Everything you think, feel, or do can be coded and then replicated by an AI. The only question is when.

Algorithms are a set of values or instructions that yield the same outcome when applied in the same context. This and that combined in so-and-so way in this specific circumstance will always result in a specific something.

Math problems are solved by the simplest algorithms because their contexts are abstract (astrophysics notwithstanding). 1 added to 1 always equals 2 whether you’re dropping apples into a bag, counting birds flying over a mountain, or simply thinking about numbers in your head.

More broadly, every lived moment is no different from a math solution in that they’re similarly the results of a series of factors. It’s just that the litany and interaction of those factors or actions can get very complicated and nuanced.

Things don’t happen without causes.

You are driving and recognize a stop sign ahead. But how? Because you’ve seen them before, from multiple angles, so you recognize the shape and color; you were taught to read, so you recognize the symbols printed on it; and you were taught in driver’s ed what it means.

You laugh at a joke. Why? Because it triggers a long series of prior life experiences (inputs) and visceral responses that lead to them. Hear the joke in a different context — you’re not talking to a friend on your phone but sitting in a loud, crowded restaurant, or you’re a little more tired or preoccupied, or it’s just a minute later — and it’s not funny because it triggers a different algorithm.

You decide on the spur of the moment to go out to dinner. Is it really a novel surprise? Nope, you can work backwards to the steps that led you to that conclusion. You’re just not conscious of that pathway, but it’s there.

Algorithms are recipes attached to the environment in which they’re actuated.

The handful of steps in the recipe for making pasta get adapted to the environment in which they’re followed (factors like higher elevations, water impurities, and personal taste change their execution).

The steps involved in the algorithm for feeling sad or choosing a new job are many, as are variables like, place, and biology.

But they’re there. The only challenge is determining them.

Algorithms are behind everything.

This is why the developers and financiers behind AI are so excited. Combine compute power with vast amounts of data and there’s no reason why machines couldn’t do pretty much anything that you do. They just have to learn all the different circumstances in which “this” leads to “that.”

They’ve already solved the algorithms for loads of things and put AI to work in cars, homes, and factories. People are already losing their jobs to machines. We’ll see loads more get fired this year.

The talk about AI gaining consciousness is irrelevant to these outcomes. An AI doesn’t have to be conscious like us to act like us. It just needs to understand our behaviors, and for that it can study the code of our experiences.

And, maybe there’s a consciousness algorithm just waiting to be patched together. Or maybe the coding that allows the latest iterations of generative AI to mimic it is the same thing as possessing it.

Maybe we’re all just fooling ourselves into believing that we’re something more than machines, albeit incredibly complex and self-entitled ones?

There’s an algorithm that led me to that conclusion.

[This essay appeared originally at Spiritual Telegraph]