download This is the kind of news story that I get excited about, and that my wife finds horrifying. When I shared this with her, she responded by asking me me how I can have such glee about it.

I laughed and said “But this is so cool!” Then I showed her the video.

She just lifted her eyebrows and left the room.

Robot Demonstrates Self-Awareness

Researchers based a study around a story about a king seeking a new advisor. He rounded up three wisemen, gave them a riddle and then awaited an answer. You can read details about the riddle and the outcome here. In a nutshell, the “wisest” of the wisemen realized he knew a truth about himself (and the answer to the king’s riddle) when the other two remained silent.

Here’s a brief rundown of the self-awareness demonstration, according to Jonathan O’Callaghan at IFL Science:

Three humanoid Nao robots were programmed to think that two of them had been given a “dumbing pill” that prevented them from speaking. All of them were asked “which pill did you receive?” but as two of them were mute, only one was able to answer, saying: “I don’t know.” It then works out that, as it can talk, it must not have been given the pill, so it changes its answer to: “Sorry, I know now. I was able to prove that I was not given a dumbing pill.”

The experiment has obvious limitations, but it does suggest that self-awareness can be programmed, and that in itself has huge implications that are obviously going to be explored further by other researchers. You can read the paper here [pdf].


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