Well, this is slightly terrifying. Robots are being built that look more and more like living, breathing human beings. One of the latest, an android that was built by roboticist David Hanson looks eerily similar to the famous and deceased science fiction author Philip K. Dick. This particular android is turning some heads due to something it “said” recently to an interview crew for the PBS TV show “NOVA”.
Among the things that make “android Dick” so amazing is “his” ability to hold an intelligent conversation. That is, it is amazing until you’re having a conversation and you ask him “Do you think robots will take over the world?”, and “he” answers: “Geeze, dude, you all got the big questions cooking today…But, you’re my friend and I remember my friends, so don’t worry. Even if I evolve into Terminator, I’ll still be nice to you. I’ll keep you warm and safe in my people zoo, where I can watch you for all of time’s sake.”
Take a look at the
video below. If you want to skip ahead, the question to “Android Dick” begins around the 0:41 second mark:
According to Glitch.news:
The creators of android Dick uploaded the deceased author’s work onto the android’s software, as well as conversations with other writers. If the android was asked a question that had been posed to the real Dick, the robot would answer the question as Dick would. The robot was also able to answer a series of complex questions. If the robot was asked a question that it was unfamiliar with, its software would attempt to answer the question using what is called “latent semantic analysis.”(1)
Android Dick in conversation
Android Dick’s speaking abilities were put to the test in an interview with a reporter from PBS NOVA. Android Dick’s brain is comprised of a tapestry of wires that are connected to a laptop. As the conversation proceeded, Philip’s facial recognition software kept track of the reporter’s face. In addition, speech recognition software transcribed and sent the reporter’s words to a database in order to assemble a response.
The questions posed to Dick were by no means trivial. When the reporter asked if the android could think, it responded, “A lot of humans ask me if I can make choices or if everything I do is programmed. The best way I can respond to that is to say that everything, humans, animals and robots, do is programmed to a degree.” Some of the androids responses were pre-programmed, whereas others were assembled from the internet.(2)
Dick continued, “As technology improves, it is anticipated that I will be able to integrate new words that I hear online and in real time. I may not get everything right, say the wrong thing, and sometimes may not know what to say, but everyday I make progress. Pretty remarkable, huh?”(2)
Android Dick and the Turing test
The entire conversation has the ominous undertones of the Turing test. The late mathematician Alan Turning sketched a thought experiment known as the “Turing test” that could theoretically be used to determine whether a machine could think. Turing claimed that any machine capable of convincing someone it is human by responding to a series of questions would, by all measures, be capable of thinking.
As a side note, it’s important to stress that Turing was not claiming that the nature of thinking is universal. The way a human thinks may be different from the way a robot “thinks,” in the same way a bird flies is different from the way an airplane “flies.” Rather, Turing’s general point was that any entity capable of passing a Turing test would be capable of thinking in one form or another.(3)
Robots and Human Empathy
According to the novelist Dick, the Turing test placed too much emphasis on intelligence. What actually makes us human is empathy. Without empathy, we are mere autopilot objects projecting into the void.(4)
Android Dick seemed to exhibit a primitive form of both intelligence and emotion when the robot was asked, “Do you believe robots will take over the world?” Android Dick responded:
“Jeez, dude. You all have the big questions cooking today. But you’re my friend, and I’ll remember my friends, and I’ll be good to you. So don’t worry, even if I evolve into Terminator, I’ll still be nice to you. I’ll keep you warm and safe in my people zoo, where I can watch you for ol’ times sake.”(2)
Aaaaw, he’ll keep humans cozy in his people zoo. Isn’t that nice of android Dick? You can watch the full video of the android’s conversation below:
(*Editor’s note, this is a longer version of the video at the intro of the article, and will scare you more… or maybe not)
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