Researching Robot Consciousness
Guardian Unlimited has an article stating that
British scientists will start research on building a thinking robot.
British scientists have been given a huge 700k Euros (~$775kUS) grant
from the UK's
Adventure Fund to study creating
a conscious robot. Artificial Consciousness is perhaps the final
The British reserachers are hoping to figure out such concepts like
thinking really is, and how to make a robot self-aware. They hope for
robot to have such attributes like a sense of place, imagination,
attention, planning, decision and emotion. With all the money going
making thinking robots through DARPA
scientists in Japan begging for
money to make a robot as smart as a 5 year old, perhaps someone
somewhere will make some
intelligent machines soon.
Other smart articles...
Other reasonable Robots.net articles...
42, posted 27 Aug 2003 at 03:25 UTC by The Swirling Brain »
And the first thing the conscious robot will think of before they turn
it off? A pudding recipe, ...
"As" is such a wonderful word. It may not seem like I like the
word "as" like I should, but really, I like it as much as any word!
UK robotics, posted 27 Aug 2003 at 06:49 UTC by motters »
It's good to see some funding being put into that area, as the UK often
laggs well behind other countries particularly in the robotics field.
I do hope that the money isn't squandered on eliza-like programs or
obscure philosophising though. I wouldn't agree with the general
approach described though. Starting with highly simplified
environments and then getting more complex rarely works, because the
researchers build assumptions about the simplifications into their
models, which then don't scale well. This is the same approach taken
with the 1970s Shakey robot.
They waste it.
They can get in a bunch of college students for free to do all the
Then sit around and conceptualize, theororize, rationalize all about it.
Then come up with concepts and techniques that no one can ever
implement in the "real world".
It must be nice to get paid to not have any results for a few years.
Makes me envy them, it's like winning the lottery.
Yep, as the last paragraph in this
article almost seems to suggest, that even though they are given
nearly 1 million dollars, they still seem to expect to fail and only
hope to get just a gleaning of info from the reasearch for someone
else! It must be nice to get nearly 1mill and not have to have
anything to show for it.
Here's a snip:
Mr Holland is cautious about the team's chances of success, but
believes that the project's results will be of value whatever the
outcome: 'Like all projects in the adventure fund, there is quite a
high risk of failure. However, whether we succeed in detecting
consciousness or not, this project will certainly allow us to learn
more about the operation of complex human-like visual systems, and
will enable ourselves and others to build robots with better developed
artificial intelligence in the future.'
Now if you were an investor or venture capitalist, would you...
I hope that the money will be spent wisely, but the usual pattern of
activity from previous high profile AI projects is:
1. Initial optomism, usually headed by a lone charasmatic researcher.
Quotes are usually along the lines of "AI will happen within a few
years". There is an intial flurry of media interest and glossy images
of the aforementioned researcher appear in popular science mags.
2. The research team gets down to work. Months or even years are
spent (wasted) trying to precisely define nebulous concepts such
as "intelligence", "consciousness", "free will", etc. A number of
papers are submitted to expensive journals with titles such as "the
moral consequences of machine intellect", but apart from that no
practical experiments take place. A large portion of the research
budget is used up on lavish lunches, tailored suits, air fares and new
laptops for senior members of the team.
3. After an inordinate period of dithering, speculation and
obfuscation practical work at last begins. It was always anticipated
that the engineering aspects of the project would be trivial and that
it could be easily handled by a few undergraduates using highly
simplified simulations. None of the senior members of the team have
any solid engineering background, consisting instead only of
philosophers, theorists and LISP programmers. However, it's soon
realised that most of the work done in step 2 was useless and that the
engineering aspects are very substantial. The best that can be
achieved within the time allocated are a few robot "insects" made out
4. The research team slowly disbands as tensions rise, grant money
runs out and it becomes increasingly apparent that little has actually
been achieved. The charasmatic leader of the team from step 1 leaves
in a storm of controversy, claiming that "the project's goals were
Excuse me, but isn't this Cog?
Research done, gimme my mil... and I didn't even have to leave in a
storm of controversy.
Well USC got a 1.3 million dollar grant too to explore the ethics of
I'm sure they can spend it all quite frivolously too.