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9: Will That Army Robot Squid Ever Be “Self-Aware”?

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From the 2018 AI Hype Countdown at Mind Matters #9: AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: What would it take for a robot to be self-aware?

The Army Times headline would jolt your morning coffee:

Army researchers are developing a self-aware squid-like robot you can 3D print in the field

Reporter Todd South helpfully adds, “your next nightmare.” The thrill of fear invites the reader to accept the metaphorical claim that the robot will be “self-aware” as a literal fact.

Although we could, for technical reasons, quibble with the claim that the robot squid will be printed in 3D, we won’t just now. Let’s focus instead on the seductive semantics of the term “self-aware.” For humans, Oxford tells me, self-aware means “having conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.” Computers have no character and no feelings. So we can rule that out.

In a more general sense, “self-aware” could mean being aware of ourselves in our surroundings. Could mechanisms be self-aware in that sense? For example, does placing sensors on a car cause the car to be self-aware? More.

What they are actually doing with the robot is kind of interesting but let’s not get carried away.

See also: 2018 AI Hype Countdown: 10. Is AI really becoming “human-like”? Robert J. Marks: AI help, not hype: Here’s #10 of our Top Ten AI hypes, flops, and spins of 2018 A headline from the UK Telegraph reads “DeepMind’s AlphaZero now showing human-like intuition in historical ‘turning point’ for AI” Don’t worry if you missed it.

I was trying to figure out how to approach this, and the imagine that popped into my head was Falconry. In falconry, a suitably trained human takes a suitably trained bird to a Target-rich Environment and says simply, "Hunt!" The bird knows EXACTLY what sub-tasks Hunt entails, and unless the human calls the bird back, the bird will execute the execution of a target all by itself. "Homing" anti-aircraft missiles have been doing this for more than half a century. Although considering the downing of TWA Flight 800 by a VERY sophisticated USN Aegis AA system (Oops!), I don't think our AI hunters are anywhere close to falcons yet. vmahuna

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