Sunday, March 6, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream, Jules

My juniors have been reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and then  saw Steven Speilberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Among the questions we discussed are: What responsibility does the creator has toward his creation? What does it mean to be human? Can we create a robot with A.I.? Can humans learn to care about such a robot?

As we pondered many of these questions and others prompted by the ideas, I came across the work of David Hanson who created Jules, a conversational character robot, modeled in Frubber which allows his face to be highly expressive. Created to run on batteries, Jules was to  be shipped to the University of West England. Those who had worked with him prepared to say goodbye to the android.

Jules' question early on blew many of my students' minds: "Will I dream when I'm turned off?" Is this just programming, fake A.I.? What the students found as interesting was the personification that obviously went on between the humans and Jules. What the obvious attachment the humans display toward Jules.

John Searle in his Chinese Room theory suggests that A.I. is impossible. Instead he envisions a person who only reads English locked in a room filled with strings of Chinese characters and a script which tells him what to do. Those outside the room would assume that he could read Chinese because he is using the words correctly, but in actuality he is merely following code provided. Is that all that Jules' question suggests?

As we finish our unit, they--and you-- might want to check out the following:

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen 'Chappie' yet? Interesting to feel compassion for a robot, rather than the fear engendered by 'Ex Machina', for example.