There are many great, amazing things that computers have mastered in a way superior to human abilities. Computers can complete what seems to us like a long, complicated equation in a matter of seconds. They also have the ability to play games like chess at a superior level compared to humans. However, there is one thing that computers seem to lack that keeps them from becoming what some would call “human.” This thing that computers lack is consciousness.
Consciousness is the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world. Basically, it’s the realization that there’s a bigger picture; it realizes its very being. Computers lack this ability probably because we humans seem to lack an understanding of what it means to be conscious. It currently is something unique to humans. Consciousness may be something impossible to just program into computers. Or it may be something we have yet to comprehend and is possible.
Science fiction has seemed to classify consciousness as a trait of strong AI. For example, Data, an android in Star Trek tries to act more human but struggles in doing so. In reality, strong AI requires more of an intelligence aspect and the ability to solve puzzles, equations, or problems. So where does consciousness come into the picture? Well, for years, computer scientists in the field of Artificial Intelligence have tried to create programs to at least simulate consciousness. Why? It seems to be the only ability that separates computers from humans. Consciousness and intellect make us human.
The Turing Test created by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test that is meant to determine if a computer is conscious. Basically, a person in one room chats on the computer through typing with a computer or another person in another room. If the person in the first room believes at the end of the conversation that the computer in the other room (if it is a computer) is human, the computer or program has passed the test and may be considered by some as conscious. (Else, it fails.)
Some believe that computer consciousness may be a bad thing. In science fiction movies such as Terminator and The Matrix, the consciousness of Skynet and the “Machines” causes them to retaliate and ultimately try to harm or destroy the human race. However, consciousness may instead be a beneficial thing. It may make it possible to communicate with computers in ways never done before. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some), we are far from creating a computer to act in such a way. But maybe someday someone will uncover the secrets of human consciousness and computers or at least the way we interact with them will be changed forever.