There are many AI prototypes that you can see in action on the web. They can think by themselves, interact with humans and apparently have basic ''emotions''. Quite impressive but you know, they only show off the basic stuff and positive side of it. ¸
They do not really think - all they do is to parse what is written to them (with no real understanding of the meaning), and if it succeeds, it is matched against a database of more or less ready-made answers or answer patterns. If there is a match, some or another answer is chosen to be parroted - otherwise, vagueness serves to somewhat mask the unthinking nature of the generic response that follows.
The style of the ready-made answer patterns, what they say and especially how it is phrased
- this gives the "personality" and "emotion" of the AI.
In short, these AIs are mainly a demonstration of psychology - how little it actually takes to convince us we are conversing with "a person". Until, of course, the answers given by the AI get too repetitive or overly patterned, which inevitably happens if the conversation goes on long enough.
I just can't immagine how far this technology must be now, hidden from the public. Think about nanotechnology, quantum computers etc. That opens up countless possibilities. Especially if they have on top of it already solved the UFT (and I think it has been for quite a while actually, away from the public of course).
Well, supercomputer technology makes possible a different kind of AI - and a supercomputer of the future could run a "virtual brain", or some hypothetical other construct with similar functioning but greater efficiency.
Back in 2007, one of the best "standard" supercomputers was able to run the rough equivalent of half a mouse brain in slow-motion:
[...] Half a real mouse brain is thought to have about eight million neurons each one of which can have up to 8,000 synapses, or connections, with other nerve fibres.
Modelling such a system, the trio wrote, puts "tremendous constraints on computation, communication and memory capacity of any computing platform".
The team, from the IBM Almaden Research Lab and the University of Nevada, ran the simulation on a BlueGene L supercomputer that had 4,096 processors, each one of which used 256MB of memory.
Using this machine the researchers created half a virtual mouse brain that had 8,000,000 neurons that had up to 6,300 synapses.
The vast complexity of the simulation meant that it was only run for 10 seconds at a speed ten times slower than real life - the equivalent of one second in a real mouse brain.
On other smaller simulations the researchers said they had seen "biologically consistent dynamical properties" emerge as nerve impulses flowed through the virtual cortex.
In these other tests the team saw the groups of neurons form spontaneously into groups. They also saw nerves in the simulated synapses firing in a ways similar to the staggered, co-ordinated patterns seen in nature.
The researchers say that although the simulation shared some similarities with a mouse's mental make-up in terms of nerves and connections it lacked the structures seen in real mice brains.
Imposing such structures and getting the simulation to do useful work might be a much more difficult task than simply setting up the plumbing.
For future tests the team aims to speed up the simulation, make it more neurobiologically faithful, add structures seen in real mouse brains and make the responses of neurons and synapses more detailed.
I'm skeptical about computers ever acquiring a "soul imprint" comparable to that of even a higher animal like, say, a dog, cat or horse, much less a human being. Logic designers and programmers can give computers their own moral, legal and practical constructs, but on their own computers are just stupid machines. They don't have a "self" that has apperception, the awareness that they perceive and think - Descarte's "I think, therefore I am" - much less feel.
Neural networks, if developed further and ran on sufficiently powerful hardware, might possibly get there.
Alternatively, if some other kind of construct was developed that could cluster into a kind of virtual "brain", yet was more computationally efficient, this might possibly lead there.