One of the biggest problems in advancing our ideas about the universe is thinking ‘outside the box’, to use a hideous management term. Imagination is just as important to a great thinker as mathematical and scientific proficiency; as was the case with Einstein, it is often the crucial difference between brilliance and genius. I believe the reason is, that so often our greatest collective asset the “Human Experience” is also what sometimes holds us back: clouding our judgment and throwing us off with earthly, animal thinking.
Take, for example, the early explanations of the night sky. Invariably the world was the center of the universe, the stars were generally hung up around us and span around the earth, along with the sun, moon and other stellar bodies. We laugh now, but if you look at it from our point of view, it’s clear why this was believed for millenia. It took a lot of objective analysis for us to even begin figuring out what it really was. Likewise, I think there’s a lot of problems being mulled over today that would be of great amusement to even laymen of the distant future.
So where does Artificial Intelligence come into this? At very least, as a supplement. When AI becomes sufficiently sophisticated, I see no reason why it wouldn’t ponder on things or indeed be designed to. Would it be possible to apply a brute force algorithm to the great fundamental questions, like what causes consciousness or does free will actually exist?
If nothing else, AI would be free of one major constraint; when humans, deep down, know the path to the answer but are afraid of it.