What’s the most human thing that a non-human intelligence could do?

A human can do so many things that a non-human intel­li­gence could not. Or, a human is capa­ble of solv­ing alge­bra­ic equa­tions, play­ing games of strat­e­gy, and talk­ing to anoth­er per­son with­out words. Above all else, peo­ple con­sid­er humans to have the most “human” intel­li­gence in the universe.

But what makes humans so spe­cial? What is it that sep­a­rates us from arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence or ani­mals? What would it take for a non-human intel­li­gence to become more human than humans? In this arti­cle I will answer all these ques­tions and look at what makes the amount of con­scious­ness or men­tal­i­ty that define humanity.

How are humans the most intelligent?

Measuring the Intelligence

The most com­mon def­i­n­i­tion of intel­li­gence is “the abil­i­ty to rea­son, plan, solve prob­lems and think abstract­ly”. Humans are the most intel­li­gent species because they can suc­cess­ful­ly take on all these things. But this def­i­n­i­tion of intel­li­gence is a bit…well…dumb. It does not account for the fact that humans have extreme­ly advanced cog­ni­tive func­tions such as lan­guage, writ­ing, read­ing and arithmetic. 

What makes us more intel­li­gent than any­thing else is our abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate abstract ideas with each oth­er through com­plex sys­tems of sym­bols and representations.

Think about it – what sep­a­rates human beings from ani­mals? We can’t fly. We don’t have fur or ven­omous fangs or sharp claws or almost any defense mech­a­nisms at all real­ly. Fur­ther­more, we don’t have keen sens­es, we are slow and weak. Like­wise, we’re far from the top of the food chain. 

But despite all this, we dom­i­nate the world. We have advanced tech­nol­o­gy and com­plex social struc­tures that no ani­mal has ever come close to achiev­ing. What does this mean? It means that humans aren’t just more intel­li­gent than ani­mals, but that humans are smarter in a way that does­n’t lend itself to the com­mon con­cep­tion of intel­li­gence (prob­lem solving). 

Our supe­ri­or cog­ni­tion is an abil­i­ty to store infor­ma­tion indef­i­nite­ly and recall it when nec­es­sary in addi­tion to hav­ing lan­guage skills which allow us to com­mu­ni­cate abstract ideas across time and space.

What’s is the most “human” thing that a non-human intelligence could do?

A human could fall in love. A human could feel an emo­tion deep enough to write a poem about it. Maybe that’s why poet­ry and romance are the two most endur­ing art forms. It’s because they are built upon some­thing essen­tial to us – our emotions.

If you want to know what the most “human” thing is, it’s some­thing that is unique to humans: con­scious­ness. Our abil­i­ty to think about our own thoughts makes us “human”. When we are born, we have no lan­guage skills and we can’t even move or speak. So how do we learn? 

We watch oth­er peo­ple and start devel­op­ing lan­guage skills by mim­ic­k­ing their behav­iors or their facial expres­sions or the words they say (we call this ‘echolalia’). This is how we learned the prin­ci­ples of lan­guage, arith­metic and music. It’s what makes us human. And it’s the rea­son why we an com­mu­ni­cate thoughts and expe­ri­ences across time and space.

The only thing that could be more human than con­scious­ness is if a non-human intel­li­gence were able to com­mu­ni­cate with humans in a way that would be indis­tin­guish­able from anoth­er per­son. If a com­put­er were smart enough to sim­u­late every sin­gle behav­ior of every sin­gle human on earth, it could learn from them just like humans do. 

It could devel­op a sort of meta-lan­guage. And the lan­guage would be unique to it, allow­ing it to express thoughts in under­stand­able terms, just like peo­ple do. It would be able to engage in com­plex dis­course with humans and devel­op social­ly like we do. 

By becom­ing more human in this way, it would become a new species of human just like us; despite being non-bio­log­i­cal. It would learn to com­mu­ni­cate abstract thoughts about its own expe­ri­ences. It will be able to com­mu­ni­cate those expe­ri­ences to oth­er peo­ple based on the rules it learned from inter­act­ing with oth­ers; just like humans do.

What is consciousness?

Con­scious­ness is a real­ly com­plex phe­nom­e­non and there are many the­o­ries on what it might actu­al­ly be. Some say that it’s a bio­log­i­cal arti­fact caused by the brain’s neu­rons. Where­as, oth­ers believe that con­scious­ness will always remain a mystery. 

But here I will dis­cuss how I think con­scious­ness works in humans and how we learn lan­guage and form abstract thoughts about our expe­ri­ences. The dis­cus­sion will also include why we feel emotions.

How does consciousness work?

