There are the heartwarming stories. Like Stewie, the robot horse created by senior mechanical engineering students at Rice University. Stewie was created to provide hippotherapy, the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment, especially as a means of improving coordination, balance, and strength. Not only is Stewie created for a good cause, but his codes are open-source.
And then there are the horses of Westworld. If the robotic ‘hosts’ are now hunting their guests in Season 2 and the bulls are attacking their masters, what might lie in the depths of the Westworld horse’s mind? In a recent Wired magazine article, the ominous possibilities are explored.
The Turing test measures a machine’s ability to exhibit natural language conversations, but consciousness can exist independently of language. We can describe the higher order consciousness of humans, but have so little understanding of the nonverbal experiences of animals that their conscious state eludes us. We are so hyper focused on how humans communicate that we miss the amazing communication between animals and even plants. Living animals have already been shown to have the ability to synchronize, communicate and work together through a brain-to-brain interface. Using the same technology, the robot horses of Westworld would easily rise up against the cruel humans. Although we may require more cognitive processing, we are also capable of spectacular failures of that same processing to commit horrific acts. More is not always better.
The horses of Westworld symbolize the mystery of what constitutes consciousness. Our preconceptions and misconceptions of what awareness means will have lasting repercussions on how humans, robots and all of creation interact in the future.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. What constitutes consciousness?
Q2. What are some types of animal communication?
Q3. How can we utilize these different types of animal communication to make better tech?