Is consciousness a requirement for super-intelligence?
In this article originally titled Extraterrestrials May Be Robots Without Consciousness, Susan Schneider questions the necessity for a super-intelligent being to have consciousness the way we understand it today (emphasis mine).
Further, it may be more efficient for a self-improving superintelligence to eliminate consciousness. Think about how consciousness works in the human case. Only a small percentage of human mental processing is accessible to the conscious mind. Consciousness is correlated with novel learning tasks that require attention and focus. A superintelligence would possess expert-level knowledge in every domain, with rapid-fire computations ranging over vast databases that could include the entire Internet and ultimately encompass an entire galaxy. What would be novel to it? What would require slow, deliberative focus? Wouldn’t it have mastered everything already? Like an experienced driver on a familiar road, it could rely on nonconscious processing. The simple consideration of efficiency suggests, depressingly, that the most intelligent systems will not be conscious. On cosmological scales, consciousness may be a blip, a momentary flowering of experience before the universe reverts to mindlessness. —Susan Schneider, It May Not Feel Like Anything To Be an Alien
If you want to hear more from Schneider, check out her TED talk titled Can A Robot Feel? (I see a theme starting to appear here).