Robots and sentience

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iStock Photo

iStock Photo

Robot. Sentience.  They are two words that, when considered at the surface, don’t seem to be able to go together.  After all, a robot is a mechanical creation, generally considered incapable of sentience, or full self-awareness.  We specifically use the word “robot” to imply that the machine cannot have sentience; a robot is a clockwork thing.

When we try to suggest that a mechanical creation has sentience, we tend to immediately rename it.  Cyborg.  Android.  Replicant.  Synthezoid.  We distance ourselves from the word “robot,” and seek to redefine the creation to stand for something beyond its mechanical parts.

Is it because we want to keep the concept of “robots” as simple things?  Or is it because we see sentience as being beyond mechanical creations?  Do we see sentience as requiring some special spark that robots are incapable of? Continue reading

AIs taking over? What the heck for?

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CybermenOne of the favorite discussions amongst sci-fi fans, scientists, computer experts and roboticists is the idea that artificial intelligence, or AI, will someday become so smart that it will “kill all the humans” and take over the world.  The trope has led to innumerable books, movies, papers, games and debates, and keeps everyone looking sideways at their computers whenever they do something unexpected.  It has arguably become the largest source of mass paranoia in the industrialized world, now surpassing our distrust of government.

And it’s fun to talk about, whether we expect it to happen or not. Continue reading