A central tenet of "SYMBIOSIS" is the utter futility of trying to replicate human consciousness in computers as we currently understand them (you know - 1's and 0's, sequential execution of discrete instructions, etc.). In the series introduction a brilliant cyberneticist, Dr. Irwin Jacobs, comes to realize this in the year 2047 and sets out on a new path, i.e. to replicate the function of the brain through the development of an organic "neural array". The rest, shall we say, is history.
Now I'm not a cyberneticist, an artificial intelligence expert nor, for that fact, any sort of computer scientist. What I am is, or was in a former life, a professional computer programmer, someone who has a pretty fair understanding of how computers operate and how they do what they do. And very early in my career I began to doubt the common assumption that someday computers would become so "smart" that they would in fact be sentient. Somehow, I was unable to envision the code or algorithms that would do that.
Chalking it up at first to my own lack of knowledge (as I said earlier, I'm not a computer scientist), the more I read and thought about it the more convinced I became: it just wasn't going to happen like that. Yet, as a life-long science fiction nut I never doubted that one day we would indeed be confronted with "intelligent machines". Enter the "organic neural array", the device at the heart of the non human (or "artificial") sentient beings in "SYMBIOSIS".
While I believed I was on the right track, I lacked the credentials to make a credible argument for my point of view. I always labored under the threat that someday someone would make a breakthrough that proved me utterly and stupidly wrong. Imagine therefore, my joy upon stumbling across an interview with a renown scientist in the Singularity Weblog - someone with the appropriate credentials who dared to challenge the current orthodoxy regarding "artificial intelligence".
His name is Dr. Stuart Hameroff, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, and in an hour interview he goes into many of the reasons why computers cannot be programmed into sentience. Chief among these is his belief that consciousness is so much more than the result of billions of neurons switching, signaling and establishing connections. In the interview he posits, "Assuming that a neuron is a bit-like [computer] firing ON or OFF is a tremendous insult to neurons." Ahhh, music to my ears...
The full interview can be viewed here:
and is well worth your time. For more information on Dr. Hameroff and his views see his website:
I heartily commend both of these to your attention. After viewing/reading them you just might come away with a new concept of "artificial intelligence", to say nothing of a new appreciation for some of the concepts expressed in "SYMBIOSIS".