Artificial Intelligence, Real Issue
Smart Box or Real Boy?
I Think Therefore I Am? continued...
Sudia is a San Francisco-based e-commerce security consultant
and self-described ethicist, scientist, and thinker about intelligent systems.
He likens the role of the artificial-intelligence systems designer or
robot-maker to that of the parent of an adolescent.
"The teenager starts to have a good variety of responses
[but] not a really great restraint system," he says. "You're trying to
form their character in such a way that they will make reasonable choices that
will be socially beneficial for them. So you play God to an enormous extent
with your children. Forget about forming them into Mozart -- you try form them
into something that can survive by getting them to have a self."
I Make Choices, Therefore I Am?
The ability to make choices alone does not suggest autonomy,
Bostrom points out. The computer Deep Blue defeated chess grand master Gary
Kasparov. It can choose from among millions of possible chess moves in a given
situation, but just try sending it across the street to buy a quart of
"In order to grant autonomy to a human, we require quite a
lot of them," Bostrom says. "Children don't have the full range of
autonomy, although they can do more than choose chess moves or make simple
choices like that. It requires a conception of their well-being and a life plan
and that kind of thing. I don't think any machine that exists on earth today
would have either sentience or autonomy."
For us to say that a machine is self-aware and therefore is a
conscious being, we must first know what it is to be aware. At least one human
mind contends that when it comes to the nature of awareness, we don't have a
Margaret Boden, PhD, professor of philosophy and psychology at
the University of Sussex, England, tells WebMD that it may well be possible to
create a robot that appears to be a self-aware, autonomous being.
"In principle there could be a computer simulation of such
a creature, because everything the human mind does depends on the human
brain," she says. "But if you're asking me whether that robot would be
conscious, I would say that we don't even know what it is to say that we
Even if we suppose, as Spielberg and Kubrick do, that it's
possible to create a robot capable of acting in its own interests and of
feeling pain, loss, and loneliness, will we treat it as one of us, or as just
another smart toaster?
I Buy Groceries, Therefore I Am?
If we can be emotionally manipulated by a movie -- another form
of simulated life -- or if we enjoy the Las Vegas version of Paris, then we
could certainly be affected by the crying of a robot baby or the pleadings of
an artificial boy like David in AI. And it's that interface -- the box
that contains the hardware (a robotic brain) and the way in which the software
interacts with the user that may make all the difference.