FROM C-3PO of Star Wars to Wall-E, the sentient garbage collector, the prevalence of conscious machines in the stories we tell seems to reflect humanity's deep desire to turn creator and design an artificial intelligence.
It might seem as if we stand little chance of making an artificial consciousness when the natural variety remains such an enigma. But in fact the quest for machine consciousness may be key to solving the mystery of human consciousness, as even scientists outside AI research are starting to acknowledge. "The best way of understanding something is to try and replicate it," says psychologist Kevin O'Regan of Descartes University in Paris, France. "So if you want to understand what consciousness is, well make a machine that's conscious.