Can a computer be self-aware?

In Terminator 2, the moment the robots became self-aware marked the beginning of the end for humanity - should we be that worried?

10th April 2016
A full-scale figure of a terminator robot 'T-800', used at the movie 'Terminator 2', is displyed at a preview of the Terminator Exhibition in Tokyo on March 18, 2009.  (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

"I'll be back..." © Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Asked by: Nathaniel Hey, St Ouen, Jersey

In 2015, New York researchers used three NAO robots to address that question. Each was programmed to believe that two of them had had their voice deactivated. When asked which had been muted, one robot said it could hear itself so therefore must be the only one not silenced. The researchers have fallen short of saying that this robot is self-aware, instead saying it harbours a “logical and a mathematical correlate to self-consciousness”. 

Read more:


SFQASubscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.