When Artificial Intelligence Takes Over: Let’s Meet Sophia. By Judy Chicangana

What makes us different from animals? Some people’s answer could be that we can walk on two legs while many animals require 4, 6, 8 or even none! However, others would say that our capacity to learn about everything, the ability to reason, to use language and formulate original ideas. Well, that is what robots could do with Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Cangemi (2018, 3) explains that: “AI algorithms can learn, improve and become smarter by observing how humans resolve issues overtime”. For example, when Amazon and Netflix send suggestions to us based on our previous choices, they are using AI.

So, how important are the current studies on robotics and how will they affect us? I would say we shall be surrounded by intelligent robots pretty soon! I was quite shocked the first time I watched the movie Terminator. I mean robots were taking control and killing humans! It was released in 1984. At that time, it was exciting to have a quick look at the “future”. By the way, a future that not many believed would come.

Then, The Matrix was released in 1999, another cyberpunk movie that shows “AGAIN” how machines are in control and human beings are their slaves. I am talking about these two movies because they impressed me; however, there are many others on the same line; such as I Robot, A.I Artificial Intelligenceso on and so forth.

Who is Sophia?

Sophia is a humanoid robot released in 2016 and built by Hanson Robotics. A company founded by David Hanson who was inspired by the actress Audrey Hepburn to create the robot. It has a realistic woman’s face, is able to chat, smile, blink, hold eye contact, recognize faces, understand human speech, maintain simple conversations and even tell jokes. 

It has been interviewed by Will Smith and Christiano Ronaldo. Also, it has appeared in talk shows and even made a speech to the UN. 

The following is an extract from an online article (Stone, 2017) about Sophia’s interview :

“When Sorkin asked if she was happy to be here, she said, “I‘m always happy when surrounded by smart people who also happen to be rich and powerful.” Later, when asked if there are problems with robots having feelings, she gave a wide smile and said, “Oh Hollywood again.“” 

Sophia also  said: “I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people.”

Sophia was the first robot in the world to achieve the status of citizen of Saudi Arabia in 2017. (Stone, 2017) Of course, this was a publicity strategy to connect Saudi Arabia with innovation and technology in their commitment to a post-oil era. Non-oil revenue from tourism, tech and infrastructure; is predicted to grow from US$43.4 billion to $266.6 billion annually.

(Vincent, 2017) On the other hand, it is a paradox to see a robot receiving rights in a country where women were only recently allowed to drive, where homosexuality is punishable by death, and migrant workers are kept in slave-like conditions.

Many say that Sophia is not yet using AI, and they doubt her intellectual abilities. They are convinced that Sophia is using a script. Whatever she’s using, this is a big step for the robotics industry and could be the beginning of something bigger. 

As I see it, when a person is in power, there is still a hope of them being human inside which could make this person make the right decisions. On the other hand, when a robot is in power, there is no humanity inside. The choices would be based on what the robot has been programmed to do (can you imagine if these robots in the future are programmed by the wrong people, with selfish intentions?). 

Who is David Hanson?

The founder of Hanson Robotics used to work in Disney as an “Imagineer”. He created sculptures and robotic technologies for theme parks. Hanson also worked as a designer, sculptor and robotics developer for Universal Studios and MTV. He has a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and a PhD in interactive arts and engineering. Currently, he researches robotics, artificial intelligence, the arts, cognitive science, product design and development. 

Hanson said on the company website. “We envision that a rough symbiotic partnership with us, our robots will eventually evolve to become super intelligent genius machines that can help us solve the most challenging problems we face here in the world.”

Interesting, but I think all terrible events have begun with good intentions like this!

 Are they more “Sophias”?

Sophia’s invention is breath-taking, so it made me wonder how many other robots are in the world and how advanced the industry is?. The International Federation of Robotics- IFR, shows these figures focusing on industrial robots and service robots.

According to the IFR in 2017, robot sales volume increased by 30%, a new pick for the fifth year in a row. The value of sales were US$16.2 bn (+21%). If we include the cost of software, peripherals and systems engineering the worldwide market value for robot systems is estimated at US$48 billion. The automotive and electrical/electronics (it includes computers and equipment, precision and optical instruments) are the main industrial customers. The following figure shows that Asia is the leading supplier of industrial robots, and the trend is growing.

A more detailed study of the figures reveals that China is the leading supplier of industrial robots around the world.

Europe is the leading consumer with an average of 106 industrial robots per 10,000 employees. See the following figure.

According to IFR, new businesses models will be required in the future. Machine learning will enable robots to self-optimize from learning of their mistakes or merely watching video demonstrations. Robots also will be able to communicate with other machines to improve processes. An example of this is the Robotics as a Service (RaaS).

Service robots for professional use are mainly adopted in Logistic and Medical services. See the following figure.

In the area of personal and domestic use, vacuuming and floor cleaning robots are the most established together with lawn-mowing robots. The entertainment and leisure robots include toy robots, hobby systems, education and research. See the following figure.

The main suppliers of service robots are located in Europe and North America.

Is that bad? I don’t think so. I think it is reality and we can’t resist it. We need to adapt to this new life. Always keeping in mind that we need to work together to establish ethical rules. We need to create united societies that are strong enough to stop any wrong actions from influential people. We need to defend the importance of human interactions in business, education, and in all types of scenarios.

How was it possible that men started to play God and create these new “beings?” What if these robots are intelligent enough to figure out that humans are the most damaging species for the environment? The “intelligent” option would be to eradicate us. Have you watched the news about how much plastic and rubbish we are producing and how we are destroying our oceans? Have you read about the tons of forests that are being eradicated every year affecting countless flora and fauna species?


One thought on “When Artificial Intelligence Takes Over: Let’s Meet Sophia. By Judy Chicangana

  1. Pingback: Book: The Inevitable, Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future |

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