Con­scious ro­bots

Focus-Science and Technology - - Mega Pixel - Paul Jef­fels, Derby

The quest for a con­scious robot (April, p114) has been go­ing on since the first com­puter was built. There are, how­ever, two hu­man abil­i­ties that are not in any way mim­icked by ex­pert sys­tems: the abil­ity to solve prob­lems that do not have a prece­dent, and the abil­ity to find un­prece­dented so­lu­tions to ex­ist­ing prob­lems. A good ex­am­ple of the lat­ter is that in the early 1700s, Cor­nish mine own­ers were go­ing ever deeper to find tin, and they had a prob­lem with pump­ing wa­ter out of their mines. The es­tab­lished tech­nol­ogy was to use horse gins and wind­mills. An ex­pert [com­puter] sys­tem would have come up with a bet­ter scheme us­ing th­ese ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies. In­stead, Thomas New­comen in­vented the at­mo­spheric steam en­gine in 1712. A con­scious robot/ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tem would have to find a way of mim­ick­ing th­ese hu­man abil­i­ties.

Ro­bots would not be able to come up with Thomas New­comen’s at­mo­spheric steam en­gine, says Paul Jef­fels

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