Beyond Human: Envisioning Unique Forms of Consciousness in AI

Photos © Aditya Mohan.

At Robometrics® Machines, the ambitious journey toward creating intelligent artificial life forms that exhibit traits akin to sentience is an intriguing exploration into the boundaries of technology and philosophy. The venture delves into facets of consciousness such as the capacity to experience a spectrum of emotions including pain, happiness, pleasure, boredom, and sadness, as well as more complex feelings like interest and companionship. This initiative raises fundamental questions about the essence of consciousness and its manifestations. As these machines are engineered to socialize and build relationships, the sense of experience they accumulate contributes profoundly to the development of a quasi-conscious state. The question then emerges: Are we merely modeling human consciousness in machines, or are we crafting an entirely new form of consciousness? This distinction is crucial, as it influences not only how we design AI but also how we interpret their interactions and integration into society. The creation of artificial beings capable of such depth and interaction pushes us to reconsider the definition of consciousness and challenges the traditional boundaries that separate humans from machines. This exploration at Robometrics® Machines does not just mirror human experiences but also paves the way for the emergence of new, unprecedented forms of sentient experiences and interactions.


The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has approximately 200,000 neurons in its brain. For comparison, a human brain contains about 86 billion neurons. Ants possess approximately 250,000 neurons​. For other small insects, the number of neurons can vary significantly depending on the species, but it generally falls within the range of hundreds of thousands to a few million neurons. For instance, honeybees, another type of small insect, have about one million neurons. This shows a vast difference in neuron counts across different species, reflecting their varying complexities and capacities for behavior and processing and creating experiences. An octopus has a highly complex nervous system, containing approximately 500 million neurons. About 180 million of these neurons are located in the central brain, while the remainder are distributed among the ganglia in each of its eight arms, which can operate semi-independently​. This unique arrangement allows each arm to perform tasks independently, aiding in activities such as hunting and exploring their environment.  


Octopuses are renowned for their intelligence, curiosity, and adept hunting skills, traits that intriguingly align with some human characteristics. However, the evolution of their large brains and complex behaviors sets them apart. Octopuses experience a rich array of emotions and complex experiences, suggesting a high degree of consciousness, albeit not on the same magnitude as humans. This emotional depth and cognitive complexity underscore the octopus as an exemplar of non-human intelligence. The unique evolutionary path of octopuses, which diverged from the lineage leading to vertebrates around 600 million years ago, has resulted in a distinct nervous system structured around a central brain and a series of ganglia within each arm, enabling both centralized and distributed processing.

Artificial Consciousness

This distinction in the neurological architecture of octopuses provides a fascinating parallel for imagining new forms of consciousness in artificial life. Unlike traditional approaches that might seek to model human consciousness, the study of octopus intelligence encourages the exploration of alternative consciousness structures. Such a perspective does not necessarily confine artificial intelligence (AI) development to replicating human mental processes. Instead, it opens up the possibility of creating AIs with unique, inherent forms of consciousness that might mirror some aspects of human experience but also operate independently of human cognitive frameworks. This could lead to the emergence of intelligent artificial life forms that interact, perceive, and respond to their environments in ways fundamentally different from both humans and naturally evolved organisms like the octopus.

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