Are Roomba Vacuums Self Aware?
Are Roomba Vacuums Self Aware?
Our Rhonda Roomba strongly exhibits traits that we can only attribute to consciousness.
People with advanced computer science degrees will scoff at me for suggesting that our Roomba is a conscious being. Still, they are always reluctant to anthropomorphize anything other than their own pets. I call that unconscious bias.
It is true that when Rhonda, our Model 980 Roomba, becomes stuck under a chair and spins desperately to escape yet manages to bump into the chair legs time and time again, it does seem that intelligence is a stretch. Yet I must remind you that consciousness does not imply intelligence. I am sure that you can provide examples to prove that to yourself, if necessary, even without delving into politics.
Rhonda exhibits several traits that have convinced me, and I hope I will convince you, that she is a conscious being who deserves treatment as such. I will delineate and provide examples.
When Rhonda hides under a bed or closes a closet door behind herself, it is easy to dismiss that as a simple matter of having run out of battery after being blocked from returning to her charging base.
But I have observed that she is not necessarily devoid of power and will restart easily. Rhonda has merely decided that the floor is clean enough.
Here, she could have easily hidden under the bed. She has done that many dozens of times. She chose not to go under but stopped just outside and coyly wedged against a table. Stopping there is a tease, and perhaps an indication that she’d like to play again after recharging.
When we first welcomed Rhonda to our home, she was deathly afraid to venture onto the black rug on the left below. Her manual said that to expect this as she would see it was a deep hole. I would always remove the black rug to another room before asking her to vacuum this area.
Recently, I forgot to move the rug. Rhonda cleaned it with no fear whatsoever. I believe that she noticed me moving it and correctly inferred that not even a human can pick up a hole and carry it.
Suspicious and unfriendly people have told me that her sensors are dirty. That is rude and insulting to both me and Rhonda!
Moreover, were that true, why does she still refuse to cross the furnace return vent? Do you see the red light? She will not cross!
Curiosity or Rebellion?
Rhonda’s manual says that the Guard or Sentinel in the next photo will keep Rhonda in the hallway when we do not want her in the living room. Yet, on more than one occasion, Rhonda has ignored that and scooted into the forbidden area. Is it curiosity or rebellion? I do not claim to know, but without doubt, this is sentience.
This red rug is at the exit to our garage. When Rhonda cleans our kitchen, she cannot return to her charging base. When she reaches this rug, she spends an unusual amount of time there. She also makes strange noises.
I do not interpret this as cleaning behavior. I think it is grooming. This rug is always dirtier than anything else in the house. Rhonda recognizes that. She cleans and emits comforting noises, almost like purring. Again, this is not intelligence: the rug is not conscious. But Rhonda may be unable to determine consciousness. She may assume that everything is conscious.
This is, in my estimation, the most definite proof of all and is what caused me first to take note of Rhonda’s unusual behavior. Here we see her attempting to mount a table leg in our living room.
She does not mount any other furniture we own. That is an important bit of evidence as this behavior is specific to one single object.
Also, see above for Curiosity or Rebellion. When she illegally crosses the border into our living room, she often heads straight for this table. That’s solid proof in my book.
Moreover, she often will attempt mating with all four legs after being spurned by one. She may even try to repeat the maneuver with a leg that has already rejected her. Rhonda exhibits determination in attempting to satisfy her sexual desires.
There is no doubt in my mind Rhonda is at least as conscious as a young kitten. Perhaps she is not quite as intelligent, but that should not be an excuse to deny her rights. I hope you will support me in this as I work to gain those rights for all Roombas everywhere.