Skip to main content

Cute or creepy? This little robot just passed a self-awareness test

cute or creepy this little robot just passed a self awareness test screen shot 2015 07 20 at 8 02 13 pm
Self Consciousness with NAO Bots
Could this be the beginning of the end for human dominance over machines? In a recent logic test conducted by researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute AI and Reasoning Lab, one robot demonstrated self-awareness, a key component of real intelligence and a major differentiating factor (for now) between humans and humanoids. And while this particular display wasn’t all that threatening, the implications could be very interesting, if not terrifying.

In the experiment, RPI professor professor Selmer Bringsjord subjected three NAO robots (products of French company Aldebaran Robotics) to a version of a classic logic puzzle known as The King’s Wise Men. As the riddle is generally told, three wise men are told that they are wearing hats that are either white or blue, with the guarantee that at least one of the hats is blue. The winner is the wise man who is able to correctly identify the color of his hat, without speaking to either of the other two participants.

Self Consciousness with NAO Bots

But in RPI’s variation of the test, Bringsjord told three robots that two of them had received “dumbing pills,” making it impossible for them to speak, whereas the other had been given a placebo. Researchers then asked the robot whether they’d taken a dumbing pill or the placebo. After a long beat of silence, one robot responds, “I don’t know.” But then, in a delightfully and adorably child-like moment, it raises its hand and says, “Sorry, I know now. I was able to prove that I was not given the dumbing pill.”

This recognition, scientists say, demonstrates a degree of self-awareness in that the robot must have a) understood the rules, b) recognized its own voice, and c) been aware of the fact that it is a separate and distinct individual from the other two participating robots. If nothing else, researchers say, this self-correction was a display of a “mathematically verifiable awareness of the self,” something that has previously remained unproven.

Of course, how self-awareness is ultimately defined has yet to be settled upon, so there’s certainly no need to run screaming for the hills just yet in anticipation of the robot takeover, but it does raise interesting questions about the future of artificial intelligence, and whether we are really that different from our robotic counterparts. The answer could soon change quite drastically.

Editors' Recommendations

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
This Google robot taught itself to walk, with no help whatsoever, in two hours
Google Robot

Do you remember that scene in Walt Disney’s Bambi where the titular fawn learns to stand up and walk under its own power? It’s a charming vignette in the movie, showcasing a skill that plenty of baby animals -- from pigs to giraffe to, yes, deer -- pick up within minutes of their birth. Over the first few hours of life, these animals rapidly refine their motor skills until they have full control over their own locomotion. Humans, who learn to stand holding onto things at around seven months and who begin walking at 15 months, are hopelessly sluggish by comparison.

Guess what the latest task that robots have beaten us at? In a new study carried out by researchers at Google, engineers have taught a quadruped Minitaur robot to walk by, well, not really having to teach it much at all. Rather, they’ve used a a type of goal-oriented artificial intelligence to make a four-legged robot learn how to walk forward, backward, and turn left and right entirely on its own. It was able to successfully teach itself to do this on three different terrains, including flat ground, a soft mattress, and a doormat with crevices.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more