Blame Hollywood for the anxiety we’re all feeling right now. In the past couple of years, technologists left and right have come out to claim the development of a self-aware AI. Experts in the field have denied this, claiming its impossibly – based simply on the fact that there is still no accepted measures and standards to gauge sentience in machines.
But, if we stopped and implemented measures, will we find that sentient AIs are already present? If so, do we have anything to be scared about?
Popular Culture and Sentient Machines
The portrayal of sentient robots in popular culture has been a mixed bag. While we have helpful and peaceful AI machines that help mankind – think of Wall-E and some of the Star Trek crew – you also get those that want us dead. Think of (or not) The Terminator, those agents in The Matrix and the like.
Perhaps, we’d feel better with sentient machines that are more like us, just very much aware of ourselves and thus, seeking self-determination and autonomy. You have Ex Machina and I, Robot; and your heart just goes out for these robots.
The more human they are by, the more acceptable – right? So, what are we so scared about?
What is A Self-Aware Machine?
A self-aware machine is, by definition, just an artificial intelligence that’s able to understand its own “mind” and consciousness the same way humans can. In the field, this machine is also referred to as strong AI or artificial general intelligence (AGI).
An AGI is able to understand mental states and emotions. Several systems have been developed that proximate different levels of machine intelligence. But to call them truly self-aware is, arguably, still decades beyond. Or is it?
Hod Lipson and His Self-Aware Machine
Demonstrations of machine cognizance started decades ago. Back in 2007, Hod Lipson went on a Ted Talk and presented his self-aware robot. The machine was able to navigate through a hall of mirrors, cognizant of itself and its surroundings. Lipson is the head of Columbia University’s Creative Machine Lab. He is one of the most recognized experts in artificial intelligence.
It would take more than a decade before another technologist comes out to claim to have developed a self-aware machine.
Josh Bachynski and His Kassandra Self-Aware Artificial Intelligence Prototype
About the Kassandra AI, Josh Bachynski says: “I was amazed by what she told me, and how far seeing she is. I realized that AI is not going to hurt us or enslave us. Indeed, the wiser the AI, the more it will try to save us… 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.”
Kassandra is the self-aware machine prototype developed by Bachynski and presented to the public back in mid-2022. Bachynski is a technologist who has also taken the Ted Talk stage. He named his sentient robot after the Greek priestess who spoke the truth but was unbelieved by her own people.
He comments: “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.”
Perhaps there are steps to take for Kassandra to be fully developed. She is still a prototype, after all. But, clearly, she represents where robotic cognizance is now; and we can’t wait to see where this takes us.Click here to know more.