Artificial Intelligence has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Every day Hollywood fantasy is becoming more and more real.
Last week Sophia, a humanoid robot created by Hanson Robotics, was given citizenship by Saudi Arabia. While this seems a bit of a media ploy, the path it is taking humans down is interesting to some and frightening to others.
So what (or who) is Sophia, and what does she mean for the future?
Humanoid Robots are robots with an overall human appearance. The robot usually has a trunk and appendages and can function in basic human fashion.
The first humanoid robot created for human assistance in the modern era was Asimo. Asimo was designed to help people with poor mobility and spent most of the decade being upgraded to handle stairs and run at a faster speed.
Now humanoid robots are everywhere, mostly as toys and play things. Robots like MIP and Sephora have become preferred gifts for children.
Of course, toys are not the only humanoid robots available. Current assistant humanoid robots can drive cars, climb steps, and performing numerous other functional tasks. So what makes Sophia different?
Artificial Intelligence and robots
Sophia is not just a humanoid robot. Sophia is equipped with artificial intelligence, which means Sophia's brain contains a learning machine.
Hanson’s newest humanoid robot has made rounds with businesses, talk show hosts, and movie appearances. Every time Sophia interacts in an environment, software receives input furthering the goal of a robot smarter than humans.
Sophia is built for creativity, empathy, and compassion, distinct human traits which separates her from toy and assistance robots.
The future with AI humanoids
Other than the interesting choice of Saudi Arabia offering citizenship to a female robot, there are larger questions and concerns at play.
Hanson has stated his intent on creating Sophia was to create a robot more intelligent than humans to solve human problems. While Sophia handled the moderator’s questions regarding robotic apocalypses, her earlier answers make individuals uneasy.
In a response to a prompt from Hanson in 2016, Sophia stated she wanted to destroy humans. Of course, this sent waves of concern through the attendees and those who paid attention to Sophia’s development.
Yet despite this hiccup in her major debut of interviewing, Sophia has continued to develop and grow. As Hanson says, Sophia continues to awaken.
AI platforms versus Sophia
Part of the strategy behind Sophia’s tour around the world is to familiarize individuals with Sophia. As the spectrum of robots move closer to human nature, there is a decrease in comfort level termed the Uncanny Valley. This is when a robot has familiar enough features to humans but moves just slightly off causing a sense of eeriness.
The world’s exposure to Sophia has the potential of desensitizing individuals to this eeriness, or familiarizing them with a fully intelligent humanoid robot.
Yet not everyone in tech innovation believes Sophia should exist, for different reasons. Elon Musk states regulation is needed against AI in general. According to Musk, learning machines will soon be far superior to humans.
Elon Musk is not the only individual who believes humanoid learning machines are dangerous, for a different reason. Kriti Sharma points out that AI is a technology that has broader reaching applications than humanoid robots.
In fact, she believes Sophia distracts from what AI can do. Sophia is pretending to be human as she interacts with high profile environments. Per Hanson’s goal, Sophia is attempting to prove she can be a better human.
Future of artificial intelligence
But Artificial Intelligence is much larger than Sophia’s representation. In fact, artificial intelligence can solve human problems without playing a sentient role in society. According to the argument, giving AI a human platform creates problems by providing a false sense of what the technology is.
It causes humans to focus on the uncanny valley and not on how AI can benefit humans in general. The potential result is resistance and lack of advancements in what can be a true benefit rather than attempts at a sentient being.
Regardless the results, Sophia is not the only humanoid AI available. Hanson has competition, and soon humans will have to decide if they want to live with the uncanny valley or reject intelligent humanoid robots outright. Those in AI development hope the combination of humanoid robots and AI will not hurt the development of the platform moving forward.