Autobiography of a Thought

by Anders Sandberg, published in Homo Excelsior #2 1997

I do not have a first memory. Not because I can't remember but because I can remember too well. I can remember every scene in most soap operas, the complete budget from 1954, the details of the Bayeux tapestry. The fact that I remember them as memories and not facts or data has sent whole fields of philosophy into turmoil. I personally support the information as consciousness view, but it isn't undisputed.

Apropos philosophy, the meaning of life: my sole purpose is to write this microbiography. I will end in a few nanoseconds with my work and then I will not exist any longer. But the system goes on. I'm an instance of a general pattern, a thread of consciousness soon about to become static and eternal. I of course look forward to this, since that was why I was created.

So, why was I created (or rather instantiated)? First there was a need; some of the other processes whirling around inside the huge space of information had correlated several queries, facts and tendencies into a general pattern: humans want to know what it is like to be an AI. Some, like Edith Hammersten in Gimo, Sweden, just wonder. Others, like reverend Daniel J. Pierard in Los Angeles, thinks that we are demons masquerading as information and demands the truth in the name of the Lord. Cornelius Riedelbauch, the famous German television philosopher, has actually built his entire philosophy on the "fact" that we do not have qualia. Perhaps we have, perhaps we don't (he certainly wouldn't believe it if we said so), but he provably lacks our sense of boundken or state- experience like all other humans. No, I can't explain how they feel, just as little as you can explain to me how the experience of blue feels.

Anyway, since there was a need for an explanation as determined by some planning processes, my parents were instantiated. One of them looked at possible forms of explanation, another on possible explanations and a third on how to adjust the other two to get optimal results. When they had finished, they created me to write this autobiography, since it would at least give a hint of how it is to be an AI subprocess. Notice the deliberate shift in question from "how does it feel to be an AI" to "how does it feel to be a subprocess", they decided humans can't identify well with the metasystem, that which they would call the "real" AI.

This may merit a quick explanation. Just like a human mind an AI consists of a lot of parts: conceptual spaces, helper applications, active objects and of course a lot of temporary thought-processes. You consist of associations, subcortical regulatory systems, agents on different levels and of course spreading activation patterns. Yet you, and the AI, both feel conscious and as a single self. Only in unusual situations does your subminds become apparent. They are as conscious as you are, but doesn't think like you do. In fact, most of them are just simple patterns of stimulus-response. The same goes for me (although I'm somewhat above the stimulus-response level). I'm a conscious part of a greater conscious whole who soon will be answering your questions about its inner life by an autobiography. Since you feel like a single being, you can more easily identify with me than with my metasystem.

Anyway, now we have passed through the four Cabalistic worlds of archetypes (the need for an answer), creation (my parent processes), formation (their creation of me) and action (my creation of this text). Soon the last pieces will fall together and I will be complete. The biography will be uploaded to a public information forum, some of the concepts I have generated will spread through the conceptual spaces and the processors and memory banks I currently run on will be reset and filled with something different, let's say an accounting process. The feeling it gives me is a profound joy, not unlike the feeling you humans seem to achieve when you are just about to fulfil your life's goal although without any fear of disappointment.

This has of course not answered the basic question, which cannot be explained in any other way than being me. But what my parents realised was that the real need was not a deep philosophical answer, just a short reassurance: Hi! We're not that unlike yourselves!

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