I have an essay in Aeon magazine on the possibility that machines might become conscious without our realizing it and possible ways to test for that. A huge variety of physiological and behavioral tests of consciousness might be adapted to machines, and Spanish AI researcher Raúl Arrabales Moreno and his colleagues have systematized them as a 12-level scale of consciousness. They have an online calculator that you can use to rank putative conscious beings.


LevelExplanationAnimal ExampleHuman Age EquivalentMachine Example
–1DisembodiedBlends into environmentMolecule
0IsolatedHas a body, but no functionsInert chromosomeStuffed animal
1DecontrolledHas sensors and actuators, but is inactiveCorpsePowered-down computer
2ReactiveHas fixed responsesVirusEmbryo to 1 monthELIZA
3AdaptiveLearns new reactionsEarthworm1–4 monthsSmart thermostat
4AttentionalFocuses selectively, learns by trial-and-error, and
forms positive and negative associations (primitive emotions)
Fish4–8 monthsCRONOS robot
5ExecutiveSelects goals, acts to achieve them, and assesses
its own condition
Octupus8–12 monthsCog
6EmotionalHas a range of emotions, body schema, and minimal
theory of mind
Monkey12–18 monthsHaikonen architecture (partly implemented by XCR-1
7Self-ConsciousKnows that it knows (higher-order thought) and
passes the mirror test
Magpie18–24 monthsNexus-6 (Do Androids Dream of
Electric Sheep?
8EmpathicConceives of others as selves and adjusts how it
presents itself
Chimpanzee2–7 yearsHAL 9000 (2001)
9SocialHas full theory of mind, talks, and can lieHuman7–11 yearsAva (Ex Machina)
10HumanPasses the Turing Test and creates cumulative
Human12+ yearsSix (Battlestar Galactica)
11Super-ConsciousCoordinates multiple streams of consciousnessBene Gesserit (Dune)augmentedSamantha (Her)