/ opinion

Can an AI Forge its Own Path?

A possible objection to a sentient Artificial Intelligence is that as an inflexible programmed system that even if it learns it may not have the ability to truly originate new work beyond what it is told to originate in advance. Surprisingly this objection predates electronic computers and comes from Lady Lovelace in at least 1842. Her statement: "The machine can do whatever we know how to order it to perform.", lies at the heart of such an objection. The idea is that without human guidance it is impossible for the AI to change its path and it moves towards a predetermined conclusion regardless of sentience.

The technology in Lady Lovelace's time would do a lot to prevent someone from seeing outside the box of an inflexible programmed machine. From a modern standpoint, I believe it is easier to see the flaw in this objection. Humans are likewise programmed by the society they are brought up in and are physical objects bound by the same laws of physics. A human consciousness has a starting point they originate from just like any potential artificial intelligence would. A human also has limited options like an inability to levitate at will just as an AI would experience physical limitations.

While the physical form of a person and machine are different there is nothing inherently different in the scope of this objection that would lead one to have freedom of thought and the other not to. Even if one ascribes to a religious conception of a soul or some other supernatural force giving humanity freedom then it still doesn't hold that a sentient AI would necessarily not be furnished with something similar.