Lipson and his team have created a self-aware robot called Starfish, which taught itself basically everything with no outside assistance -- to walk, navigate difficult obstacles and even adjust to injury (when scientists shortened a leg of the robot, it changed its gait to compensate). But it's the method by which it makes these decisions that's so worrying: Starfish doesn't just blindly follow schematics. It judges what actually needs to be done by constructing a conception of itself in its "brain," then makes structural decisions based on what it thinks it is, fundamentally, as a robot. The scientists say it's not exactly conscious yet, in that it is not "thinking about itself thinking," but it is independently moving "in the direction of consciousness, like a cat -- that kind of level."
Yep. Exactly like a cat.
Lipson claims that he's not worried, because if these self-aware, self-replicating, evolving robots ever get out of hand, "we just pull the plug out of the robot. That's all."
That's the exact line you give a character named Dead Scientist No. 1 in a sci-fi apocalypse movie, right before the special effects really start kicking in.
When Eric Axt isn't manufacturing EMP grenades for the coming war, he helps his brother run the web comic Donuts for Sharks. Check out Dennis's musings on life and love here. Or take shots at some bad metaphors here. Karl normally selfishly links to his own work; show him you think this is totally not cool by buying this awesome book written by other, more handsome Cracked writers. That will teach him.
For more on robots that probably want to destroy us, check out The 7 Robots Most Likely to Rise Up Against Humanity. Or learn about some machines that should've already done that in The 6 Most Badass Robots (Invented Before Electricity).
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