Science and Tech
How To Spot A Sentient Robot

Marshall Lemon | 17 Jul 2015 22:00
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Ex Machina CineMarter #1

In reality, there are all kinds of elements which reflect consciousness, and most AI is incredibly limited with the full range. As we've mentioned before, while computers have far more processing power, our organic brains are capable of far more complex and nuanced thought that we usually take for granted. "The most impressive achievements in AI today are only better than humans in very narrow domains, such as playing chess or finding patterns in huge amounts of data," Shanahan said. "We still have no idea how to make a computer that can perform the range of intellectual tasks that a human can perform, or that can learn new tasks and even invent entirely new kinds of behaviour."

So what behaviors really show that something has consciousness, instead of mere intelligence? According to Shanahan, the biggest hang-ups for AI are common sense and creativity, thought processes which are almost impossible to replicate. The computers which recently made headlines by creating Magic: The Gathering Cards are a step in the right direction, but even those technically used patterns in Magic's rules - they couldn't innovate to create an entirely new card game. But it's definitely a field the Turing Test isn't equipped to evaluate - according to Shanahan, Caleb's tests in Ex Machina are a much better way of evaluating the process.

"The test that Caleb is asked to conduct on Ava is much better than the Turing Test," he said. "In the Turing Test the machine is hidden, and the task is to fool the judge into thinking it is human. As Nathan says, 'The real test is to show you [Ava] is a robot. Then see if you still feel she has consciousness.'"

Ex Machina is still just a movie however, and there's no consensus on when robots would reach these goals. Some roboticists believe we'll reach the singularity by mid-century, while Shanahan himself suspects it might be even longer. Still, if an AI ever quietly became experts at common sense and creativity, it's possible it would be sentient and we'd never pick up on it.

Ex Machina released on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday, July 14th


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