Synthesizing the embodied self: A robotics perspective

Tony Prescott (HPB SP3 Speaker)
This talk will consider the specific challenge of synthesizing a robot “sense of self”.  The starting hypothesis is that the human self is brought into being by the activity of a set of transient self-processes instantiated by the brain and body. The proposal is that we can understand this self-system, and thereby this core aspect of the human condition, through embodied (robotic) modelling. The self begins with the brain’s discovery of the body, of its ability to control it, and of the distinctive dynamics of interoceptive compared to exteroceptive sensory signals. These processes give rise to a minimal sense of self as a bounded agent, upon which layers of reflective self-processes are constructed that extend the self in space and time and that allow the recognition of other selves. The grounding of the brain in the body provides this transient self-system with a sense of its physical extent and of its temporal continuity, suggesting a critical role for the body in any theory of the self. To illustrate the talk I will outline the ongoing attempt to create a sense of self for the iCub humanoid robot that has ecological, temporally-extended, interpersonal and narrative processes set within a multi-layered biomimetic model of mind.