Researching Robot Consciousness

Posted 27 Aug 2003 at 03:11 UTC by The Swirling Brain Share This

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 frontier for robotics. The British reserachers are hoping to figure out such concepts like just what thinking really is, and how to make a robot self-aware. They hope for the robot to have such attributes like a sense of place, imagination, directed attention, planning, decision and emotion. With all the money going out for making thinking robots through DARPA and 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.

42, posted 27 Aug 2003 at 03:25 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

And the first thing the conscious robot will think of before they turn it off? A pudding recipe, ...

I like the word "as", posted 27 Aug 2003 at 03:32 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

"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! Like really!

UK robotics, posted 27 Aug 2003 at 06:49 UTC by motters » (Master)

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.

It'll be squandered, posted 27 Aug 2003 at 14:09 UTC by earlwb » (Master)

They waste it. They can get in a bunch of college students for free to do all the dirty work. 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.

They expect to fail!, posted 27 Aug 2003 at 15:46 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

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...

The typical pattern, posted 27 Aug 2003 at 22:30 UTC by motters » (Master)

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 of mechano.

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 overly ambitious".

Wait I know this one, posted 28 Aug 2003 at 10:38 UTC by ROB.T. » (Master)

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 the British aren't the only ones...., posted 4 Sep 2003 at 21:38 UTC by earlwb » (Master)

Well USC got a 1.3 million dollar grant too to explore the ethics of nanotechnology. tmpl=story&cid=624&ncid=753&e=10&u=/ap/20030904/ap_on_sc/nanoscience_gra nt

I'm sure they can spend it all quite frivolously too.

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