The systems of the body are not autonomous in and of themselves, but they permit autonomy of the larger system. Autonomy is both an attribute of the systems and a product of the systems. The heart pumps. The frame is maintained, and the suspended musculature remains cohesive. Cells beget cells, those cells beget cells; they replicate until they break down and die. The organism is self-sufficient and self-perpetuating. Consume, metabolize, procreate. Consume, metabolize, procreate.
The systems interface with each other. Every nerve weaves in and out and through; blood cells and antibodies; adrenaline, serotonin, oxytocin, testosterone, estrogen, cortisol. Metabolism. Blood. Digestion. Breathing. Osmosis.
The systems are a subset of the larger system (the body.) Perception is a product of the larger system itself, but it is not an attribute of the system. Sensory perception is emergent, it is not inherent. It is the product of trillions of interfaces within the system, all of which are autonomous in and of themselves. A mouse possesses these interfaces, as does a fly, a flea, a reptile. There are larger systems (that is, a system that is the aggregate of systems) that lack that interface; slime molds, fungi, plants, etcetera. There are probably better examples. Though some of those systems can be said to lack “systems of the body”, they are still complex, and still have many systems in and of themselves. But that’s a digression for another post. Perception is emergent from the interface between specific subsets of the larger system (systems of the body).
Perception is awareness of the environment. I am aware of my environment and I can interact with it. It is biological; an instinct; a simple knowing. A rabbit does not think "I am aware of my environment". It simply is.
Perception begets awareness, but awareness is not universal among systems with perception. A tapeworm possesses perception but not awareness, but a tapeworm possesses the skeleton of the requisite interface for perception. Therefore, perception does not equate to awareness. Awareness is a development of perception. The more sophisticated the requisite interface, the more sophisticated the perception. The more sophisticated the perception, the greater capacity for awareness. A tapeworm does not have nearly as many neurons firing as is needed for sophisticated perception, therefore, it lacks awareness.
Awareness is the ability to have abstract thoughts and ideas that are about things not necessarily immediately present; it is the capacity to process beyond simple reactivity. (Even if the system's mode of operation is primarily reactive. The extant possession of awareness does not have to be acute.
Perception and awareness, of course, intersect, as awareness is not a subset of possession so much as a development of its bones. The fact that perception is a pre-requisite for awareness does not make awareness a subset of perception.
Perceptual awareness is the ability to have abstract thoughts and be cognizant of things on a deeper level of thought, even if those things are (or are not) in your immediate environment -- as opposed to simply awareness of the presence of the thing itself.
Perceptual awareness allows for the expansion of awareness through interface with another awareness. Dialogue. Correspondence. Communication. Sharing experiences.
Such interface is emergent of awareness (and of perceptual awareness, for that matter). It is not a property of the larger system of systems (the body); the interface is an expansion between systems; more specifically, the expansion through interface between awareness with awareness. It is not of the system. It is between systems.
A system’s ability to expand its awareness is limited to the extent of its perception. Someone blind from birth simply cannot cognize visual information regardless of how much interface they have with an awareness that can. A person who has never eaten anything with basil can’t cognize the flavor of basil regardless of the extent to which they dialogue with a person who has. The extent of perception is the limit to cognizance. Cognizance is not a property of the system; it is a capacity of the system. The interface is not the thing itself.
“Will we ever create sapient systems?” is not a valid question. Sapient is too vague, subjective, contentious, open to interpretation, etc. “Will we ever create systems capable of perceptually-aware interface?” is the correct question. Will we create a system able to expand its awareness through interface with awareness to the extent that the human system can? Until we treat system design with that mentality, we will not create a 'sapient' system. We have already created systems with low-level perceptual awareness, and we have already created interface between systems. We simply have not created interface with awareness itself. We’re coming closer. Will we ever do it? Maybe. Probably not half as soon as many think we will.
Intelligence is both a capacity and a property of the system; any system capable of the interface between awareness with awareness is necessarily intelligent. It has the capacity and agency to use abstraction of thought to develop their environment, and the capacity to cause developments through interface.
The developing intelligence and expansion of the interface is dynamic. Shifting. Shrinking. Expanding. Contracting. Breathing. Development of intelligence is development of actualization. To actualize is to Become, to Become is the completion of the individual, the expansion of the interface is reconstitution.