The second in the series of lectures organised by the Philosophy department this evening this time turning attention on ethical issues surrounding the creation of artificial intelligence. It was given by Murray Shanahan who is a Professor for Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College.
Murray's contention is that within the next few decades the technology will have advanced enough for us to accurately create a computer programme that can accurately reproduce the 4 million or so neurons that go up to make a mouse's brain. In effect, we could one by one replace those neurons in the brain with artificial electrical charges, the culminative effect of which would be to create a new brain. If we were to do this would the mouse still be a 'real' mouse?
At what point, as we develop these 'new' brains do we say it's immoral to 'test' or 'destroy' them. If we're capable of introducing the concept, or more realistically the sensation, of suffering or pain into an artificial intelligence then will we still have the right to control or dismantle it?
It seemed appropriate to having this Frankenstein-esque debate in the Waldegrave Drawing room, with Walpole's house, a major aesthetic influence for the early Gothic writers, visible through the window. Darkness fell as we began to contemplate a world where scientists had computer designed an intelligence with enough plasticity in it to be able to grow and learn beyond our control. The romantic imaginations of the eighteenth century are beginning to find a tangible shape.