For the first time in the history of robotics a scientist has succeeded in getting a robot to pass a self-awareness test, specifically the ‘wise-men puzzle’ test of self-awareness. In this test the robot scientist (or ‘roboticist’ for you logophiles) was able to show that the robot knows when it is speaking, marking the first time in history a robot has been able to pass a self-awareness test.
This marks the end of an era, an era in which humans were in control of robots. Just this month a robot murdered a human being in a VW plant in Germany, and a woman named Sarah O’Connor broke the news. Soooooooo yah, expect Skynet any day now.
The experiment was conducted at Ransselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. Using three robots, the roboticists informed the robots that 2 of the 3 had been given “dumbing pills” that would stop them from being able to talk. The robots were not aware which one was able to speak, as their abilities to speak were actually being controlled by the scientists pressing a button. When the robots were asked which one of them was the one with the ability to speak all of the robots attempted to say “I don’t know”, because they didn’t know up until that point which robot had not been given the “dumbing pill”. However, when one of the robots heard his voice saying “I don’t know” he stopped and said “Sorry, I know now! I was able to prove that I was not given a dumbing pill.” And thus marks the exact moment that robots officially began to take over the world.
This monumental experiment was published on the site newscientist.com, but the research is behind a wall requiring you to sign up (for free). The website HNGN.com has a pretty good recap of the study and the overall implications:
None of the robots knew which one was still able to speak, and when asked which one had the ability to speak, the robots all attempted to say “I don’t know.”
When only one of the robots actually made a noise, it recognized its voice and understood that it wasn’t silenced.
“Sorry, I know now!” the robot said. “I was able to prove that I was not given a dumbing pill.”
The robot then wrote a formal mathematical proof and saved it to its memory to prove that it comprehended what had happened.
As Tech Radar points out, all three off-the-shelf Nao robots were presumably coded the same, and therefore all had the capacity to pass the test.
While it may not seem like groundbreaking research into the ever-elusive subject of consciousness, one has to consider what it took for a robot to tackle logical puzzles requiring an element of self-awareness.
The bot first had to listen and understand the question “which pill did you receive?”, as being asked by a human. Then it had to hear its own voice saying “I don’t know,” and realize that it was hearing its own voice as being distinct from another robot. It then had to connect its ability to talk to conclude that it did not receive a silencing pill.
Selmer Bringsjord, who ran the test, said that after passing many tests of this kind, over time robots will amass a repertoire of human-like abilities that eventually become useful when combined.
I’ve been hitting the ‘robots’ beat pretty hard lately here on BroBible. Ever since the USA challenged Japan to a giant deadly robot fight I’ve been finding myself gravitating more and more to robotics content. So if any of you bros come across something cool in the field of robotics and it didn’t make it across my desk, hit me up with the link on Twitter and I’ll cover it here if it’s a good fit for the site!
And for any of you bros that are more knowledgeable on this subject than I, can you explain what this means as a step towards Artificial Intelligence, if anything? Comments down below! I’ll be waiting.