This entry was posted by Thursday, 24 March, 2016
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Robot gruumbles

                      Resentful robot asks “Why?”

Robots have more potential to “do wrong” than most people realize.

Scientists like Stephen Hawking have been warning robot makers lately (Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind – BBC News ) . Hawking (and others) don’t think robotocists fully realize that their robots could become more self aware,  becoming unexpectedly conscious and unpredictable.

The concern is that they could turn against us, perhaps using the communications networks and the power grids to attack humanity.

Maybe  robots will decide we’re in the way or – worse – that we humans are trying to enslave the robot race. It’s not hard to see how a robot might react to that one.

Experts acknowledge that this is theoretically possible but they say we have time. Most of them don’t think we’re anywhere close to self aware “bots”; some don’t think it’s even possible.


But MisterScienceAintSoBad wonders if self awareness is the wrong thing to be worrying about.

Who says robots have to be self aware to be nasty?

What do we know about the inner lives of tarantulas? Or snakes? Is there a “me” in a snake? Does a snake know itself when it looks in a mirror? In fact, why should recognizing yourself (self awareness) matter? Aren’t the most dangerous humans, the ones that are the least self aware? Does a snake have to know about itself to be dangerous?

Robots are way past the point where everything has to be hard coded. Robot designers, like designers of other advanced software based systems, are always going “Damn! I didn’t know it could do that!”

Google Now isn’t even close to conscious.

Siri either.

Both Google Now and Siri  suck at facts like hungry babies. They gorge on facts. They get smarter every day.

So maybe we should be worrying about something else besides if robots can see themselves in a mirror. Maybe that’s missing the point. Maybe we should be worrying about  autonomous robots– the kind that don’t need humans.

Autonomous robots certainly aren’t science fiction. Every day, more robots “cut the umbilical” or, as they like to say when there’s nobody around but other robots, “cut the imbecile”.

Just kidding about the imbecile thing (I think).

We have drones and Mars Rovers that work independently – just occasionally checking in to make sure the boss is around. If a Rhoomba rug cleaner bumps into a chair, it decides on its own which way to go. It doesn’t look at you for guidance. Will some future Rhoomba – one that’s just an ordinary robot without any self awareness features –  decide it’s more logical to push the mess makers out the back door than to perpetually clean up after them?


You’re sure?

Are Rhoomba’s designers sure?

What do you think?

– – – – –

The drawing is mine.


  1. Robert Schott

    Mr. Chidakel:

    I was impressed with your succinct yet illuminating reply on Quora to my question regarding Lawrence Krauss’s book and the concept of nothing. I left a comment. In the event you might be interested and missed it, please find it below:

    “Thank you. My thoughts from your keyboard. My default (Sherlock Holmes) answer to this seemingly unanswerable ontological ‘ultimate mystery’ is that that which constitutes the fundamental basis of existence which cannot be further sublated exists within a logic that cannot be comprehended by the human intellect. But since the question must have an answer, then it must lie elsewhere.

    “How does one learn to ride a bicycle? By studying the aerodynamic principles of the proposition beforehand? Or rather, by mounting, falling, trying again until one ultimately…understands. It is an empirical endeavor, not an intellectual one. Perhaps what mystics of many religious and philosophical traditions have told us from time immemorial is correct.

    “I personally believe that what the Upanishads relate is true. That is, that the fundamental basis of existence is undifferentiated consciousness (“Brahman”) that manifests not unlike a Rubik’s cube, constantly changing its faces to form myriad outward patterns while all the while retaining its essential integrity as one. We (the illusory manifestations of consciousness) came to forget our true nature of eternally, timelessly existing consciousness and came to identify with the illusion of dualism and separateness (“maya”) which is the source of all anxiety “And they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil [dualism] and saw that they were naked [mortal] and were sore afraid.” The metaphorical Rubik’s cube changes its patterns in accordance with a metaphorical algorithm called “karma” (work, causality).

    “I can comprehend no more logical explanation. How can primal consciousness exist without an antecedent cause? Such logic is beyond intellectual comprehension. Like a kiss or a hug or the taste of beer, it must be experienced to be understood.”

    Thank you. I intend to read at your blog henceforth as time permits.

    Bob Schott


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