In the field of Artificial Intelligence, consciousness is just as controversial an issue as it is in human psychology.
The fundamental issue is whether or not conscious awareness is simply a bi-product of complex intelligence systems. A.I. engineers who believe this also believe that they do not need to try and isolate consciousness as it will emerge automatically from any sufficiently complex system. A very popular example of emergence is Conway’s Game of Life, where seemingly complex forms result from just a few very fundamental rules in a simple two-dimensional world. (Try a simulation here, it’s really fun)
I am a believer that consciousness is simply a bi-product of complexity, but for those who don’t believe this, it is hard for them to imagine a sentient being that isn’t “human”.
A common argument I have with skeptics is that they believe artificial intelligent beings will never be able to experience beauty or produce true art since they are void of emotion. The natural sciences have shown us that beauty has very fundamental principles such as simplicity, regularity, and intricacy. We also have robot journalists and robot novelists living among us today. In fact, this view goes hand in hand with the natural scientific view that the entire universe boils down to a few simple and fundamental rules.
I believe all of life is a complex system that was formed from a few simple rules. I also believe the worlds of artificial intelligence and human intelligence will eventually merge. We are already putting artificial intelligence in rats brains to give them a 6th sense and helping blind people get their sight restored.
I’ll leave you with this question: If we keep continually replacing parts of a human brain with artificial parts, at which point do we stop saying they have human consciousness/intelligence, or that they are human at all? My answer would be never. What do you think?