Self-aware robots with deadly intentions are a staple in sci-fi films.
Now scientists have proved a robot can show a glimmer of consciousness – but luckily this android is polite.
In an experiment a small humanoid solved a philosophical problem to demonstrate it could understand a question and then recognise its own voice.
Scientists at The Rensselaer AI and Reasoning Lab (Rair) in New York, led by Professor Selmer Bringsjord, conducted an experiment on three Nao robots, which are commonly used in research projects.
They were programmed to think two of the group had been given ‘dumbing pills’ to prevent them from speaking, while one had been given a placebo, PopSci reported.
In practice, this meant that mute buttons were pushed on two robots, leaving one able to speak.
But the robots didn’t know which one of them had retained the ability to speak.
The group of androids was asked which two had been given the pills.
While all of them tried to answer, only one was able to respond aloud by saying ‘I don’t know’.
It seemed to take a while to consider the question, before standing up and answering.
The robot that spoke recognised its own voice and said: ‘Sorry, I know now.
‘I was able to prove that I was not given a dumbing pill.’
Its response demonstrates a basic level of self-awareness … as well as good manners.
The test also shows that the robot could understand a question as well as demonstrate reasoning and recognise its own voice.
If this research is anything to go by, it may be that the first fully conscious bots will be more like Star Wars’ C-3PO than The Terminator.
Professor Bringsjord will present the findings of his research at RO-MAN, a robotics and artificial consciousness conference in Japan that begins in late August.