What does being self-aware mean? Do we have self-aware robots? Both of these are key questions in the field of artificial intelligence, and questions that will be covered in this article. I will also explain the difference between a robot and AI, what self-awareness is, and some examples of self-awareness in robots. Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are two separate fields of engineering; a robot is a machine, whereas an AI is a program.
A robot able to'imagine' itself has been created in a step towards the self-aware robots envisioned in the Terminator movies. Skynet and other sci-fi machines are able to learn and decipher from scratch but real-world robots have yet to master this art. Now, scientists have managed to create a machine that can learn without prior programming via'deep learning'. After an initial 24 hours of behaving like a'babbling infant' it was able to grasp objects from specific locations and drop them with 100 per cent accuracy thanks to 35 hours of training. Even when relying entirely on its internal self model - the machine's'imagination' - the robot was able to complete the pick-and-place task with a 44 per cent success rate.
"I want to meet, in my lifetime, an alien species," said Hod Lipson, a roboticist who runs the Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University. "I want to meet something that is intelligent and not human." But instead of waiting for such beings to arrive, Lipson wants to build them himself -- in the form of self-aware machines. To that end, Lipson openly confronts a slippery concept -- consciousness -- that often feels verboten among his colleagues. "We used to refer to consciousness as'the C-word' in robotics and AI circles, because we're not allowed to touch that topic," he said.
Robots might one day trace the origin of their consciousness to recent experiments aimed at instilling them with the ability to reflect on their own thinking. Although granting machines self-awareness might seem more like the stuff of science fiction than science, there are solid practical reasons for doing so, explains roboticist Hod Lipson at Cornell University's Computational Synthesis Laboratory. "The greatest challenge for robots today is figuring out how to adapt to new situations," he says. "There are millions of robots out there, mostly in factories, and if everything is in the right place at the right time for them, they are superhuman in their precision, in their power, in their speed, in their ability to work repetitively 24/7 in hazardous environments--but if a bolt falls out of place, game over." This lack of adaptability "is the reason we don't have many robots in the home, which is much more unstructured than the factory," Lipson adds.
Is creativity a uniquely human trait? Defining the line between human and machine is becoming blurrier by the day as startups, big companies, and research institutions all compete to build the next generation of advanced AI. This arms race is bringing a new era of AI that won't prove its power by mastering human games, but by independently exhibiting ingenuity and creativity. Sophisticated AI is undertaking increasingly complex tasks like stock market predictions, research synthesis, political speech writing--don't worry, this article was still written by a human--and companies are beginning to pair deep learning with new robotics and digital manufacturing tools to create "smart manufacturing." Hod Lipson, professor of engineering at Columbia University and the director of Columbia's Creative Machines Labs, is pushing the next frontier of AI.