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Here Comes the Future: We're Making Robots That Feel!

The Star Wars droids C3PO and R2D2.

A Cornell University professor envisions the creation of robots with self-awareness.

Credit: Lucasfilm

Cornell University professor Hod Lipson envisions the creation of robots with self-awareness.

He notes, for example, computers can be programmed to undergo rapid evolution and adjust to changes in their surrounding environment. "In the next couple of decades we won't be programming machines, children, exactly...we'll shape their experiences a little bit, and they'll grow on their own and do what they do," Lipson predicts. He also thinks this quality will make the machines adaptable to whatever specific tasks are required, and they will have emotions as well, although not necessarily human emotions.

Lipson wants his robots to use past experience to make assumptions or deductions. However, he says machines that learn from experience may not necessarily learn what people want them to learn, and they also may acquire knowledge that was not intended for them to know.

A notable achievement by Lipson's Creative Machines Lab is Eureqa, a scientific computer that can craft a hypothesis, design an experiment, consider the results, and derive natural laws from them. Researchers such as Lipson and University of Aberystwyth professor Ross King see automation as essential to boosting the efficiency of science to solve societal challenges quicker.

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