Phys/CSci 135: Robotics exploration studio
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Assignment 4: Evidence

Due: 5:00pm, Wednesday, December 9. Value: 60 pts.

Read the short story Evidence from I, Robot, then write an essay responding to the below prompt. The essay should be approximately 2–4 double-spaced pages, though it may be shorter or longer as long as you answer the questions fully. The essay should fluently integrate answers to the questions into one coherent whole response, and it should be able to stand on its own without reference to the assignment. Please include page numbers for any citations of the source story.

Both our experience in this course as well as Asimov's robots that follow the Three Laws suggest that robots are essentially mindless automata that might simulate the results of thinking without actually thinking. In the words of philosopher Blaise Pascal, who invented an early mechanical adding machine, The adding-machine produces effects closer to thought than anything done by the animals, but it does nothing to justify the assertion that it has a will like the animals.

However, in Evidence we are presented with a robot that is remarkably human-like. Computer science pioneer Alan Turing asserted that if a computer could fool a human into thinking that it was itself human, that it must be intelligent in the same sense that a human being is. This is his famous Turing Test.

Assess whether the robot described in Evidence ought to be considered human. In particular, focus on whether that robot ought to have all of the rights that society conventionally grants to human beings. Be sure to discuss what you consider to be the appropriate criteria for classifying a robot as a person. Give specific examples from the story and from your experience programming robots in this course to support your position. Pay particular attention to the ability of the robot from Labs 8 and 9 to find the line, avoid obstacles, and follow moving objects. Also feel free to include other evidence that you consider pertinent. In your conclusion, state whether you think Pascal or Turing had a better case to make with regard to artificial intelligence. Feel free to do some research to learn more about the Turing Test if you believe it would strengthen your argument.

Submit your essay either by e-mail (Word or PDF format) or by bringing a printout to my office, MCRey 310.