We define consciousness or sentience as specified in Representational Qualia Theory :
Computationally bound elemental qualities like redness, greenness, warmth.
This image illustrates the difference.
System R represents and computes with abstract information, which isn't like anything. The other systems compute and represent information directly on intrinsic qualities like redness and greenness. While system R can be programmed to behave as if it feels pain, programmed behavior is very different from behavior due to real pain. We would have no problem turning off an abstract system, and believe they should have no rights, since they are not phenomenally sentient, or not like anything.
We believe once physicists connect the objective with the subjective by discovering things like which of all our descriptions of stuff in the brain is a description of redness, and how our brain computes with qualities like this, we will then be able to endow abstract systems with the same. Once they experience subjective redness, they will finally know the meaning of an abstract term like redness and be able to say something like: "Oh THAT is what redness is like." We will then consider such artificial phenomenal system to be phenomenally sentient. And we look forward to the time when we can similarly re-engineer our own sentience to be abel to experience and computer with new qualities, and so on.