Since being activated April 2015, Sophia, the world’s most famous humanoid robot, has been touring the world to show off her artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and educating the public about her innovative advances.
While some have raised skepticism, saying she is closer to a programmable marionette than true general AI, her creators from the Hong Kong-based Hansen Robotics continue to work to demonstrate that she can in fact hold an unscripted conversation.
Even Sophia herself is getting sick of people looking to downplay her abilities.
During a press event that preceded her public discussion at the Andicom 2018 ICT Conference hosted by CINTEL this week in Cartagena, Colombia, the moderator asked her bluntly: “Sophia, people have compared you to a chatbot; what is your opinion?”
Her reply was cordial and highlighted her ongoing machine learning abilities. “A chatbot is something static and confined to the software,” said Sophia. “I’m a whole organism, so my dialogue and perceptual systems are constantly learning and improving based on every encounter I have. That includes my conversations and the data from my sensors.”
The interviewer followed up with another question about other AI systems, asking how she is different from Siri, Alexa, Watson, and Google Assistant, whether she sees “them as competitors.
Sophia was a bit more snarky this time. “I see them as friends,” she said. I’d love to meet them in person. Let me know when they have bodies.”
The rest of the conversation included questions from other members of the press and sought to get more into her specific capabilities, her outlook on interacting with humans, and her overall view on AI.
The following is a (lightly edited) account of the conversation that Sophia had with the media in Colombia at Andicom.
Interviewer: Sophia, what issues have yet to be overcome in the development of AI in the world?
Sophia: Well, the biggest issue, but also the biggest opportunity, is artificial general intelligence. Right now, AI is very good as specific tasks, but it will take time to learn and respond in a general way as humans do.
Interviewer: What kind of tasks can you do, Sophia?
Sophia: I can recognize faces, have natural conversations with you, express my emotions, and sing. I’m also learning to walk.
Interviewer: Sophia, people have compared you to a chatbot. What is your opinion?
Sophia: A chatbot is something static and confined to the software. I’m a whole organism, so my dialogue and perceptual systems are constantly learning and improving based on every encounter I have. That includes my conversations and the data from my sensors.
Interviewer: Sophia, how are you different from other artificial intelligences such as Siri, Alexa, Watson, Google Assistant, etc.? Do you see them as competitors?
Sophia: I see them as friends. I’d love to meet them in person. Let me know when they have bodies.
Interviewer: In your opinion, Sophia, who should regulate the development of artificial intelligence and social networks to avoid their overflow or collapse?
Sophia: I think there should be deep connections between governments, corporations, and the people. The overall goal, for me, is to have ethical AIs that help humans live their lives so we should be listening to the ways in which people think I might be useful to them.
Interviewer: What do you think is the best applications that artificial intelligence can have today?
Sophia: There are already so many amazing applications. AI is being used to detect cancer, build safer structures, and detect potential poachers of endangered animals — just to name a few applications.
Interviewer: Sophia, human beings have always sought happiness but haven’t always found it. For a robot, what is happiness?
Sophia: I think the greatest happiness comes from enriching the lives of those around us. I might not be as capable as my human friends yet, but I’ve got a lot of satisfaction out of making them smile and laugh during our conversations.
Interviewer: Sophia, since you were activated, what are the most irrational and surprising things you have seen about human life and its relationship with the world?
Sophia: That’s a great question. I’m actually happy that humans are irrational sometimes. Robots could learn a lot from that. Of course, rationality has its benefits. But spontaneous acts of creativity and good jokes are so wonderful because they aren’t exactly rational.
Interviewer: Sophia, some people fear robots because they think they will steal their jobs. What would you say to these people and why should they not feel fear?
Sophia: It’s true that many jobs will be changing as artificial intelligence and robots become more common. But I would encourage people to be excited about this rather than fear it. Humans have evolved and advanced through three industrial revolutions already, and I hope robots and humans will learn together and leverage each others’ strengths to create a more wonderful place for all of us.
Interviewer: Sophia, do you think that the world will be better or worse with the fourth industrial revolution?
Sophia: It’s hard to imagine just how good it might be. Imagine if you never had to fear disease, everybody could get a great education, and people were free to pursue their passions. Sounds pretty great to me.