I have a background in computer science. Back in the 1980s I studied artificial intelligence in my graduate studies, and was enchanted by the power of computers to create artificial worlds. Driven by curiosity and powerful new toys, we grad students were mini gods directing the behavior and creations of our minions, the computers. There was not a more proud parent than a robotics researcher seeing 'intelligent' behavior in these machines. But the machines didn't have human - like experience. Robotics researchers soon gave up on trying to recreate human - like intelligence, and started looking at insects, and 'lesser' forms of intelligence. But what were we really playing at? What is the relationship between consciousness and intelligence? What is the nature of the consciousness of natural life? What is the nature of consciousness of machines?
Let's start by deciding on what we will mean by the word consciousness. There are a lot of hypotheses, theories and opinions about what consciousness is, but the philosopher who has helped me understand the territory is Christian de Quincey. His book Radical Knowing describes his journey to understanding in both an intellectually rigorous and body-centered felt sense knowing that describes a powerful synthesis. Reading this book was a breakthrough for me to understand in an intellectually satisfying way what the epiphany I experienced in 1993 gave me in a felt-sense way.