Have Robots Become Self-Aware?

Nao Robot

“NAO waving” by Anonimski – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

In what could be a historic moment, a robot just might have shown the beginnings of self-awareness. An interesting side note to this story is the fact that not more than a week ago I told a group of students that scientists and engineers were at least decades from creating robots that could be considered to be conscious or self-aware.  Obviously, I was mistaken.

In this article from Discovery News, the experiment is described in which three humanoid robots are tested with a logic puzzle. In this procedure, one of the robots showed it was able to respond in a way that can only be explained if the robot has some degree of self awareness.

A robot has demonstrated that it exhibits a degree of self-awareness for the very first time.

One thing I find interesting about this is the fact that the robots involved in this experiment are NAOs.  These are small humanoid robots that are readily available for under $10,000.  They are not some high-end supercomputer powered android.  They are fairly simple machines.  (Do we need to rethink even calling them machines?)

So what can we say about this achievement. Should we be excited?  Should we be concerned?  Or maybe this is not as big a deal as it is being made out to be.  I for one have not really decided what I think about this.  On the one hand, there is the whole philosophical issue of machine self-awareness, and on the other hand, we as humans may really have to rethink this concept of self-awareness.  Do we event understand what it means when  we say humans are self-aware.

What do you think about this?  I would really appreciate your feedback on this issue, since I myself am trying to think my way through it.  Leave a comment and let me know.

Source: Self-Aware Robot Solves Riddle.

Robots Taking Over Typical Human Roles in the Job Market


Photo Credit:  The U.S. Army's photostream

Two stories this week caught my attention. Both are among examples of robots moving into jobs that were once the sole province of humans. As the photo above suggests, sometimes we are being dragged into this future where robots replace humans in routine work.  Robotic bellhops are now replacing their human counterparts for at least some functions.  In the case of this new hotel, the robot is there to check luggage for early arrivals when the rooms are not ready.  Meanwhile, in Australia, robot miners are due to start work in some mines.  In this situation, the typical miner may find that their job does not end. Instead the miner may move to an office where they control their robotic counterparts down in the shafts.  The robot miners are being brought in to address a labor shortage and to increase productivity of the mines in the face of increase demand.

Still, humans are facing a situation in which robots will be taking over many work functions where the tasks are routine, monotonous, dangerous, or require precise repetition.  That is certainly the case in these two stories.

So, what does this mean?  Will women and men face unemployment because of robots?  This does not have to be the case.  One key here is that humans will always be needed to do what only humans can do.  The other key is education.  This means learning to operate, maintain, design, and build the robotic workers.  People will have to upgrade their skills though high tech learning.  One must also remember that humans have the creativity and intelligence that robots do not have at the current time.  For me, it is an open question as to whether or not robots will ever equal the creativity and flexibility of a human brain, even if machines become “intelligent”.

Follow the links in the story links below to find out more about these robots.  And be sure to let me know what you think about this issue of robots replacing human jobs.


Trendy, New NYC Hotel with a Robotic Bellhop

Meet the luggage robot. It's the first of several high-tech, sleek amenities guests encounter at the Yotel, a new hotel that aims to provide a trendy stay at an affordable price. Purple lighting, throbbing music in the elevators and
Examiner AP

At new NYC hotel, a robot handles the luggage | The Associated
The Associated Press
Wed, 22 Jun 2011 20:15:24 GMT

Robots for Australia Mines Could Replace Humans

PERTH (Reuters) – Some Australian mine workers may soon find themselves trading in their steel-toed boots for a headset and computer mouse, as mining companies automate to help plug labour shortages and ramp up output to feed Asia's voracious demand for …

More robots for Australia mines may plug labour crunch – Reuters UK
Wed, 22 Jun 2011 19:19:37 GMT

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Robots That Learn Like Babies

Intelligence is the thing missing from robots today.  Researchers are working to develop ways for robots to develop human-like intelligence.  In humans, intelligence is developed during the growth process, so if robots are ever to become intelligent, they will have to acquire the ability to learn over many years.  Now, robot research is designing machines that can mimic how babies grow and develop.  Einstein, as the robot is called, has 27 motors in its face that give it dozens of expressions.  The point of this is to give a robot the ability to relate to humans.  Read the article below at Smithsonian for more details.


Building a robot that humans can love is pretty ambitious.  But Javier Movellan (in his San Diego lab with RUBI) says he would like to develop a robot that loves humans.

Photo Credit:  Timothy Archibald

Einstein the robot has enchanting eyes, the color of honey in sunlight. They are fringed with drugstore-variety false eyelashes and framed by matted gray brows made from real human hair.

Robot Babies
Smithsonian – USA
Sat, 20 Jun 2009 20:53:19 GMT

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