How to make a Sentient Toaster
If you are into AI and/or Technology it seems that every week there is a new and groundbreaking Neural Network architecture or AI paper, some even come with amazing demos or new startups using said tech and while all this is wonderful we still don’t have a sentient/conscious AI.
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As a researcher in the topic I believe in attacking the unknown from various angles and so this is a mostly lighthearted look at the requirements for sentience applied to the humble toaster.
Sentience vs Consciousness : Both terms are used interchangeably but there is disagreement and variety on the actual definition of either, to some sentience is the capacity to experience feelings and sensations while consciousness is the awareness of internal and external existence but you could mix and match these terms and still have a valid (or invalid !) definition for either, these are also fairly shallow definitions but we can use them and add to them as we go along...
A Sensational toaster
The first thing we would need is for our toaster to sense the environment as this is the bedrock of sentience ( we start sensing in the womb) and opens our first can of worms, what should our toaster be able to sense ? We humans are very visual beings (about half of our cortex is devoted to visual tasks) but just to be on the safe side let’s also give our toaster other senses like hearing, temperature ( probably important for a toaster ) and smell, why not.
If only my toaster had a brain
We would also need a place to plug in all this sensors, so some form of electronic brain would be handy.