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2014: Postmortem

Oh no! I forgot to post a personal postmortem1 for the year 2014 like I did for the previous year...

Cognitive Abstraction Manifolds

A few days ago I started thinking about abstractions whilst reading Surfaces and Essences, a recent...

On That Which is Called “Memory”

Information itself is a foundational concept for cognitive science theories.But the very definition...

Polymorphism in Mental Development

Adaptability and uninterrupted continuous operations are important features of mental development...

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Samuel KenyonRSS Feed of this column.

Robotics software engineer, AI researcher, interaction designer (IxD). Also (as Sam Vanivray) filmmaker, actor.

Working on my new sci-fi movie to be filmed in 2016:
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There's a news story replicating on the web right now about a "Functioning Synapse Created Using Carbon Nanotubes," for instance here and here.  However, it's not quite as good as it sounds (yet) because it's just a SPICE (simulation) circuit.

Both of those example news stories include this partially relevant image with the caption "This image shows nanotubes used in synthetic synapse and apparatus used to create them."
In 2003 I started looking at the science of emotion in order to determine if it would be useful for robots. When I had to do an English paper that year (middler year writing at Northeastern University) I decided it would be something about emotions, but I wasn't sure at first what the specific theme would be. One question I had was, why do people often associate emotion with spirituality (or do they)?

Is it simply that some people never bothered to consider how emotion works, so it just gets classified with other mysterious phenomena like spirits? Or is it because religion has laid claims to human emotion?


Creating a robot with emotions is a software development problem.

Emotion is a matter of cognitive architecture.  It is part of the information system of the mind.  Recreating "emotions" really means recreating a type of mind that uses internal mechanisms similar to our minds.  Making an emotional machine requires the proper design and implementation and deployment.

The reason I added "deployment" in there is because environment is quite important.  The mind is a system that interacts with other entities--there is an information flow.  The level of externalism required affects how situated and/or embodied an artificial agent has to be.  That is where robots come in.  However, a robot and its world can be simulated.
I just rediscovered some photos of a robot I threw together in about an hour back in 2003.



This was made out of an Innovation First educational robot kit which came with the official FIRST robotics kit (which also had parts made by Innovation First).  The small edu kit later evolved into the VEX robotics kit. They also make a cool little toy called Hexbug.

Whereas in America we've been wasting our robot races on autonomous cars that can drive on real roads without causing Michael Bay levels of collateral damage, Japan has taken a more subtle approach.

Their "history making" bipedal robot race involves expensive toy robots stumbling through 422 laps of a 100 meter course, which is followed by visually tracking colored tape on the ground (I'm making an assumption there--the robots may actually be even less capable than that).  This is surely one of the most ingenious ways to turn old technology into a major new PR event.
I just attended Stephen Fry's acceptance of the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, given by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.

His speech was quite different than the one he gave for the Intelligence² Debate.  The main theme tonight was "I will not be told."