Machines have come a long way in the past few years. Engineers have developed robots that can navigate their environment based on the surrounding context, robots that can heal / repair themselves in just a few short minutes, and robots that can learn from their mistakes and improve future results.
And while Hollywood level artificial intelligence (AI) is still a long way from becoming a reality, little steps are being takes in that direction every day. The most recent achievement comes courtesy of professor Selmer Bringsjord from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who recorded video footage of a robot that waves and recognizes itself as an individual.
His self-aware experiment was conducted on three (3) commercially-available Nao robots. He programmed the machines to believe that two (2) of them were previously given a “dumbing pill” which would prevent them from speaking (of course, in reality, the professor only pressed a button that muted them).
All three (3) robots were then tasked with finding out which of them were unable to talk and which of them was able to talk. All of them wanted to answer “I don’t know”, but since only one (1) of them was actually able to make any sound, his voice was the only one he heard. He then waved his hand and said: “I know now. I was able to prove that I was not given a dumbing pill”.
Professor Bringsjord gave a statement informing the robot first needed to recognize the sound of his own voice in order to then use logic, prove that it understood the question, reach the above mentioned conclusion and pass the test.
The test itself was based on a classic philosophical problem known as “The King’s Wise Men” and addressed a very small but specific side of self-awareness. The philosophical scenario describes a king who has to decide who should be his next advisor. To do this he invites three (3) of the wisest men in his kingdom to compete in a contest, with the promise that it will be a fair one.
He informs them that he will be putting either a blue or a white hat on each of their hats, and that the color of each individual hat can be seen only by the men who are not wearing it. He then says that a least one of the three (3) is wearing a blue colored hat. The promise is that the first person to guess the color of the hat he’s wearing will become the king’s next adviser. The real answer is that they’re all wearing blue harts.
Professor Bringsjord is currently collaborating with the US Navy on a project that has the goal of teaching robots what’s considered right, what’s considered wrong, and what the difference between the two is.
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