Peter Godfrey-Smith argues that consciousness (or at least some form of sentience) may have arisen multiple times across different evolutionary paths. Perhaps consciousness is not a rare phenomenon, but one that will emerge for almost any system interacting with its world with a sufficient level of complexity. As we create AI that is better at interacting with the world (and with others in the world), it will likely also emerge there.
It is true that there is a common neural basis across the organisms Peter Godfrey-Smith talks about. Perhaps neurons are the key that makes consciousness relatively commonplace. This does not seem right to me. Given the diversity in brain types and layout between different animals, it makes more sense if the general properties of neurons are important, not the neurons in and of themselves.
Let us suppose we could go back in time to the origin of life on Earth, make a few minor changes to the state of the world, then replay the evolutionary process. It seems like it would be possible to have some playouts where neurons never appeared in their current form, yet, through some fast message-passing alternative, creatures thrived, created large population centres filled with social interaction, and eventually even made it to space. Neurons are so evolutionarily successful because of their efficient message-passing ability. An alternative, in a different evolutionary tree, on a world with different a chemical make-up, could still lead to intelligent organisms.
Heading into space requires the curiosity to travel to a place without abundant natural resources (at least immediately), the foresight to see the possible advantages, and the intelligence to break free from Earth's gravity. Intelligence, foresight and curiosity are all strongly related to consciousness and we want to recreate all of them in AI. Intelligence is obviously part of Artificial Intelligence; foresight and planning has clear advantages; and curiosity has recently shown promise as a way to learn about an environment without relying on rewards from pre-specified goals.