The Strong AI Thesis was named by American philosopher John Searle (born 1931), to describe the belief that AI (artificial intelligence) may possess actual consciousness like that of a human being.
The idea is expressed as follows:
The appropriately programmed digital computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the sense that human beings have minds”¹
Searle, himself, rejects the Strong AI Thesis. He believes that computer intelligence simulates but doesn’t possess real thought, a position called “Weak AI.” His Chinese Room thought experiment gives us a compelling argument in support of his position.
Others believe that Strong AI isn’t too far-fetched, considering that human beings are, at least in part, made up of electrochemical interactions. If Strong AI is true, we can reduce idea down to the simplest levels and argue that even your refrigerator, toaster or iPad have some kind of unique electro-organizational consciousness that would distinguish them from, say, a pile of rocks.
These ideas are explored in many science fiction novels, TV-shows and films. One of the better treatments is found in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, where the line between humans and Cylons sometimes seems very thin.
¹ John Searle, 1998 in Dennett, Damiel C. Consciousness Explained, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991 p. 435.