Re: Dennett: Making Conscious Robots

From: Cattell Christopher (
Date: Tue May 22 2001 - 12:45:08 BST

> Mo:
> A robot's silicon chips, wires, tiny motors and cameras can all
> represent parts of the human anatomy, so you can build a robot to mimic
> human functions

Could you build a robot to mimic all human functions? I think something
like balance would be very difficult to implement in a robot as everybody
has a different balance. Balance also degrades with age, like most (if not
all) human functions. If a robot were able to mimic all the human
functions, would they interact with each other in exactly the same way. I
believe that this would be very difficult to achieve.

> Mo:
> Someone's consciousness is individual to themselves. It is possibly
> cumulated knowledge, of experiences and education, but even if someone
> came from the same background as you and learnt everything the same as
> you. Their thoughts and beliefs may still be different to you. To me
> someone's consciousness is the most private and intimate part of
> them. I assume it is what makes humans unique. If you saw a
> consciousness as a group of rules and facts that one follows, you could
> assume that probabilistically there is someone else out there who has
> the same consciousness as you. Unless you ever met this person and
> discussed openly all your thoughts, you would never know and could not
> prove this.

I don't think that consciousness can be solely described as a set of rules
and facts that one follows. If it were then it would make trying to
reproduce it almost impossible as there would be far too many rules to
make this plausible.

> Mo:
> This is why I believe, that a robot cannot take any real
> advantage of organic tissue, because humans cannot make efficient use of
> mechanical aids. So why should a robot be able to make efficient use
> of an organic structure?

I don't think that it should be dismissed that because, at the moment,
humans cannot make efficient use of mechanical aids then robots could not
make use of an organic structure. I believe that we are not too far away
from having really god artificial limbs, each year you hear about a new
artificial limb that is a lot better than previous ones. I think that it
would be possible to use an organic structure on a robot.

> Mo:
> So perhaps the best alternative would be to design a "infant" robot
> with a learning neural network, and let it develop by itself.

This is possible, but is it practical. If you wanted to have an infant
robot develop the same way as a human robot than it would take a long time
for the robot to become fully developed. I don't think that science is
this patient.

> Mo:
> It is up to the adults around them
> to try to educate the infants and to restrain them from hurting
> themselves. Cog's hardwiring may stop it from ever "hitting" itself, but
> surely it cannot learn anything from that. All it is to Cog are built
> in rules that it must obey.

I agree that rules that are built in cannot be useful in the learning
process. They are merely refining the rules of the learning process to
make it more practical (i.e. the robot not destroying itself).

> Mo:
> The hardest part though is for the robot to understand what the phrase
> actually refers to. If a human went up to Cog and trained it to say
> "Goodnight" after the human said the same thing. Cog may realise to
> reply on demand, but does it know what the human means. When
> someone says "Goodnight" it could be for a number of factors, such as
> you are tired and want to go to sleep, or you have finished work and
> just being polite before you leave. A phrase can refer to more than one
> thing.

How difficult would it be for the robot to learn another language as
well. Would it get confused between the two? I think this is an
interesting pint that could be discussed further.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Tue Sep 24 2002 - 18:37:30 BST