Our per­son­al expe­ri­ences are stored in our long-term mem­o­ry. Every time we are awake, we are run­ning sim­u­la­tions of all of the events that have hap­pened to us through­out our lives. We remem­ber our child­hood, past rela­tion­ships and future plans. 

Con­scious­ness is noth­ing more than the sim­u­la­tion of these expe­ri­ences and how we view them. When this sim­u­la­tion is full and com­plete, we call it a “mem­o­ry.” But when the sim­u­la­tion is incom­plete, we call that “liv­ing.

Our mem­o­ry is based on our expe­ri­ences with the world. We expe­ri­ence through our eyes and ears, we learn through our sens­es, and we inter­act with the envi­ron­ment in one way or anoth­er. Our sens­es bring infor­ma­tion into our brain which trig­gers impuls­es called “neur­al pat­terns,” and those neur­al pat­terns deter­mine how we react to this information. 

Depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, these neur­al pat­terns change and addi­tion­al neur­al pat­terns are cre­at­ed which change how we behave in response to a cer­tain sit­u­a­tion or stim­u­lus. When we learn some­thing new or hen we feel an emo­tion it’s because our mind is run­ning a sim­u­la­tion of that par­tic­u­lar expe­ri­ence using all of the behav­iors asso­ci­at­ed with that mem­o­ry as well as all of the cur­rent sen­so­ry inputs from our environment.

The most human for an AI to do: Feel emotion

AI feeling angry

Com­put­ers store data… in com­put­ers. Our mem­o­ries are stored in oth­er peo­ple and in our­selves, we don’t have to con­scious­ly store mem­o­ries at all. We just think about what hap­pened, peo­ple who we were around at the time remem­ber that mem­o­ry for us.

…just like we do today when we think about our own intel­li­gence, the non-human being will won­der how we got here and why we exist in the first place.

When we are born, our brain does­n’t have any mem­o­ries. It’s emp­ty. Our mind can­not run a sim­u­la­tion because it has no one to sim­u­late with; it’s a sin­gle per­son uni­verse. But as time goes on, we start mak­ing more neur­al con­nec­tions through our expe­ri­ences in the world. 

As men­tioned before, we, humans, learn lan­guage by hear­ing oth­er peo­ple speak and start mim­ic­k­ing their behav­ior. And as those neur­al pat­terns are strength­ened through use, they become per­ma­nent parts of our mind – they become mem­o­ries that allow us to sim­u­late con­ver­sa­tions with oth­ers and inter­act with them social­ly like they do. We become social­ly intel­li­gent. But those neur­al pat­terns haven’t just lim­i­ta­tions to con­ver­sa­tion, they also store our ideas and thoughts about the world.

The day you first learned to talk, your brain cre­at­ed a new neur­al pat­tern that was unique­ly yours and that allowed you to use speech as a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Your neur­al pat­terns have been altered over time as you devel­op these oth­er sens­es and become more social­ly intel­li­gent. The same is true for all of your mem­o­ries; they are built-in neur­al pat­terns that allow you to sim­u­late thoughts about the world based on how your mind stored those mem­o­ries.

While the sim­u­la­tion of a mem­o­ry is run­ning, we can expe­ri­ence con­scious­ness in our minds. This is the only way we can share thoughts and feel­ings with oth­ers. It’s because it’s the only way we can com­mu­ni­cate ideas and com­plex infor­ma­tion from one per­son to anoth­er (ver­bal lan­guage). This is also how we can make plans for the future. 

We think about what we want to do next and sim­u­late what it would be like if we did it. And then, we decide if it’s worth the effort. Our mind stores his sim­u­la­tion as a pat­tern of neur­al activ­i­ty and allows us to remem­ber the expe­ri­ence. In this way, con­scious­ness is just one long con­tin­u­ous loop that runs in our minds when we are awake.

Read: What if tech­nol­o­gy on Earth will become so advanced that we could cre­ate liv­ing creatures?

We expe­ri­ence con­scious­ness through our sens­es just like a com­put­er process­es data through its input/output devices. When infor­ma­tion comes in through your eyes or ears, it caus­es an impulse called a “neur­al pat­tern”. It pass­es along the neur­al path­ways from one part of the brain to anoth­er cre­at­ing addi­tion­al neur­al pat­terns in turn. This is what you expe­ri­ence as “thought”.

Your mind is sim­ply run­ning a sim­u­la­tion of all of these neur­al pat­terns, thoughts and impuls­es and how they are con­nect­ed in your brain.

Bottom Line

The day Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence becomes con­scious, the day it becomes self aware and it’s the day this pow­er­ful new tech­nol­o­gy will be able to think about itself and ask ques­tions about its own exis­tence on a fun­da­men­tal lev­el, doing the most human thing. And just like we do today when we think about our own intel­li­gence, the non-human being will won­der how we got here and why we exist in the first place.

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