Machine intelligence, machine sexiness

typed for your pleasure on 25 September 2009, at 4.40 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Tangier’ by Blues control

In a recent sifting through the World Wide Wet, looking for more Synthetiks-related crap to write about, I’d spotted this empathetic viewpoint on a site called Fantasy Book Critic; it’s an interview with author David Weber. To be honest, I didn’t read it in its entirety, but the section reprinted below caught my eye, for obvious reasons:


HRP-4C, in an introspective moment

I read somewhere that Japan recently unveiled the HRP-4C, a life-like female robot that can walk, talk, and smile. Do you foresee a time when robots will be so lifelike that we will have difficulty determining whether or not robotic beings have “souls?”

I don’t think it’s a question of how lifelike a robot is — that is, whether or not it’s a humanoid shape that walks, talks, and smiles. To me, as I think I indicated above, the thing that we call a “soul” really has nothing at all to do with appearances or anthropomorphic physical attributes. It has to do with recognition and the internalization of the concept of self and with that self’s recognition of responsibilities. Of its willingness — and ability — to make decisions for itself. To choose between alternatives on a basis other than an automated, pre-programmed decision tree.

In that respect, I think it’s entirely possible that we’ll ultimately see a time in which artificial intelligences, whether they happen to reside inside a “robot” or not, demonstrate what I would think of as a soul. At the same time, I strongly suspect that we’re going to find it’s more difficult to create that concept of self in a human-designed machine (whether it’s electronic or biological) than a lot of people have assumed over the years.

As far as machines with souls are concerned, I think one of the things that always drew me to Keith Laumer’s Bolos was that despite the fact that they’d been programmed and designed towards a specific end, as machines of war, they made choices. There can be no heroism, unless the possibility of cowardice exists. There can be no true virtue, unless the door is also open to self-centered egoism and corruption. There can be no true growth, unless we make decisions, abide by the consequences, and learn from experience.

I remember a conversation I had once with a man who had won the Navy Cross as a fighter pilot during World War II. He told me that he’d never considered himself a hero. Despite the fact that he was a multiple ace, he said, he really hadn’t understood the concept of heroism until he watched a 19-year-old seaman on his aircraft carrier charge into a roaring gasoline fire in dungarees and a T-shirt to pull a pilot and a rear gunner out of a blazing dive bomber with a full load of machine gun ammunition and a 2,000 pound bomb still strapped to its belly. That kid got the pilot out, at the expense of horrendous burns over half his own body, and he chose to do it. It wasn’t his job — he wasn’t even assigned to the flight deck division — but he decided that it was his responsibility.

I think the day will come when a machine intelligence — a genuine machine intelligence — will be capable of making that same sort of decision. And when that day comes, if it makes the equivalent of the decision that 19-year-old made, I think we’ll have no choice but to admit that that machine has a soul.
the rest of the article is here

I’ve never heard of the bloke before, but I rather like the way he thinks…
You’ve probably seen this already, as it made its way round the Series of Tubes during my Holiday from Blogging, but we have the first recorded instance (from 2008) of robots kissing. Onward and upward!

While at the IEEE-sponsored International Conference on Service and Interactive Robotics (SIRCon) 2009, IEEE Spectrum scored an interview with the developers of theatrical robots Thomas and Janet, who they claim are the first kissing humanoid robots.

The first kiss happened back on 27 December 2008, during a robotic performance of several scenes of Phantom of the Opera at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (known as Taiwan Tech). Chyi-Yeu Lin, a mechanical engineering professor, directed the performance in front of a packed house of about 400. The overcrowded auditorium burst out in a resounding cheer when Christine (played by Janet) and the Phantom (played by Thomas) kissed.
the rest of the article is here

Granted yes; I realise that they look awkward — the movements are still somewhat stilted — but as I always say in these situations, you don’t start out with the finished product. The developers will continue to work on them, and Synthetiks will become better, both in movements and appearance. Of course, once they get them to move like Organiks, as well as look like modern high-end ‘love dolls’, then the world will be a better place. Fact.

One more brief related thang: recently, I’ve made the acquaintance of a rather fab individual by the name of JM, who runs a blog called Synthetically Yours. As he describes himself as ‘someone who is both intrigued by and sympathetic to iDollatry’, his posts mainly feature a clinical-yet-humourous look at various aspects of being an iDollator, and it’s a site definitely worth checking out. Go ye forth, and peer at it.

And as a coda, here’s an amusing result from my site stats, from back in August. I present it without comment, as anything I could possibly add might well incriminate me

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

Any Synthetiks-related news, Davecat? (Jul 2005) on July 10th, 2005

Making a valley out of a ditch on January 26th, 2011

6 have spoken to “Machine intelligence, machine sexiness”

  1. JM writes:

    I’ll have to see about this David Weber fellow. I’m glad you caught on to the cynical humour… leave it to a fellow Anglophile not to miss the obvious.

    I’m so misunderstood and persecuted, etc.

  2. Davecat writes:

    Hey — we wannabe Limeys have to stick together. 🙂 Glad to return the linking favour!

    O, and before I forget again, check the site link in your signature, as it ends in tragedy. Well, a blank screen.

  3. Wolfgang writes:

    In my opinion, the mistake that everyone always makes is in assuming that robots / machines will be programmed with a conscience. This is an impossible task… consciousness is developed naturally through evolution, complexity, and experience.
    Until recently, the robotics world has been dominated by the “top-down” theory of programming… if you want your robot to climb some stairs, then program in every single parameter that might be encountered… and the damn thing still looks awkward doing it. Whereas they discovered that if you use a “bottom-up” aproach… give the thing a minimal instruction set and a goal, and let it flop and flail and fail its way into learning the most efficient way to accomplish said task, then you have a machine that is a thousand times simpler that can still do the task better.
    The key, then, is to create a robotic “baby” that has the complexity to “grow into itself”, give it basic survival parameters, and start parenting it. In a few years, assuming efficiency of design, you’ll be well on your way to having a little artificial person. When we get to the point where microprocessors (or better yet, biological neural nets) are as complex as the human brain, this is when sentience will emerge.
    Until then, they’re just automatons playing at imitation, not “real” beings.
    I think it’s coming fairly soon… we’ll be having our first debates of “what is human”? in ten years or so… 2019 (just in time for Blade Runner timeline co-mingling). Attention Fox News- start planning your tea parties and protest marches now, ‘cuz dem robots is cummin’ ta take away yer sooperior white / human culture! Duuurrrrr!

  4. Anonymous Realdoll Owner writes:

    Very interesting search words! LOL.. It’s fun to see how people find our blogs. 🙂

  5. JM writes:

    Davecat – Fixed. Forgot to change it. I keep meaning to make the main page a splash with a link, but I work on Valve Time.

    Wolfgang – That kind of learning process is extremely complex, but definitely something I would love to see.

  6. Wolfgang writes:

    JM- Here is one example… I’ll be back with others. Note- no human programming required!

    http://www.imagination-engines.com/robot_tabula_rasa.htm

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