ROBOTS could soon be able to make their own decisions and act in ways which could harm society.
Terrifying new research reveals that the one thing that we once believe separated us from machines – our ability to be self-aware – can be simulated by artificial intelligence.
Getty – Contributor Consciousness is something that can be programmed, scientists have found
That means machines of the future could become sentient beings, understanding what they are and the purpose they serve.
Strange as it seems, this isn’t plucked from a sci-fi film like Blade Runner 2049 but from a scientific study published by a trio of neuroscientists in the esteemed journal Science.
Stanislas Dehaene, Hakwan Lau and Sid Kouider were determined to figure out what consciousness is and whether machines could possess it.
They made the chilling discovery that, as a rule, consciousness was “resolutely computational”.
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This means that in the future, algorithms could work similarly to the way our brain operates.
Truly sentient software could be priceless if a company got it right – and several are investing huge sums in artificial intelligence for various purposes.
Google, Apple, Facebook and IBM are among the several tech companies that are busy “training” algorithms to make them smarter.
Luckily, today’s computers are only capable of what the scientists describe as “unconscious processing” and only appear human-like.
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How do computers ‘think’?
Scientists have been training computers how to learn, like humans, since the 1970s.
But recent advances in data storage mean that the process has sped up massively in recent years.
Interest in the field hit a peak when Google paid hundreds of millions to buy a British “deep learning” company in 2015.
Deep learning is effectively training a computer so it can figure out natural language and instructions.
It’s fed information and is then quizzed on it, so it can learn, much like a child in the early years at school.
A top Oxford academic has warned the government that artificial intelligence could go rogue and cause harm to the general public if left unchecked.
Professor Michael Wooldridge was championing the incredible impact it will have on society but added that it could be dangerous if we fail to keep it under control.
Algorithms have been known to create workarounds to function more effectively without input from the scientists who created them.
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This means they could make what we might describe as “out of character” decisions during critical moments.
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In the future, this could mean a self-driving car might decide to swerve into pedestrians or crash into a speed barrier for a reason we could not have predicted or medical bots might choose to override pre-programmed operation directions.
During a recent experiment Facebook’s bots created their own language to communicate as it was more effective.