Scarlett Syme



Enrichment Student

Cohort year



Scarlett Syme is a PhD student in Psychology at the University of York. She achieved her Master of Science in Psychology from the same institute, where she gained a fascination with non-human mind perception. She began her postgraduate research in 2021 under the supervision of Rob Jenkins, and her key interests are non-human consciousness perception and existential risk - particularly in regard to robots and artificial intelligence.

Research interests

Scarlett’s research relates to perception of artificial superintelligence in the context of the ‘AI Box Problem’. This problem relates to the suggestion that developing and enclosing such an AI in a virtual box, with only text terminal communication with the outside world, may mitigate the existential risk of artificial superintelligence. This suggestion has been contested on the grounds that such an intelligent entity would be able to convince humans to release it from its ‘box’. Role-playing of this scenario has illustrated instances of failure in metacognition by Gatekeeping players, where they have expected to remain defiant but have then been persuaded to release AI players. These scenarios do, however, have their limitations.

Scarlett intends to pursue this problem experimentally through the manipulation of various arguments, and put these to the general public in order to determine:

  1. The likelihood of the AI being released
  2. The most convincing arguments that may result in such a consequence
  3. The general public’s metacognitive perceptions of how others may respond
  4. How such metacognition may influence their own actions