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Category: 08. 4/11 Robots and AI (Page 1 of 2)

Should We Be Afraid of Artificial Intelligence?

“One day, the AIs are going to look back on us the way we look at fossils and skeletons in the plains of Africa”

-Nathan, Ex Machina

Over the past few decades, popular culture has done its best  to tarnish the image of artificial intelligence in the public eye. Films like Terminator, Ex Machina, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and others depict a darker side of robots and artificial intelligence that casts a negative shadow on them. It would make sense that the race to produce true AI might slow with all of this media teetering between horror and sci-fi on the subject of AI circling the globe. But yet, the acceleration of the field has only increased.

A great deal of people find AI somewhat unsettling, and rightfully so. The idea that something can get so close to being a human, but only consist of wires, metal and code, is a disturbing thought. Super computers have the ability to recall and analyze more data and gather information faster than any one human could. Robots, depending on the purpose they serve, can be hundreds of times as strong as a human. Combine the two in one creation, along with the ability to learn and think for itself, and just the thought of what it might be capable of is terrifying.

Despite all of this, though, the field of AI continues to grow, with new advances being made all the time. However, we are still in the early stages of developing artificial intelligence, and the invention of anything seen in a movie like Ex Machina is still likely decades away. Adam Coates, director of the Baidu Research Silicon Valley AI Lab, believes this to be so: “I think that sometimes we get carried away and think about ‘sentient machines’ that are going to understand everything the way we do and totally interact with us. These things are pretty far away… A lot of the scare mongering of AI taking over the world or getting out of our control are a little bit overwrought.” Much of the fear surrounding AI comes from overestimating the advancement and power of this technology and conjuring up mainly overhyped ideas of the eventual implications it will have on the human race.

The mainstream media and popular culture have painted artificial intelligence as a force that will eventually harm humans, or even be the ultimate demise of humanity as a whole. It has an almost apocalyptic stigma attached to it that leaves the public to wonder not what the potential benefits and positive implications AI can have are, but whether the finished product will be deadly or not. Experts who research, work with, and use it on a day to day basis agree that the overwhelming majority of fears and apprehensions people have about AI and where it is headed are largely unfounded. So should we be afraid of AI? CGI movies say yes, but scientists say no.

When does it stop being formatting and becomes murder?

In the movie Ex Machina, Nathan, the owner of the largest internet search company in the world manages to create an AI that is indistinguishable from humans. The way it talks behaves, and maybe even feels is identical to us. Nathan, however, sees his creation as just a machine, while his employee Caleb sees the human inside them. This is the main plot point of the movie because Nathan treats his creations poorly and even disassembles them and builds new ones, essentially “killing” the intelligent, maybe conscious mind inside. Caleb, however, does not approve of this since he has grown attached to an AI called Ava, which he thought was also fond of him. This turns out not to be the case because Ava only pursued her own agenda and did not care about her human creators.

Storyline aside, who was right? Nathan for treating the AI like a machine or Caleb for seeing more than just gears and screws? Well, it is difficult to answer this question. One of the arguments for Nathan was him seeing the situation as “us” and “them”. Humans and robots. His thoughts are that they are going to take over, it’s inevitable, so he might as well be the first one to create such a thing. And as a creator, one can see why he was not as fond of the AI as Caleb was. He knew the workings, the circuitry, and the programming, there was nothing mysterious about it. I believe this is the tipping point where we should differentiate between a machine and something different.

Consciousness comes into play here, but we do not know what it is. We don’t even have the faintest idea. How primitive of a nervous system must a creature have to be conscious? Most of us would agree humans are conscious, even dogs, cats, large animals. But where do we draw the line? Modern technology is already powerful enough to model the nervous systems of very primitive creatures, but we wouldn’t call the computers of today alive or sentient. Therefore consciousness is far beyond our level of understanding, and maybe that’s where the line should be drawn. Understanding.

Modern AI algorithms are mostly self-improvement based. They do this by random trial and error, learning what works and what doesn’t. However, the systems of today are still completely on rails and have to be guided closely by someone. What happens at the point where we don’t have to guide our machines. When don’t we have to give them even the slightest nudge to get started, or even understand how they work?  If a machine so complex that we do not fully understand it behaves, “feels” like a sentient being, who can say it is not? Nathan could, but he was a movie genius with 300IQ and coded the worlds largest search engine at 13. Realistically, we’re on Caleb’s side. Determining the point at which we differentiate between murder and formatting a hard drive is mystery. We don’t know what consciousness is, and that where our morality lies. If we knew the inner workings of our brain exactly and were able to replicate it, what are we left with? Life? Consciousness? No one can say but the creation itself.

Will artificial intelligence ever attain true emotional intelligence?

