Consciousness is a concept experienced only by living things. It is the neurons sending electrical signals from our brain through our nervous system that allows us to feel emotions, experience pain and pleasure. To see the crystalline blue of the ocean, feel the sand beneath our feet and warmth of the sun kiss our skin. To feel butterflies after kissing for the first time, fall in love and feel true happiness. This is not something that technology can recreate.
The Turing test was a means of testing a machine for intelligence, not necessarily consciousness. If I had a conversation with someone for an hour and was unable to distinguish whether they were a computer or a human being, according to the test it would be considered as intelligent as a human, however, it would not tell me if the machine experiences anything. I could ask the computer, “Are you conscious?” And it could reply, “Yes, I am fully conscious.” But I would never truly know. In order to fully understand how the machine is made I would have to take the machine apart.
A computer is made of a motherboard, processor, memory, hard drive, power supply, all interconnected by groups of wires. This is a much different cause and effect structure than what lies within the human brain. We each have billions of neurons connecting through electrical signals, a single neurotransmitter can stimulate thousands of other neurons forming a limitless number of neural networks. We have yet to reach this advancement in technology to replicate something remotely similar to the intricacies human brain.
These days we are able to make pretty good weather predictions; we can predict the inside of a storm. But it will never feel wet inside a computer. We can use machines to simulate a black hole, but space-time will not be bent. Simulating something, like consciousness, is not the real thing. In a hundred years we may be able to simulate consciousness in a computer, but it will not experience anything.
Treating something as a person and treating something as if it were a person are two different concepts. For example, I treat my cats is if they were people because they are not people. But I still respect them and ascribe to them the same degree of dignity that I do the people in my life.
Related to the film, Caleb treats Ava as if she were a person, but Kyoto as a person. He knows Ava is not a person, but still chooses to treat her as if she were one (socially interacting). For Kyoto, he does not have this “degree” of separation, that involves first consciously being aware that the other entity is not actually human.
To prove that I understand something, I explicate my understanding of said thing in steps. If someone asks me to explain a cat, for example, I will explain a bundle of characteristics that describe the cat. This is literally no different than me using Google to ask “what is a cat?”
Now, if I were asked a more abstract, strictly “human” concept, like what is love, then, I fear to say that the computers explanation of the phenomenon is no different. I will sit here and explain my personal experiences of love, and as wistful as it may be, will just be listing off a bundle of attributes attributed to the emotion. If I asked Google what love is, despite never experiencing love, Google could just as easily ramble off the same attributes that I have listed.
For these reasons, computer intelligence and human intelligence are no different. Even though humans have experience that informs their life of ideas, computers have data input that alters their databases. If it were not for the fact that people have souls, computers and humans would be no different at all.