One of the more interesting questions in philosophy and science fiction is whether or not machines possess consciousness.
When we consider that human consciousness is affected by our bodies and especially the biochemical currents running through of the brain, nervous system and organs, we’re compelled to ask if the organizational properties of a machine or electrical circuit could have a similar effect.
In other words, some wonder if “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” within the realm of man-made machines.
This may sound far-fetched to the contemporary scientific mind but several religious perspectives, especially within Asian and New Age traditions, believe that energy, itself, is conscious. Further to the idea that the degree of energy organization is linked to the degree of specialization within consciousness, one could imagine that a computer, when turned on, generates a more specialized kind of consciousness than that of a single electron or simple electric current.
Critics of this hypothesis say it represents mere projection—an observer wrongly imagines that his or her type of consciousness belongs to an external object.
Today, conventional science tends to use the term “AI” in reference to speech and character recognition. More recently, “digital seeing” links optics with computers so robots can identify shapes and navigate environments.
The idea of AI has been explored by numerous science-fiction writers, sometimes humorously and other times intelligently.
Many TV and film robots have become a part of Western pop culture—e.g. The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Robbie the Robot in Lost in Space, Hymie in Get Smart, Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars, Commander Data in Star Trek: TGN, The Terminator in the film of the same name, and the Cylons in BattleStar Galactica.
Science fiction also asks whether AI could possess not only intellectual consciousness, but emotions and a soul.
For more, check out Wikipedia’s detailed entry:
History (including Mythology) » http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence#History