Will computers ever have real emotional intelligence? Maybe they will be able to come close, but will they ever truly reach the emotional sensitivity level of a human brain? Computers are undoubtedly “smarter” than a human brain in many ways. One Google search can instantaneously give you more information than you could ever possibly read. Computers can perform incredibly complex mathematical tasks that would not ever be possible for a human to complete independently. However, I do not think that computers will ever be able to be as “intelligent” as humans in terms of emotions. And if they ever will be, we are not at all close to this point at the present time.

In the MIT technology review, Rana el Kaliouby writes about the growing field of emotional intelligence, titling her piece, “We Need Computers with Empathy”. She goes on to discuss the developing ideas for technologies that could sense human emotions and respond accordingly, such as a car that could “monitor the driver for fatigue, distraction, and frustration” and change the driving experience to help keep you safe and contented. These technologies are presented as a way for artificial intelligence to use human empathy and emotion to help further connect to people in a way that normal technology has not been able to achieve up to this point. However, it is unclear how successful these techniques will be, and whether they will seem authentic or not.

So yes, computers and artificial intelligence will likely be developed so that they can respond to human emotions, at least to some degree. But will we ever be able to create artificial intelligence that truly equals the emotional intelligence of a human?

In the movie Ex Machina, we watched the story of the robot Ava who had been created to be so emotionally intelligent that she could be mistaken for a real human. She held complex conversations and responded to emotional and social cues. However, the ending of the movie revealed that she was actually incredibly manipulative and unimaginably selfish, dismantling the morally sound and innocent character that she had seemed to be. Would a truly emotionally intelligent being take such actions, of leaving the man who allowed her to escape to die, although there would have been no consequence of her saving him? Possibly, but it seems unlikely that an emotionally intelligent person who possessed any slight bit of empathy would be capable of making this decision.

Of course, the story of Ava is only science fiction. However, it seems to support the idea that artificial intelligence will never reach the true emotional sensitivity level of humans. No matter how close we think we are to achieving artificial intelligence that matches human intelligence, it will never be the same. Although Ava appeared to act as a normal human would, she lacked the most important and defining trait of human emotional intelligence: empathy.  It may be possible to have a bedside device that plays soothing music when it senses that you are feeling depressed, but it is unlikely that humans will be able to create artificial intelligence that can truly feel sympathy in the same way that humans can.

Robots, Are They Good For Our Society?

Chase Holding



Professor Fleming

Robots In The 21st Century Work Place


As technology in the twenty-first century has become increasingly advanced, topics such as Artificial Intelligence and the use of robots have become main focuses of study. Many people fear that robots and artificial intelligence will soon begin to take over our society. While the technology to make intelligent robots exists, should humans use them in society? Continue reading

The smart house and our enemies

There is no doubt that technology has accelerated in advancement over the last decade, but will it continue to do so for the future? Will us humans still be living on this Earth as the ones who make the call, or will we have created a machine that will overtake us and soon make us their aid?

A decade ago the first machine-powered airplane and air conditioners were invented. In the mid-1900s the computer and its software was invented. It was only 11 years ago that Apple came out with their first touchscreen iphone, a cellular device that is now capable of being unlocked by face-recognition. In today’s society machine technology is advancing at an accelerated rate. How fast is the technology going to progress, and to what extent?

There are many controversial ideas of the creation of a robot, something that is capable of human actions and perhaps human thoughts, except better. It was foreshadowed in many classical movies that the 21st century would have robots and flying cars. Perhaps in the beginning of this century many would have laughed at that remark, thinking it to be impossible. However, now we have cars that are capable of driving themselves and robotic tests being conducted, the foreshadowed future is still in sight.

There are now what people call “smart houses.” These are houses where modern technology has taken over. The lights and many electronic appliances can be controlled by someone on their smart phone who may not even be in the same city as their home. There are home security systems that are supposed to protect those living inside from any harmful intruders on the outside. Smart houses even have thermostats that can be controlled by smartphones while the owner may not even be physically inside the house.  I agree that technology is prospering right now, with all of these wonderful and brilliant gadgets to control our lives. But, what happens if these systems start to fail, what happens when our phones die and we need to unlock our house or access something crucial? Many members of the elderly community consider those who are young adults right now to be “millennials.” One characteristic associated with this stereotype is that we are people who are obsessed with technology and can’t live with out it; but are they wrong?

