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Artificial Intelligence: Chasing the Idea of Self-Aware Systems

By Dick Weisinger

Self-awareness is the ability to observe actions taken by you and to understand how your behavior aligns with standard expectations and how others will perceive you and your actions. There is no software or system which exists now that can be considered conscious or self-aware, but to do so is a goal and an active area of research that scientists and researchers are exploring.

Hod Lipson, professor of Engineering at Columbia University, said that “while a robot’s ability to imagine itself is still crude compared to humans, we believe that this ability is on the path to machine self-awareness.”

A team of robotic researchers from Europe wrote that “despite major progress in Robotics and AI, robots are still basically “zombies” repeatedly achieving actions and tasks without understanding what they are doing. Deep-Learning AI programs classify tremendous amounts of data without grasping the meaning of their inputs or outputs. We still lack a genuine theory of the underlying principles and methods that would enable robots to understand their environment, to be cognizant of what they do, to take appropriate and timely initiatives, to learn from their own experience and to show that they know that they have learned and how.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that creates algorithms that learn, analyze data, draw conclusions, and make decisions. After AI, the next step a is AGI or Artificial General Intelligence. A machine capable of AGI is able to perform any intellectual task that a human is capable of doing.

Machines and algorithms that can be considered conscious and have self-awareness are a long ways away, and may never be possible, but despite this, researchers are incrementally experimenting and designing their way towards that goal.

For example, software experiments are being built that use artificial and simplified environments. It is a start. For example, a group of researchers in the UK investigated what ‘self-awareness’ would mean for an application tasked with service provisioning. Researchers elsewhere are designing systems that are ‘self-governing’ and able to dynamically respond to stimuli or events that occur within a specified environment.

Jasmine Berry, computer scientist, said that “we’re a long way from humanoid robots taking over the world. But if you give these machines the ability to build a model of themselves on their own or give them their own identity, that will have an effect on how they’re able to perceive the world in their own unique way, without having human operators or human programmers to explicitly do that for them. We build robots in this way because we see them as becoming more integrated into society and we’ll need to interact with them, just like we interact with other human beings.”

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