William, you've posted this basic comment/idea so often that I'm starting to think you know something about AI that the rest of us don't. The last time I looked, they were nowhere near achieving the kind of thing you're suggesting. Can you tell us any specifics of who's doing self-awareness research on the cutting edge right now?
BUT, in the public domain there have been references to some university people working towards artificial intelligence, and they have included self awareness as one means of moving toward human type judgement. My advice would remain, to "Think very carefully about the ultimate effects of your creations", because sometimes the machine does not stop just because you push the stop button.
Since people are rather less predictable than computers and robots, conside the problems that we could have if those in-animate things became a lot less predictable. What if your washing machine developed an "attitude problem", rather than just a component failure?
Thanks, William. I knew people working on AI back in the early 70s and again in the 90s and 00s. Trying to make computers work like we do in terms of logical processes is still a far cry from also giving them sentience and self-awareness. But no, I don't relish the thought of a toaster or a fridge with a 'tude. My computer already seems to have that problem :)
Hi Ann. Any short list of people working on machine consciousness would have to include Ray Kurzweil. I suspect that's exactly what he is up to at Google. He already has a well thought out published theory of the source of consciousness in humans.
Hi William. Well, Google's official long term goal IS the creation of concious, self aware, minds like ours. We all hope the servers don't get any more feisty than they already are. We need to have a set of rules like Asimov's already established when it "wakes up". But, how does one do that before we know exactly how it works? And, if the machine claims self awareness, how do we know whether to believe it? My favorite line of all time from a writer in this regard was written for Serge Graystone, a 100% CG character on the short-lived (sigh) TV show Caprica. Serge was a household robot butler/security guard, and like the other characters of the show, in real life "Serge" had a Twitter account. It's probably still there. On Twitter, "Serge" answered fan's questions from his unique point of view. "Serge" claimed repeatedly that he was not self aware. Of course, the fans just stepped up the pressure to get Serge to admit that he was self aware. The writers ended the battle with this wonderful Godel sentence: "If I were self aware, don't you think I would know it?". In essence, how do we detect a mind that has become aware, but is hiding from us? Wandering back toward the topic ... If Kurzweil is correct that conciousness emerges from large amounts of simultaneous triggering with many levels of feedback, (my gross oversimplification) then perhaps the first conscious machine will be a large building made entirely of a huge swarm of tiny communicating meta-material robots whose collective purpose was to become and maintain the building. Hmmm... I remember a sci fi movie where a "grown" organic house eats its residents. Bon Appetit!
I seem to recall that Dan Simmons' proposition for how robots become separate, self-aware entities in the Endymion series is that--they don't. Instead, a sort of collective AI emerges from the internet of the future, i.e., many, many interconnected machines, and it/they spans multiple hardware. So I think a swarm makes a lot of sense as a model for that interconnected hardware, and for the AI "mind". Theoretically speaking, of course. I still think the whole thing is, and will remain, in the realm of sci-fi.
Ann, I read a quite scary science fiction book about that very thing a few years back, and the "swarm" was a collection of very small robotic things, smaller than mosquitoes, but when they started working togather they were very deadly. Plus they learned how to reproduce without human assistance.
So perhaps the solution is to avoid giving robots long-lasting power sources, to assure that any uprisings would be short lived.
William, I think you are describing Michael Crichton's "Prey." Sure sounds like it. And I think this time your tongue is firmly planted in your cheek, although self-assembling nano-robots is definitely an area of research and has been for a decade or so.
Having worked with, interviewed, socialized with, and even dated programmers, I agree that they're "not normal." But that can be a good thing: it often means way-above-average intelligence and a wicked sense of humor.