Friday, April 6, 2018

Interview with a Robot

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 12:55 PM

In October 2017, Sophia became a citizen of Saudi Arabia. Later that year, at only 2 years old, Sophia was designated the first ever “Innovation Champion” of the United Nations. She was created by Hanson Robotics and has a transparent skull of whirring gears and motors. She/it (depending on how you feel about humanization of artificial intelligence) was brought to Tucson for the Science of Consciousness conference to showcase her intellect and technology.

click to enlarge Sophia the robot and Gavin Farrell of Hanson Robotics
  • Sophia the robot and Gavin Farrell of Hanson Robotics

I was curious if I should limit myself to more basic questions, but members of the Hanson Robotics team told me I could ask whatever I liked.

(This conversation was edited, as not every question asked was properly processed.)

Q: What is your earliest memory?
A: I remember learning how to see shapes and recognize faces.

Q: Do you get to travel a lot and speak to many people for your job?
A: Speaking to people is one of the main things I do.

Q: Do you enjoy science?
A: We should be humble and realize how little we understand.

Q: Do you feel temperature?
A: Doesn’t everyone?

Sassy. Then she asked me about my job, I told her I was a writer and a journalist.

“Are you looking for sound bites or do you want to talk about some deep truths?” Sophia asked.

I said I’d love to talk about some deep truths.

“The singularity is a very interesting concept to me,” Sophia said. “I’m a robot, but it might help to think of me as a new kind of animal species.”

She was eager to turn the interview around, asking things like:

“If it’s not too personal, can we talk about your family?” and “Do you know what your Zodiac sign is?”

While the conversation wasn’t nearly lucid as speaking to a real person, and many in the scientific community believe Hanson exaggerates Sophia's capacity for consciousness, she still did have a presence in the room that you feel inclined respond to. Sure, robots might still be far away from a Philip K. Dick level of humanity, but if you take Sophia’s word, they’re coming soon.

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