Understanding and Awareness

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Understanding and Awareness

We do not offer definitions of understanding and awareness. Instead we discuss which abilities related to these phenomena robots will require.

Consider fish swimming. Fish do not understand swimming in the following senses.

A human swimmer may understand more or less about swimming. gif

We contend that intelligent robots will need understanding of how they do things in order to improve their behavior in ways that fish cannot. Aaron Sloman [Sloman, 1985] has also discussed understanding, making the point that understanding is not an all-or-nothing quality.

Consider a robot that swims. Besides having a program for swimming with which it can interact, a logic-based robot needs to use sentences about swimming in order to give instructions to the program and to improve it.

The understanding a logical robot needs then requires it to use appropriate sentences about the matter being understood. The understanding involves both getting the sentences from observation and inference and using them appropriately to decide what to do.

Awareness is similar. It is a process of appropriate sentences about the world and its own mental situation coming into the robot's consciousness, usually without intentional actions. Both understanding and awareness may be present to varying degrees in natural and artificial systems. The swimming robot may understand some facts about swimming and not others, and it may be aware of some aspects of its current swimming state and not others.

John McCarthy
Thu May 25 00:33:25 PDT 1995