“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First, the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that, though, the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern.” ~ Bill Gates

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AI isn’t science fiction any longer. Mainstream news doesn’t often report that artificial intelligence may be running the world. Was the Oracle in the movie the Matrix, for example, really just a renegade AI program? Even Bill Gates, the man who owns Monsanto stock and tries to push vaccines on innocent tribal children in India, has warned about artificial intelligence and the threat of smart machines.

Sometimes little snippets of what is actually possible leak through – like the recent news item touting the self-awareness of a tiny, “cute” robot.

The ability for something to be able to recognize that it is an individual, separate and with its own consciousness, is one of the classic signs of self-awareness.

Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute AI and Reasoning Lab in New York have adapted the classic inductive reasoning puzzle known as The King’s Wise Men and posed the problem to a trio of robots. One of them passed their little test.

The chairman of the department of cognitive science at the Institute, Selmer Bringsjord, programmed French robotics, namely Aldebaran’s humanoid design called a Nao robot. It is only 58 centimeters tall. The Nao robots were programmed with a proprietary algorithm called Deontic Cognitive Event Calculus, which enables the machines to carry out reasoning.

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The robots were told that two of them were given “dumbing” pills which made them unable to speak, and one a placebo – even though all that was really done is a button was pushed on top of their heads.

When asked if they were given dumbing pills or the placebo, there is an awkward silence and then one robot stands up and says “I don’t know.”

What happens next is amazing. The robot then raises its hand like a child in a class room, and offers a correction: “Sorry, I know now. I was able to prove that I was not given the dumbing pill.”

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