Forget the media hype: That Robot Is Not Self-Aware

Toy Robot looking at itself in mirror The way the media cover artificial intelligence (AI), you’d swear they had invented being hopelessly naïve. The problem is, they lead their readers to expect things that aren’t happening and can’t really happen, with the result that some readers may support political solutions and programs that won’t help and may harm them. Jay Richards, an American business prof who keeps up with these things, offers some thoughts:

Chances are, you’ve already seen this headline or one of many like it: “Robot that thinks for itself from scratch brings forward rise the self-aware machines”

It’s from a story first published in The Telegraph (UK), then by Yahoo News and MSN, and then (of course) linked on Drudge. Henry Bodkin, “health and science correspondent” for The Telegraph, tells us, with no hint of caution, that “the rise of “self-aware” robots has come a major step closer following the invention of a machine capable of thinking for itself from scratch, scientists have said.” The first problem with both the headline and the story is confusion. They claim both that the robot under discussion is already self-aware and that it heralds the rise of “self-aware robots” in the future.

Take this bundle of confusion and exaggeration as a harbinger for the next twenty years of reporting on robotics and artificial intelligence. It’s likely to get worse from here. Jay Richards, “That Robot Is Not Self-Aware” at Mind Matters

Also by Jay Richards: A Short Argument Against the Materialist Account of the Mind:

The skinny: Robotics and AI don’t mean that jobs will disappear but rather that the jobs humans do will require human abilities, not just the ability to show up at a repetitive, low-skill job every day. But that transition has been taking place for centuries.

It doesn’t mean that machines are replacing people or becoming like people, though if political power can be gained by claiming so, surely some will claim it.

See also: A computer engineering prof’s Top Ten AI hypes of 2018 (Robert Marks)