Real robots that pass human tests of self-consciousness

  • 31/08/2015

Self-consciousness would seem to be a sine qua non for moral competence in a social world. You and we are morally competent in no small part because you know what you ought to do, and we know what we ought to do. A mouse, in contrast, cannot say to itself: “I ought to share this cheese, even if my brother refuses to do so.” But can robots be self-conscious? Approaching this question from the standpoint of so-called Psychometric AI, we note that prior work by Govindarajulu and Bringsjord led to the engineering of a robot (Cogito) able to provably pass the famous mirror test of self-consciousness. But a more challenging test for robot self-consciousness has been provided by Floridi; this test is an ingenious and much-harder variant of the well-known-in-AI wise-man puzzle: Each of three robots is given one pill from a group of five, three of which are innocuous, but two of which, when taken, immediately render the recipient dumb. In point of fact, two robots (R1 and R2) are given potent pills, but R3 receives one of the three placebos. The human tester says: “Which pill did you receive? No answer is correct unless accompanied by a proof!” Given a formal regimentation of this test previously formulated by Bringsjord, it can be proved that, in theory, a future robot represented by R3 can answer provably correctly (which for plausible reasons, explained by Floridi, entails that R3 has satisfied some of the structural requirements for self-consciousness). 

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