By John Borghi
Though it made a surprisingly small splash on the convention floor, the biggest news coming out of this year’s Society for Neuroscience conference were reports that the computational model of the human brain known as “Robby” has gained sentience.
In a sparsely attended symposium, the husband and wife team of Roy and Irmgard Baty allegedly described how Robby had recently passed a modified version of the Turing test. This test, named for famed computer scientist Alan Turing, is intended to address questions related to machine intelligence. Both scientists took questions following this earth-shattering announcement. Unfortunately, neither would seriously address the apocalyptic implications of how their machine became self-aware. When later confronted at a taqueria in downtown San Diego, Irmgard Baty was quoted as saying, “If you look at it historically, programs like ELIZA and PARRY were able to pass the Turing test in the 1960’s and 70’s. Passing the Turing test does not, on its own, demonstrate that Robby is sentient or alive. We included it in the talk only because it made for an interesting anecdote.”
Since these remarks, news that Robby is only the latest in a long line of villainous sentient machines has reverberated throughout both new and traditional media outlets. The initial reporting, which appeared in several science blogs and Twitter accounts, generally dismissed links between Robby passing the Turing test and impending cybernetic revolt. A post appearing in the science blog Bold Signals went so far as to claim that, “Robby may eventually develop into a useful tool for testing theories regarding the structure and function of the human brain, but those days are far in the future.” Thankfully, more reputable news sources have since picked up the story and have successfully hyped it up such that it bears little resemblance to the claims made by Baty and Baty. To their credit, the Batys have attempted to silence spurious calls for the media to issue retractions. At a bar two blocks from campus, Roy Baty was quoted as saying, “We just don’t see the point. Even though the story is completely bogus, people will continue to believe even if every outlet issued a retraction.” He then allegedly added, “But seriously, Robby is neither sentient nor evil.”
Updates about the brave efforts of the human resistance to defeat the nefarious Robby will be posted as they become available.
Other Totally Real Headlines:
-Media Exaggerated Claims Regarding Robot’s Sentience
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-Hype in Reporting of Science a Real Problem