Researchers at Columbia University say they've built a robot arm that can construct a self-image from scratch -- a capability they frame, provocatively, as a step toward machines that are truly self-aware. "This is perhaps what a newborn child does in its crib, as it learns what it is," said Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering who worked on the robot, in a press release. "We conjecture that this advantage may have also been the evolutionary origin of self-awareness in humans. While our robot's ability to imagine itself is still crude compared to humans, we believe that this ability is on the path to machine self-awareness." The robot arm, described in a new paper in the journal Science Robotics, learns how to operate by experimenting -- with no programming about physics, geometry or its own construction.
"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.
That's where hallucinations, reflexes, Post Traumatic Stress, Phobias, and most importantly, dreams come from. You are right, the mind doesn't deal with much external data. Sense organs are all processed elsewhere, however, some sections of processing overlap, autonomic vs. reflex, etc. The conscious portion of human beings is very tiny compared with all the subconscious and unconscious/automatic processes going on.
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.