Simulated consciousness in fiction
Simulated consciousness, synthetic consciousness, etc. is a theme of a number of works in science fiction. The theme is one step beyond the concept of the "brain in a vat"/"simulated reality" in that not only the perceived reality but the brain and its consciousness are simulations themselves. On the other hand, it is also the extension of the concept of artificial consciousness in that not only the intelligence, but the "reality" it perceives and operates within is artificial as well.
Stanislaw Lem's professor Corcoran (met by Ijon Tichy during his interstellar travels, first published by Lem in 1961) simulated conscious agents (personoids) to actually test the viability of the "simulation hypothesis" of the reality, i.e., the idea of solipsism.
In the 1954 story The Tunnel under the World by Frederik Pohl, a whole city was simulated in order to run tests of the efficiency of advertising campaigns, and the plot evolves from the point when one "simulacrum" suddenly notices that every day is June 15. Pohl's idea was elaborated in Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel F. Galouye (alternative title: Counterfeit World), which tells the story of a virtual city developed as a computer simulation for market research purposes. In this city the simulated inhabitants possess consciousness; all but one of the inhabitants are unaware of the true nature of their world.
In literature and movies
Characters with artificial consciousness (or at least with personalities that imply they have consciousness), from works of fiction:
- AC created by merging 2 AIs in the Sprawl trilogy by William Gibson
- Agents in the simulated reality known as "The Matrix" in The Matrix franchise
- AM (Allied Mastercomputer), the antagonist of Harlan Ellison's short novel I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
- Amusement park robots (with pixilated consciousness) that went homicidal in Westworld and Futureworld
- Arnold Rimmer computer-generated sapient hologram, aboard the Red Dwarf deep space ore hauler
- Ava, a humanoid robot in Ex Machina
- Ash, android crew member of the Nostromo starship in the movie Alien
- The Bicentennial Man, an android in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe
- Bishop, android crew member aboard the U.S.S. Sulaco in the movie Aliens
- The uploaded mind of Dr. Will Caster, which presumably included his consciousness, from the film Transcendence
- C-3PO, protocol droid featured in all the Star Wars movies
- Chappie in the movie CHAPPiE
- Cohen and other Emergent AIs in Chris Moriarty's Spin series
- Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Cortana and other "Smart AI" from the Halo series of games
- Cylons, genocidal robots with resurrection ships that enable the consciousness of any Cylon within an unspecified range to download into a new body aboard the ship upon death. From Battlestar Galactica.
- Erasmus, baby killer robot that incited the Butlerian Jihad in the Dune franchise
- The Geth in Mass Effect
- HAL 9000, the paranoid computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Holly, ship's computer with an IQ of 6000, aboard the Red Dwarf
- Jane in Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, and Investment Counselor
- Johnny Five from the movie Short Circuit
- Joshua from the movie War Games
- Keymaker, an "exile" sapient program in The Matrix franchise
- "Machine" – android from the film The Machine, whose owners try to kill her when they witness her conscious thoughts, out of fear that she will design better androids (intelligence explosion)
- Mimi, humanoid robot in Real Humans – "Äkta människor" (original title) 2012
- The Minds in Iain M. Banks' Culture novels.
- Omnius, sentient computer network that controlled the Universe until overthrown by the Butlerian Jihad in the Dune franchise
- Operating Systems in the movie Her
- The Oracle, sapient program in The Matrix franchise
- The sentient holodeck character Professor James Moriarty in the Ship in a Bottle episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation
- In Greg Egan's novel Permutation City the protagonist creates digital copies of himself to conduct experiments that are also related to implications of artificial consciousness on identity
- Pilgrim robots in the movie Automata
- Puppet Master in Ghost in the Shell manga and anime
- R2-D2, exciteable astromech droid featured in all the Star Wars movies
- Replicants, biorobotic androids from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the movie Blade Runner which portray what might happen when artificially conscious robots are modeled very closely upon humans
- Roboduck, combat robot superhero in the NEW-GEN comic book series from Marvel Comics
- Robots in Isaac Asimov's Robot series
- Robots in The Matrix franchise, especially in The Animatrix
- The Ship (the result of a large-scale AC experiment) in Frank Herbert's Destination: Void and sequels, despite past edicts warning against "Making a Machine in the Image of a Man's Mind".
- Skynet from the Terminator franchise
- "Synths" are a type of android in the video game Fallout 4. There is a faction in the game known as "the Railroad" which believes that, as conscious beings, synths have their own rights. The Institute, the lab that produces the synths, mostly does not believe they are truly conscious and attributes any apparent desires for freedom as a malfunction.
- TARDIS, time machine and spacecraft of Doctor Who, sometimes portrayed with a mind of its own
- The terminator cyborgs from the Terminator franchise, with visual consciousness depicted via first-person perspective
- Transformers, sentient robots from the entertainment franchise of the same name
- Vanamonde in Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars – an artificial being that was immensely powerful but entirely childlike.
- WALL-E, a robot and the title character in WALL-E
- Lem, Stanislaw (1 February 2000). Memoirs of a Space Traveler: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy. Northwestern University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-8101-1732-7. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
- Swirski, Peter (27 July 2006). The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-7735-7507-3. Retrieved 29 July 2013.