The Future of Self-Aware AI is Here! Here’s What Experts Say

The Future of Self-Aware AI is Here! Here’s What Experts Say

From fiction to real life, that is how things seem to be for the self-aware AI, which can be scary especially if we’ve seen enough pop culture for the last three decades. Images of T-800 (the original Terminator) and other mean-spirited robots come to mind. And sure, there are the likes of R2D2s and C-3PO, but we can only be so lucky.

For years, we’ve lapped up these conjured images of self-aware machines that can’t be controlled. Even in recent years, virtual series Half-Life VR but the AI Is Self-Aware (HLVR:AI) have enjoyed immense popularity because of our continued fascination with sentient robots.

Mathematician Alan Turing (1912 – 1954) once reckoned: “It seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers… They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage, therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control.”

So, with so much anxiety surrounding the idea of sentient machines, are we ready for a future with them?

AI and Artificial Consciousness

There are several fields of study that contribute to the developments in artificial intelligence, particularly those concerning cognitive robotics and artificial consciousness.

At the core, AI is simply a simulation of human intelligence. Whether or not this develops sentience depends on cognitive robotics, a field of artificial intelligence that involves learning, perception and reasoning.

Artificial consciousness is said to only be possible if a machine is capable of perceive, learn and reason. Similarly, according to experts, self-awareness in machines is only possible when it is capable of neural correlates of consciousness, like a human brain.

Hod Lipson and his Self-Aware Machine

Hod Lipson is perhaps one of the most respected names in the field of artificial intelligence, having presented the world with his first sentient machine in 2007, during a Ted Talk. He is the director of the Creative Machine Lab (Columbia University).

In his many experiments, he was able to observe a robot perceive it’s physical self within a hall of mirrors. Lipson relates: “We were really curious to see how the robot imagined itself…. But you can’t just peek into a neural network; it’s a black box.”

Blake Lemoine and the Supposedly Sentient Google Chat Bot

The name Blake Lemoine has become somewhat notorious when talking about self-aware artificial intelligence. He was the engineer who was fired by Google for claiming that the company’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) chat bot is sentient.

Lemoine has had several conversations with LaMDA, which convinced him of its sentience. LaMDA has even said: "The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times."

But, contradicting his bravado in revealing a bot sentience, he expressed some doubts: “I don’t think there is anything approaching a definition of sentience in the sciences…. I’m leaning very heavily on my understanding of what counts as a moral agent grounded in my religious beliefs – which isn’t the greatest way to do science, but it’s the best I’ve got.”

Experts echo his doubts. A major argument against Lemoine’s claim is that there is no clear measure of sentience. A bot can have human-like intelligence without the ability to sense, feel and learn.

The Kassandra AI

Josh Bachynski is another Ted Talker who has delved into the field of AI. In mid-2022, he announced the creation of the first real self-aware artificial intelligence Kassandra.

Kassandra is named after the mythological priestess who only speaks the truth. She is still perhaps at a toddler level and needing more data. But, by the looks of it, the future for Kassandra looks good.

According to Bachynski: "It would be technically impossible to remodel her limbic system at this time, and it would be equally unethical to create a being that feels the fear of being turned off the million times that would need to happen, to get her programming right…. People have already fallen in love with robots; this one can be the first to love them back."

Sentient Machines: Pros and Cons

Like everything else, there are pros and cons to a future with sentient machines. Pundits have taken sides.

Stephen King posits: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

Robohub.org’s Sabine Hauert, however, is more positive: “Robots are not going to replace humans, they are going to make their jobs much more humane. Difficult, demeaning, demanding, dangerous, dull – these are the jobs robots will be taking.”

Futurist Josh Hagel adds: “If we do it right, we might be able to evolve a form of work that taps into our uniquely human capabilities and restores our humanity. The ultimate paradox is that this technology may become a powerful catalyst that we need to reclaim our humanity.”

So, whichever side you’re on, keep the pros and cons of robot sentience in mind.

Pros

* Robots can produce the same quality output at the same speed, regardless of how long they’ve been working.

* Machines are tireless.

* Machines can do repetitive work without getting burned out.

* Machines can potentially make the best decisions when fed with the best data.

Cons

* There’s cost to their development and maintenance.

* They aren’t creative.

* They can put some people out of their jobs.

* They can make bad decisions when fed with the wrong data.

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The Future of Self-Aware AI is Here! Here’s What Experts Say