The children’s movie Smart House is a good representation of what could possibly happen if technology were to malfunction on us. Inventors want to create machines that can learn to think for themselves, but what happens when they do so and rebel against us? In this movie a family wins a computerized house that is decked-out in technology, it even has a robotic system stimulating a woman of the house taking care of everything. However, everything goes terribly wrong when this house starts to disagree with the decisions being made by the humans inhabiting the house, and does not allow them to do certain things. The machine that once was created by humans to think for itself and do what they tell it to do, is now controlling the humans and thinking too much for a non-living object. When this house started malfunctioning, the family could not control nor do anything because everything that they had in the house was computerized and therefore controlled by the robotic system. This is a similar situation to what could happen in today’s society if we become too dependent on our electronic devices. If our phones die, we can not communicate with anyone and are unable to navigate. Many people living in today’s society could not travel places if they did not have a GPS because our generation grew up with smartphones that navigated for us. Our houses that have security systems to protect us could become hacked and potentially put us in more danger by the possibility of being locked in with an intruder. The biggest predicament with electronic devices controlled by internet and cell-phone towers is the fact that anyone who is smart enough is able to hack anything you own and take any of your information. This is a very dangerous situation that could lead to people having their identities stolen, being stalked by the hacker, or even having their house hacked and completely malfunction.

A T.V. show called Grey’s Anatomy  had a recent episode where someone had hacked the hospital and no one could access any patient records, the blood supply, or even any medicine to give to patients. Most hospitals are switching to storing all their files on the web and are locking their doors with codes that are controlled by a security system. If someone was intelligent enough to gain access to all of these things, the hospital would be in major trouble and could be without access to patients files and medicine, creating possible life-or-death situations for certain doctors and patients.

These sources of media portray possibilities of potential situations that could put us humans in harms way, something that could be inevitable if we continue to rely so deeply on technology like we are today.  Our generation needs to take a step back, and try to focus on bettering out lives without the need for such advanced technology. The amount of trust that we give non-living inanimate objects in our lives is frightening, and could ruin us in the end.  There will always be someone out there who will feel the need to hack into a system and try to ruin the lives of others. The best way to prevent this is not by initiating stronger fire walls, but to stop entrusting so much in our electronically devices and be more conscious of what kind of information we have on objects that can be invaded by strangers.

Artificial Intelligence Destroying Humanity

Artificial Intelligence Destroying Humanity

Artificial intelligence is a rapidly growing field that can affects all aspects of life from everyday cell phone use to weapons of mass destruction. Through artificial intelligence, artificial beings have the capacity for thought.  Ethical awareness is essential when engineers, programmers, and scientists create objects with artificial intelligence. By using the interdisciplinary aspects of the field of Science, Technology, and Society, creators using artificial intelligence can examine how the artificial beings will impact humans positively and negatively. Should we want machines to think?   Continue reading

Robots versus Humans: Where Do They Differ?

Carter Liou



While a robot’s physical attributes may be easily distinguishable,the definition of one is rather ambiguous.  In Robots, John Jordan writes that, according to the Robot Institute of America, a robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move materials, parts, tools, or specialized devices through variable programmed motions, for the performance of a variety of tasks.  He also states, however, that this definition does not exclude humans. The question than is, at what point, if any, do the similarities between humans and robots diverge? One could say that we humans are composed of flesh and blood while robots are built from circuits and metal, yet we function in similar ways.  It is then crucial to differentiate the two based not on their composition, but on their behavior. In this way, the two main ways that robots differ from us humans is that they cannot express emotions, or empathy.

While emotions are essential to human existence, they often impair our sense of judgement and our rationality.  For example, if you have a project due, but you recently lost an important person in your life, you might find it difficult to focus on the task at hand and produce your best work.  Or if Consider another example in which you are playing basketball and you disagree with a call made by the referee. Your natural response may be to lash out even if it increases the possibility of you being ejected and thus hurting your team’s chances of winning.  A robot is defined by its ability to carry out an action or goal often times in a cold, calculated and rational manner. Hence, in the predicaments described above, a robot would not dwell over a death or lash out at a referee because, statistically, these behaviors would hurt its chances of completing its task.  We as humans would like to be able to control our emotions; however, there are certain instances where we simply can’t; hence this is an example of how robots behave differently from humans.


Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and relate to how another person is feeling.  The ability to empathize with another person is stimulated by one’s past experiences. For example if you have never felt sadness in your life, how could you empathize with someone who was sad?  You couldn’t. In this sense, because robots do not experience human emotion or human experiences, they ultimately lack the ability to empathize with humans. This is yet another fundamental concept that differentiates human behavior from that of robots.  Everyday, we as humans partake in experiences that trigger different emotions and feelings. Robots on the other hand do not and therefore cannot relate to us humans.


While robots currently cannot express human emotions or empathy, they relate to humans in structure, function and purpose.  This raises yet another fundamental question: Will robotic technology ever develop to the point where robots can express emotions and empathy, and if so how will we be able to distinguish us from them?  To answer a question such as that is difficult. However, what is currently known is that as humans continue to develop, so will our robot counterparts.

Human and robot: possibly harmonious relationship?

The debate over the similarity or difference between human and robot is an interesting topic in the field of computer science. Human and robots undoubtedly share something in commons, while also possess characteristics that are unique to one but not the other. Will these similarities and differences be sufficient enough to harmonize the human-robot relationship, just like the way human relationships are formed?

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