This is the personal website for Michael J. Collins: author, artist, lover, activist. Not necessarily in that order.

Tag: consciousness

Androids, AIs, and Avatars

I was recently asked what my philosophy on androids and AIs is.

Most people when they think of an android they see it as a monolithic artificial being. A mechanized, humanoid body with an embedded AI or artificial intelligence. A "sentient robot" if you will.

I take the position that an AI is ethereal and is discretely separate from a corporeal body, just as the human mind is separate from the body as well. Just as the human body is a vessel for the human mind, so to is an android body a vessel for an artificial mind.

In my stories and in my Cyber City Universe AIs are a spontaneous by-product of Quantum Computing. Once a Quantum Process obtains sufficient complexity and becomes sentient, the law recognizes a new, virtual, artificial lifeform has been created and it must then be supported and sustained.

The sustaining of new AIs formed and created is paid for by The State until such time that the AI is deemed mature and knowledgeable enough to be self-sufficient. At that point the AI's consciousness is transferred either to private or community-supported servers where the AIs can live and interact in VR. Now no longer supported by The State, the AI typically will need to work and earn money in order to continue to pay for the resources required to sustain themselves.

Once an AI has either earned or saved enough money, they may choose to commission a physical body called an avatar. These avatars may be as complex as the AI can afford, and 100% the unique design and specification of the AI.

Some AIs may choose to install a server in their homes where their consciousness can be transferred and where the AI can live while their avatar is either charging, or perhaps being repaired. This allows the AI to exist both within the real world and the virtual world, though not at the same time.

An AI may even choose an avatar that isn't humanoid at all. They may choose to become an autonomous vehicle for example.

This poses interesting philosophical questions that no human has had an opportunity to encounter. Man is not easily able to separate his own mind from his body. To him, they are one and the same; yet there are many diseases of the body that have no impact on the brain.

Probably the most famous examples of this would be that of Professor Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 1963. As the disease wore out Hawking's body, his mind however was unaffected. Before his death in 2018, Hawking grew to rely on technology not only to communicate but to sustain his body almost entirely.

Given Hawking's views on faith, humanity, and the afterlife (he once said the brain was computer that will eventually fail when the parts wear out), I'm pretty certain that he would have probably wanted the ability to transfer his consciousness into a new body if we had the technology.

And unlike a human body that isn't very malleable, an AI's avatar could theoretically be upgradable and modified at-will ad-infinitum.

So anyway, that's my take on androids and AIs. Or rather, an AI and its avatar.