Doesn’t this solar-powered kit look awesome? I couldn’t resist this kit for $3. It promised 3 robots in one: regular robot, tank, scorpion.
Inside the box, there was a set of instructions, stickers and the plastic moldings in blue and white. They were labelled with numbers so that you could tell what is what when following instructions.
The instructions were quite complicated. You actually had to build the robot first in order to even understand how to configure it to the rest of the robotic creatures. The solar power panel was attached to a motor and it worked well when not actually attached to anything. There were a lot of bits and pieces to put together.
Sometimes we looked at the instructions and had no idea what hole they were asking us to put things into. Other times pieces of plastic from the molding would just be in the way. It specifies that it is for age 10 and up but I’d be impressed to find a 10 year old who can get this thing working.
Nearly 2 hours later, this is what we ended up with. He was lopsided, and was too heavy for it’s own motor. Or maybe it was midnight and our lamps weren’t generating enough power for the panel. Either way we were left with one sad robot and decided never to touch it again.
You can watch our struggles on video here.
Fascination in the mind led me to read Kurzweil’s How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Though Revealed. The first part of the book goes into compelling detail about how the human brain stores and analyzes information.
The later half philosophises artificial intelligence. It questions and eloquently investigates the ethics behind the artificial mind. If a computer had the same power as human brain, should it be considered conscious? Kurzweil thinks it should be and makes many references to the Jeopardy winning robot, Watson.
He also questions free will, making allusions to the fact that not all human decisions are done of free will. Often we confabulate to make it seem like something was done on our free will. For example, our decisions are often made based on our past experiences. Therefore our past is influencing our decision and free will is one devoid of influences. It thought this was a quite perplexing thought.
Kurzweil explained that Watson (and even iPhone’s) Siri is able to learn from the environment and as technology grows they will be able to learn things the same ways as humans do. If that happens, would we treat computers like humans? Only in time can we truly answer that question.
For anybody who’s interested, here is a lecture Kurzweil did at Google on the topic: