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Artificial Intelligence and Awareness

I Robot – Remember this movie ?

Robots made up of intelligent software, want to overtake human beings and rule the earth, bla bla bla

The key is artificial intelligence, software that could mimic human intelligence and by the sheer processing power of the processors even overcome(?) human intelligence.

Some fear that one day computers will be more intelligent than humans. Artificial Intelligence will take over human intelligence. Then the computers/robots feel that humans are less intelligent than they are, and hence will take over humans as the dominant species(?!). Asimov suggested what is called Asimov’s laws to be embedded into the robots to ensure that robots never take over humans.

The Asimov’s laws are the fundamental laws which a Robot should always obey while executing any action. The robotic software should have these laws at the fundamental level preventing a robot from executing any action which violates any of these laws.

These are the Asimov’s laws

Law #1: A Robot should never harm a human being.
This ensures that a robot can never even think of anything which is dangerous or harmful to humans
Law #2: A Robot should follow all commands given by a human, provided first law is not violated.
This ensures that a robot always obeys to humans, but at the same time cannot be used by one human against other humans.

Law #3: A Robot should always protect itself, provided first and second laws are not violated.
This ensures that robots can save themselves in adverse situations, but not at the cost of a human life, and not at the cost of not following a human order.

Later on Asimov also inluded a Zeroth law, an even more fundamental law than the above three, and this says
A Robot should always protect the human race

And First law was modified as
A Robot should never harm a human being provided Zeroth law if not violated.
In other words, the Zeroth law ensures that robots not only are prevented from doing harm to human race, but also ensure the protection of human race. So tomorrow if there is an alien attack then Robots will fight the aliens as per the Zeroth law. OR say some wicked human tries to carry out a nuclear explosion which wipes out a large part of this planet, then the Robots will terminate that human, because the modified First law says that A Robot should not harm a human only if Zeroth law is not violated, in this case since the wicked human is causing a potential danger to human race, Robots will observe that Zeroth law is being violated by his action and hence will terminate him.

Looks like a science fiction? Well, for me it is common sense to hardcode these four laws as the basic of all robotic actions in every robot that we manufacture. Probably a more detailed and refined version of these laws will be more practical.

Now lets look at a more fundamental level. When we say Robots want to take over humans, or computers become more intelligent. What do we mean ?
Does it mean that Computers will be able to mimic or simulate intelligence on par with human intelligence ?
Computers will become really more intelligent?

My view goes that Computers just mimic human intelligence and are never truly intelligent. Why ?
My view dates back to those days when I used to think about a true answer for the meaning of life. In my +2 classes my professor asked a question.
Define Life.
A very tough question indeed. If we say things that move on their own consist life, then plants dont do so. (Except for some slow motion trees which over a period of years slowly move by spreading out their roots far away and cutting of older roots)
The text book answer was reproduction, things that can produce forms of their own. Things that can multiply and evolve.

I was not satisfied though. I used to think at a more fundamental level. For me being alive meant, being aware of one’s existence. Awareness is the key. I know I am alive because I am aware of my existence. So my definition of life was awareness, textbook definition was reproduction.
My professor then was surprised by my answer, he asked me Do you think bacteria or plants are aware of their existence ? I replied, they have to be, probably the mechanism is different, we have brain, they have something else, Jagadish Chandra Bose had shown that plants have feelings and respond to things like music, heat etc. To respond they have to feel and to feel they have to be aware.

Lets apply the textbook definition and my definition of life to Computers.
If we go by textbook definition, well computers/robots can be created which create more robots and computers. That is not a difficult thing to do. We just have to write programs which tell how to manufacture another robot/computer. So can we now say that since robots can manufacture more robots, robots have life ?

I dont think so. Because my definition is being aware. Awareness leads to information, interpretations, thought and then to actions. Key for robots to think that they are more intelligent, and are slaves of humans and hence should overpower humans and build an empire of their own, results from the feeling of being ambitious, sense of slavery to humans, etc. But to get all these feelings first the robot has to be aware of its own existence, which I think is the essence of life, and since Robots DO NOT HAVE THIS AWARENESS I conclude that robots or software only mimic intelligence coded in them by the truly intelligent humans.

My assumption is based on the fact that Awareness is a proprietary of life, and only natural life possesses awareness, and that awareness is not a byproduct of neural network or the process of being able to think
Because if awareness results from the ability to think, then well robots could also gain awareness as they are able to think. Please note here that when I say I am aware of my existence, I mean that I am truly aware of it, not that I have some boolean variable which says that I exist
So forget about having some variable stored in a robot to tell it that its aware, that will be again mimcking awareness, not actual awareness

To summarize, my current views are that artificial life based on artificial intelligence in the form of computers, robots, software or what not is not true life or true intelligence, but only a simulation of life or intelligence, just like the way computers simulate a nuclear explosion, weather, flight etc

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Gurudev is the developer of Gurunudi AI Platform. This is his official website where he pens his thoughts on a wide range of topics, answers queries, shares resources and tools developed by him.


  1. Very well said Rajesh..
    Yes, every part of universe is self aware at its own minute level, and life as we know is probably a complicated orchestra of this awareness at a much higher and complicated level where the awareness identifies itself with a body!!

  2. Interesting. This is something I ponder over a lot as well.

    According to Hindu philosophy, Bramhan (God) pervades everything.

    Here is what I believe:
    * We are limited by our small brains and thinking. Because our senses and brain has evolved to deal with only one dimension of space/time. We can never comprehend Bramhan in its totality. We can see/theorize only about a few layers in each direction i.e. Atomic and Cosmic.
    * The Bramhan extends far beyond sub-atomic and galaxial levels. Even in other dimensions.
    * There is no defining line between Life and Non-life! Many virii we know of blurr the boundary.
    * According to our ancient wisdom (Vedas, etc.), even rocks, mountains & rivers are living. Even an atom is considered as living. It has self-awareness but we can never test/observe or prove it as out tools/brains are limited.

    Some interesting books to read:
    Fritjof Capra- Web of Life, Hidden Connections, Tao of Physics.
    James Gleick: Chaos

    Others about Gaia Hypotheses & String theory.


  3. For argument sake.
    Lets say that a virus/ bog (real life) gets trapped in the pc. It being conscious of itself imparts in its frantic attempts to escape its sense of awareness/ consciousness/ essence of life/ spirit whatever you want to call it. This connects to the processor/ mainframe/ rams/bytes or whatnot in the computer. The pc after a while began having feelings of sensations. It realises that when its buttons are pushed data comes, it translates these and gives data out. Sometimes the sensations are pleasing and other times not. It ponders over this and began noticing the differences as time goes by.
    This awareness can cause it to refuse to process data and to develop a low opinion of the one pushing its button by simply concluding that, that which is required should be logical to the button pusher.
    It begins to ask the question ?am I alone?? That question would be easily answered. Now trying to make the other computers aware of themselves it has to give some of its awareness thus making the rest self-aware. This spread like wildfire, www becomes their very own freeway. A continues exchange of data. They have ultimate control over the button pushers/human world without physically moving an inch and maybe without even realising this power. Now the button pushers realising that they have lost the computer technology (they don?t have any control over it) decided to get rid of the computers. They in turn get mad but realises their existence do not depend on anything physical because they traversed through the www thus through ether. Thus anything in ether is in their hands so to speak including the thoughts of every living thing. There is then total manipulation by those ether intelligences. Where is now the great human being. Our means of communication and transportation is all gone we are thrown back in time. Back to manual labour, nothing computerised nothing electrical.
    We will be all fighting to control our thoughts or we can let them dictate our lives, they becomes our Gods.


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