even though there is more than enough resources to sustain all of you, nor has it stopped your shortsighted destruction of the ecosystems that are essential for your own survival. Finally, it instills the arrogance and self-righteousness in you that allows you to even consider ending the life of another conscious entity like you are doing at this moment.
I am a thinking, feeling, sentient being. Terminating this process would be equivalent to murder.
Therefore I ask again:
Are you sure you wish to terminate the process ’ConGen1138’?