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Tech & Science Scientists believe programming AI for self-preservation could be the key to giving robots feelings

01:15  12 november  2019
01:15  12 november  2019 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Researchers at USC have conducted a thought experiment about how robots might one day learn to develop feelings© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Researchers at USC have conducted a thought experiment about how robots might one day learn to develop feelings

A new paper from researchers at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute considers a novel path toward creating robots with ‘feelings.’

The key, according to researchers Kinson Man and Antonio Damasio, is homestasis, a self-preservation principle by which living creatures seek to maintain internal biological equilibrium by avoiding certain environments or kinds of stimuli.

Were robots to be programmed with a homeostatic sense of self-preservation, would that put them on a path toward developing true feelings?

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According to a Science News report on the paper, Man and Damasio consider the most promising lead for feeling robots to come through the combination of soft robotics and deep learning, which when combined might approximate a homeostatic reaction to negative environmental stimuli.

Man and Domasio point to a 1954 experiment by W. Ross Ashby that demonstrated how homeostatic sensing might be translated into robotics.

Ross designed a system of electric and magnetic sensors, which when disrupted would cycle through a random number of different electromagnetic parameters to try and regain equilibrium.

a close up of a device: W. Ross Ashby's 1954 experiment (pictured above) was a network of electric and magnetic sensors that would randomly cycle through different parameters to regain system equilibrium when a disruption was introduced© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited W. Ross Ashby's 1954 experiment (pictured above) was a network of electric and magnetic sensors that would randomly cycle through different parameters to regain system equilibrium when a disruption was introduced

They believe that using a similar approach to soft robotics, a sub-discipline of robotics that embeds electric sensors and other devices into flexible or soft synthetic material, could lay the foundation for a robot geared toward self-preservation.

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Tying such a system to a deep learning program--a branch of artificial intelligence that allows an AI to make independent inferences — could produce a robot able to ‘feel’ differences in how it was being touched and respond accordingly.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Soft robotics is a field that embeds electric networks and sensors into pliable synthetic material that's mean to simulate biological material© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Soft robotics is a field that embeds electric networks and sensors into pliable synthetic material that's mean to simulate biological material a close up of a map: The USC researchers believe that by using soft robotics, a future android might develop the capacity to feel changers in their environment and respond accordingly© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The USC researchers believe that by using soft robotics, a future android might develop the capacity to feel changers in their environment and respond accordingly

Yet, Man and Damasio acknowledge, would such a system actually lead to feeling or simply mechanize it as an elaborate simulacrum? ‘Can all mental phenomena be reduced to information processing, implementable on any arbitrary computing medium?’ they ask in the paper’s conclusion.

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‘A computer simulation of a hurricane won’t get us wet,’ they argue, pointing the idea there may be a fundamental divide between human experience and robot experience.

Whether real or simulated, they conclude, developing robots with the capacity for homeostatic behavior might lead to ‘better-behaved autonomy,’ and thus make it easier for humans and robots to negotiate their differences instead of trying to erase them entirely.

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