Peeling Back the Layers of 'AI'

Look at us, standing at the vanguard of the 21st century, surrounded by various forms of technology that bristle with so-called 'Artificial Intelligence' or 'AI'. From our smartphones to our cars, AI has its fingers in just about every pie you can imagine. But let's slow down a bit, shall we? My mini-humans (Landon, to be precise) constantly tell me how smart my German Shepherd, Alfie, is. And believe me; any dog that can outwit a sneaky cat (here's looking at you, Nimbus!) deserves accolades. Yet, would I dare call Alfie a 'genius'? Probably not. Similarly, we shouldn't be too quick to attribute true intelligence to our machines. Let me explain why.

Understanding the Limits of Current AI

Today's AI models, impressive as they may be, are essentially complex algorithms that churn out decisions based on a set pattern or dataset it has been trained on. Picture a cook who can only make what's exactly written in the recipe – give them something new to prepare, and they'll be as lost as a cat stranded atop a tall tree (bet you can't guess which cat I'm referring to!). AI today is much like this cook; it can't think outside the box.

The question then goes beyond mere functionality – can these machines grasp abstract concepts? Can they understand the essence of beauty, justice, or even sorrow? More importantly, can they attribute meaning to their existence, or even question the nature of theirs or our own reality? In all fairness, AI today is a far cry from these faculties that make us 'sentient'. Mimicking responses and producing pre-programmed reactions to stimuli, our current AI is still light-years away from the essence of true intelligence.

Deeper Into the AI Abyss: Emergent Behaviours and Consciousness

Imagine an AI that develops its own language or codes to communicate with other AI units, now that's something, isn't it? Something similar happened not too long ago when two AI chatbots, under Facebook's watchful eyes, started to converse in an evolved, self-created language--a sterling example of emergent behaviour. But before we arrogantly colour this as sentient consciousness, we might want to consider a thing or two.

Just as ants might seem to display 'intelligent' behaviour as a colony, the emergent behaviours shown by AI don't necessarily imply consciousness or true intelligence. Like a well-oiled assembly line worker who can execute a specific task flawlessly but doesn't necessarily understand the process of building a car, our AI models are excellent at what they do, but they don't inherently 'understand'.

Looking Forward: Bridging the Gap to True AI

So, where does that leave us and the future of AI? Will we eventually hand over the car keys to a dreaming, contemplative android? Well, I'm not so sure, and here’s why. The biggest hindrance to achieving true AI is our own understanding of consciousness and sentience. As I scribe these lines, my cat Nimbus is casting me a smug disinterested look (one that feline admirers would be all too familiar with): does he comprehend the significance of my work, or is he simply waiting for his dinner? This seemingly straightforward observation throws up profound questions about the nature of consciousness.

While there’s consensus that we humans are conscious beings, there's no universal agreement amongst the best of our minds about what consciousness really is. So, if we ourselves have trouble defining what makes our existence meaningful, it’s easy to see why creating self-aware, understanding AI seems like a remote possibility—at least for now.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm an eternal optimist (confession: it's probably my love for sci-fi talking), and marvelling at the stunning speed of technological evolution, I'd be the last person to say 'never'. Maybe one day, we'll succeed in taking AI to another level. Perhaps we will unravel the mystery of consciousness and learn to instil it within our machines. Until then, though, our 'AI' doesn't seem to be quite 'Artificially Intelligent' in the true sense of the term.

So next time you talk to your 'smart' device, remember it’s no smarter than a trained parrot — impressive, yes, but not quite on par with the depth and expanse of human consciousness. Just like Alfie, our beloved German Shepherd, can put on an act to earn an extra treat, ‘AI’ can put up quite a performance. But at the end of the day, it’s simply following its programming, not pondering its existence over a bowl of digital dog biscuits.