No Thinking Necessary?
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 epiphenomenaand is explicitly not working on the problem.In 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"and "all arguments that robots wont have emotions boil down to arguments
that we are not machines."
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.
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."Of 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."But 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."
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."
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." Lets
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!
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| Contributed by: Adrian