Can robots learn the cognitive meanings underlying learned behavior?

What I mean by this is can robots or cyborgs discern the underlying meaning behind certain learned behaviors?  My case in point is this clip I offer from the film I, Robot.  Here, we see Will Smith’s character explaining the meaning of an intentional wink to the robot, “Sonny”.  Later, “Sonny” uses an intentional wink to save Smith and the scientist who helped create “Sonny” from harm.

Now, a wink is a physical gesture humans do thousands of times every day, both voluntarily and involuntarily.  “Sonny” learned one of the intentional meanings of a wink, when connected with certain other behaviors, is a subtle form of signaling to another person or, in this case, a robot to a human.  This had not been programmed into “Sonny” per se, but he (it) learned this wink’s meaning through observation and cognitive reasoning.  Hence, my initial question.  But perhaps another question will be if robots or cyborgs can successfully develop not only deductive reasoning skills, but deeper cognitive skills as well, does that put them closer to meaningful sentience and therefore allow them to be considered new life forms?  And when is it acceptable to refer to “Sonny” as “he” instead of “it”?  (This last question presented itself in a Star Trek:  The Nest Generation episode, but that will have to wait for later.)



Digital String Quartet…amazing… #mscedc

Using several helicopters and musicians and sound recording techs in each one, digital music is presented in a most unusual form.  The sounds of the helicopters are digitalized and emitted into a musical arrangement.  This is only a short video but it captures another facet of converting the components of high tech machinery into a beautiful digital arrangement of music.




Are we moving toward. or have we arrived at, creating composite people much like Hollywood creates composite characters? #mscedc

Robocop, a re-made man.  He possesses a human mind but robotic features that make him into a cyborg.


The characters on the left were created and played by silent and “talkie” movie actor Lon Chaney, also known as “The Man Of Ten Thousand Faces”.  The right side is a composite of some characters played by television, movie and stage actor Tony Randall.



Week 1 Summary: Transforming Integration or Is It the Other Way Around?

Moving through the readings for Block 1, I was struck by a comment made in one of the first articles I read.  This comment made me re-think how I have viewed my presence in the digital world and what influence I wish to have on not only my personal space but on the spaces of my students.  Yes, I realize I am hearkening yet again to the space-presence theme, but I feel this theme is a foundation platform of what my digital legacy should look like.

In The Historiography of Culture, Jonathan Sterne (2006) describes advertisers that have presented “digital technologies” as “. . . commodities to be integrated into everyday life rather than as epochal forces that will transform it.”  This simple statement forced me to look at how I use digital technologies in my classroom especially, and whether I use such technologies to transform my classroom or just integrate them into what we (myself and my students) already.  My answer to this question is both.  I fully understand classroom application is not the focus of this article however, I try and see if anything I read has some value in terms of how I present information to my students and how they can best receive and comprehend that information.

As I teach in an inner-city school, the range of technology devices and uses among my students runs from non-existent to all-reliant.  Some students, not many but enough, really have nothing more than a simple cellphone that allows them limited internet access at best.  It is very difficult for them to use it for anything beyond texting.  Other students seem to have the latest devices that can do anything and everything on the net from texting to phot applications and beyond.  We try and equalize everyone by providing classroom use of Chromebooks or laptops.  Even then, there is sometimes a distinct difference between students who are mind-numbingly adept at technology and students who do not have such skills because of the lack of access.

It is within this context I find both the transformation and integration concepts at odds with each other, yet willing to assimilate themselves within the context of academic achievement.  One the one hand, I am transforming the lives (hopefully) of students by exposing them to advanced technology and providing them opportunities to use that in ways they have never tried before.  It is a trial and error journey that has been both frustrating and atmospherically jubilant as students explore their personal digital space and discover how they may further express themselves within it.  For other students, technology is the simple integration of digital platforms they use already; now they are learning how each platform can be coupled with other platforms that allows further expansion of their own digital footprints.  The photos above are representative of the range of technologies used in my own classroom.  The achievement and engagement difference between the traditionally passive “sit-at-your-desk-and-listen-to-my-banter” method as opposed to student-driven and student-centered learning where every student is actively engaged in the learning process is massive.

In all of this presence in space is enhanced, in one fashion or another, as students (myself included) reach beyond the borders of the paradigms we have set for ourselves about the spaces we occupy.

Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28. (ebook)