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A Robot That Can 'Think' Has Just Been Created–Here Are The Implications


RJ Pierce, Tech Times


Robot portrayals in pop culture almost always present them as thinking machines that can make decisions on their own. And perhaps engineers have finally made real-life ones do the same thing. 

(Photo : Getty Images )

According to The Independent, a team of Japanese scientists from the University of Tokyo has managed to create a “thinking” robot that can, among other tasks, maneuver its own way around obstacles using a “brain” powered by artificial intelligence. 

And apparently, the robot’s brain features lab-grown neurons, which enable the machine to “think” it is way around the surrounding area. 

Should the researchers manage to get their robot and the artificial intelligence they created out in the open, it could potentially usher in an entirely new era full of “thinking” machines. 

How Does It Work? 

To achieve the feat, the scientists used nerve cells that were grown from real living cells. 

In their design, the cells played the role of so-called physical reservoirs, from where the onboard computer could create the appropriate signals that made the robot “decide” how to approach a task on its own. 

Should the machine (which is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand) do something wrong, like go off the wrong direction, the nerve cells in its “brain” would be shocked with electric current? 

(Photo : Getty Images )

The scientists were able to “teach” the artificial intelligence they built using this method by constantly feeding its embedded nerve cells with current until it managed to accomplish its task. 

In other words, it’s a bit like trial-and-error. Unlike other machines, these robots will be able to perform tasks they’re not programmed to do. 

Read also: SEE Robotics Launches Crowdfunding Campaign for the First Robot for Vloggers

The Tech Has Been Around For Years 

This seems new, right? A robot that can think for itself sounds like something that can only be achieved by tech that has come out in recent years. But you’d be surprised that this has already existed for a decade. 

Unsurprisingly, the Japanese once again managed to create a thinking robot as far back as 2011. 

According to Phys.org, that one was created by a team from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. It worked almost similar to the one built by University of Tokyo researchers, in that it also features a “brain” of some sorts. 

(Photo : Getty Images )

However, that one didn’t use living cells, but rather an artificial intelligence algorithm called the Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network (SOINN). 

With this algorithm, the robot can use its own knowledge (aka what it already “know”) to think and decide how it should complete the tasks they’re assigned. 

Technology like this can literally make a machine able to respond to even vague orders, such as “buy groceries” or “serve some water,” without having to be pre-programmed firsthand. 

The Challenges Of Building A ‘Thinking’ Robot 

Massive issues still plague the development of so-called thinking machines, however. 

That’s because a lot of engineers and scientists tend to equate the process of thinking to computational tasks performed by computers, writes The Conversation. 

But the thing is, whatever a computer is good at (i.e. processing numbers) is something the human brain is bad at. And on the other hand, what a human brain is good at (i.e. creativity, abstract thinking) is something the computer is bad at. 

(Photo : Getty Images )

This is one of the biggest reasons why true self-aware machines–like the ones you often see in movies, remain in the realm of science fiction. Even if these Japanese robots can “think” to a certain degree, you can’t talk about esoteric topics like the meaning of life with them. 

What Does This Mean For The Future? 

A thinking robot will truly usher in a new era for humanity. If the tech advances enough, then society would likely have self-aware machines that can adequately become true companions to humans. 

Let’s just hope that when these robots do gain the ability to think for themselves, they won’t instigate the end of the human race. 

Sleep well, reader. 

Related: A Robot Dog With A Big Gun Was Just Introduced

This article is owned by Tech Times 

Written by RJ Pierce 

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