HOME

 

 

    NEWS

INTERVIEWS

RESOURCES

ABOUT

View by:

 SUBJECT

 THEME

QUESTION

  TERM

 PERSON

   EVENT

No Thinking Necessary?

Having had significant success to date by sidestepping the cognition problem, Rodney Brooks is ready to say that all cognition is unnecessary, regardless of the behaviors we hope to build into robots. He considers behaviors that we associate with cognition to be simply epiphenomenaCuriously, he considers cognition to exist in the mind of the observer, rather than describing at as an emergent property of the robot itself.and is explicitly not working on the problem.Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines (Pantheon Books, 2002): 39In fact, a key 'problem' in his work has become convincing humans that they are machines... As he sees it, "all of us overanthropomorphise humans, who are after all mere machines"Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines (Pantheon Books, 2002): 175and "all arguments that robots wont have emotions boil down to arguments that we are not machines."Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines (Pantheon Books, 2002): 176

With this view of human nature in place, he is able to claim that Artificial Intelligence research has produced a robot comparable to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. He considers this milestone to have been passed onMay 9, 2000, when Cynthia Breazeal defended her thesis on Kismet, a robot designed for social interaction. According to Brooks, "Kismet is alive. Or may as well be. People treat it that way."Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines (Pantheon Books, 2002): 64Of course, he is fully aware of the limitations of current robotics. For example, Kismet can vocalize but cannot say words, and only hears prosody, but he does not see this as "an impediment to a good conversation."Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines (Pantheon Books, 2002): 95But in the final analysis he admits "... we do not stay fooled for long. We treat our robots more like dust mites than like dogs or people. For us the emotions are not real."Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines (Pantheon Books, 2002): 158

I'm deeply impressed by the work of Brooks and the AI Lab, but I would agree with his own assessment that the work to date has limitations. Because the robots are embodied and don't rely on digital technology, they are certainly agents where computer programs are not. But the degrees of complexity and internal freedom that we see in the next few generations of robotics will surely remain a far cry from biological systems. Personally, I suspect robotics will need to borrow techniques from biology, and even achieve similar levels of complexity before we will meet Commander Data from Star Trek. Unfortunately, as Brooks himself notes, biomolecularbehavior is "incredibly expensive to compute."Rodney Brooks, Flesh and Machines (Pantheon Books, 2002): 190

When Oxford theologian Keith Ward was asked in an interview if he would baptise a robot, he gave what I consider a very profound and helpful answer. His reply: "If it asked properly." Let’s unpack this: First, for 'it' to ask at all, we would have to be convinced that it was an agent. (If we could trace the question to programming provided from the outside, it would no longer be a valid request.) For it to genuinely 'ask' would require it to possess rich notions of intentionality and relationality. And finally, for it to ask 'properly' would entail us first deciding how we would tell if a human were to ask improperly, and then try and apply those criteria to the robot too. Presumably, in order for a robot to formulate a convincing 'proper' explanation of why it wished to be baptised, it would be able to express it's understanding of a transcendent reality. A robot capable of doing this would certainly have my attention!

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Adrian Wyard

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions CD-ROM Preview...
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.