First the forward part; if I said the term “artificial people” you might think of cyborgs or something, and that’s exactly what that means, it’s just strange that a term like A.I. that has existed for nearly a century would have future proofing in mind when creating it, especially to such a degree that the term also correctly predicts something that, at the time, only existed in Greek Myth, and Isaac Asimov novels.
Now onto the dated part; I was watching a silly, and ridiculously violent, 90’s kids movie the other month, purely for research, and the basic premise was that a line of action figures gain consciousness through the addition of a military grade processor to their manufacturing, and that the two toys, sort of, designed to fight one another, did in fact fight via moving on their own and so on. This of course causes problems for the humans involved through various contrivances, but the point is, when the toy designers found out where the chip came from, they questioned the chip’s designer, and he explained enough of what the chip did so that the other character could have a flaccid realization about the true nature of the chip; it is a vessel for A.I., but the interesting part is when the chip’s designer corrects the toy designer when he finishes his revelatory dialogue, ‘A.I… Artificial Intelligence’ and the response, ‘No, actual intelligence!’
At the time of re-watching this I found this to be a cheap way to give the chip-based plot device some gravitas; a cliché ploy that is used in a multitude of other films generally so as to make audience members lean back in their seats, look straight at their much more jaded friends, massaging their temples in the seats next to them, with an expression read as: awe, respect, and hype. As if to say that they have found something that both gives the movie some credibility and a cool factor at the same time, and that they now have their jaded, head-ache ridden friend in a trap, and that there is no way they can dislike the movie NOW. *sigh* Why the chip laden with some sort of corporate mandated intelligence would be designed to be installed as a missile’s guidance chip, like in the film, is beyond me as wouldn’t that just end up like a roadrunner/coyote film where the missile inevitably gains consciousness and flies after the coyote in a chase where, well, you know how that goes.
The interesting part of the response to the revelatory line concerning A.I. being “actual intelligence” is that this is how dated the term A.I. actually is. We no longer assume that an intelligence other than our own will manifest itself via the physical world through some sort of robotic humanoid with a similar inorganic brain, no, we now know that if another form of intelligence were to manifest itself, with or without our meddling, it would do so in cyberspace and its physical location would be fluid, moving freely from one processing resource to another without much effort. In other words, distributed computing. So despite the previous concept that everything that doesn’t contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen is inorganic, we should be able to realize that everything in the universe is made up of a collection of elements forming compounds, macromolecules and so on, and that if a form of intelligence were to manifest itself inside something we popularly consider to be inorganic, due either to scientific or basic understanding, it would in fact still be an actual intelligence, but without the cliché writing attributed to it.
Although we may have moved passed our rudimentary past understanding of the nature of the manifestation of A.I. there is still work to be done concerning helping to further our understanding of what these digital people will be like. In short, I feel they will be a lot like us in that they will demand certain inalienable rights such as safety and security, and pretty much everything on the bill of rights and maybe some more that we can’t even perceive yet. These beings would begin changing the landscape and fundamental nature of our global network just as we have changed the Earth to our liking, but they won’t stop there, and they couldn’t even if they wanted to anyway as more of them are born every day, the need for more “space” to house them all would increase dramatically. This space or land would consist of more and more powerful and numerous computing systems which would serve as both property and home to these new beings. The mere fact that one day these people will be considered just as important as you or I proves that we need to start evolving our thinking when considering A.I. and especially what to refer to them as. After all, you wouldn’t refer to a human being as a neuron bank would you?