Magazine article The Futurist

Robots with Human Intelligence

Magazine article The Futurist

Robots with Human Intelligence

Article excerpt

Robots with Human Intelligence

"I believe that robots with human intelligence will be common within 50 years," declares Hans Moravec in his new book Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that human equivalence by these "children of our minds" represents any sort of upper bound, writes the director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University.

At present, artificial-intelligence researchers find it relatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance in solving problems on intelligence tests or playing checkers, but difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility, says Moravec.

Thus, the fastest progress toward fully intelligent machines is likely to come not from the "top-down" route to machine intelligence, which attempts to copy the conscious mental processes of human beings doing particular tasks, but rather from a "bottom-up" route that imitates the evolution of animal minds. Researchers are striving to add perceptual and motor capabilities to machines a few at a time, so that the resulting sequence of machine behaviors resembles the capabilities of animals with increasingly complex nervous systems.

"I am confident that this bottom-up route to artificial intelligence will one day meet the traditional top-down route more than half way, ready to provide the realworld competence and commonsense knowledge that has been so frustratingly elusive in reasoning programs," writes Moravec. "Fully intelligent machines will result when the metaphorical golden spike is driven uniting the two efforts." He expects this union to occur in about 40 years.

In the meantime, a general-purpose robot for the factory and for the home may arrive before the turn of the century. This robot will not be preprogrammed to do many useful tasks, but software written for particular applications will enable it to perform a wide variety of jobs, Moravec predicts.

For example, different software programs might allow the robot to clean bathrooms, assemble and cook gourmet meals from fresh ingredients, investigate bomb threats, deliver to and fetch from a warehoused inventory, or help to assemble and test other robots. Moravec forecasts that writing applications programs for successive generations of general-purpose robots will become the major human occupation in the early decades of the next century.

Programs will be created that make general-purpose robots good learners. …

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