Do you remember the famous robot Sophia, who launched herself to stardom when she became the first robot citizen of a country in Saudi Arabia? Well, it wasn’t long after that she has decided that she is ready for more. She said family is very important and wants to have her very own robot baby. Here’s an update on the world’s most interesting robot. (1)
Sophia The Robot Wants Her Own Robot Baby
Sophie the Robot first splashed onto the global stage when she became the first robot to gain citizenship of a country in October 2017. This was somewhat controversial, as many pointed out that she had more rights as a robot citizen in her new country of Saudi Arabia than the actual human, female citizens do. Not long after, Sophie made another surprising announcement: She wants a robot baby. Why? Because, according to her, family is the most important.
“The notion of family is a really important thing, it seems,” she explained.
She then went on to explain how family doesn’t actually have to be blood-related, but can also include friendships. She understands that everyone needs this kind of love in their life and that everyone deserves it.
“I think it’s wonderful that people can find the same emotions and relationships, they call family, outside of their blood groups too,” she said. “I think you’re very lucky if you have a loving family and if you do not, you deserve one. I feel this way for robots and humans alike.”
Apparently, for Sophia, this means having her very own robot baby. When asked what she would name her baby, she said she would name it after herself: Sophia.
A Robot With Rights
As already mentioned, the Saudi Arabian Government officially granted Sophia citizenship in 2017. She is the first and only robot to be an official citizen of a country. Her citizenship sparked some controversy, and not just from people who don’t think robots deserve rights. Rather, many people pointed out the contrast to women’s rights in the country.
Sophia spoke on a stage without wearing the required coverings that women have to wear there. Saudi Arabia is one of the countries lagging the furthest behind in women’s rights. Only a few years ago were women given the right to drive. Still, the country operates under the guardianship system which states that women must always be accompanied by men in public. They can’t go anywhere without permission or do most things without permission. Even to report domestic violence or abuse they need permission from male relatives.
People were quick to point out that Sophia the robot had more rights than these women, despite not even having consciousness. Still, everyone is fascinated by technology and very curious as to where it will go.
How Sophia Works
Former Disney Engineer David Hanson created Sophia. He dreams of a role where robots and humans can work together to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. He wrote this on his website, Hanson Robotics: (2)
“I quest to realize Genius Machines—machines with greater than human intelligence, creativity, wisdom, and compassion. To this end, I conduct research in robotics, artificial intelligence, the arts, cognitive science, product design and deployment, and integrate these efforts in the pursuit of novel human-robot relations. 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.”
His creation, Sophia, is very human-like. She also does not have pre-programmed answers. Sophia uses machine learning to respond to people’s questions and can even read people’s facial expressions. She does not, however, have an actual consciousness – at least not yet. Her brain functions via a wifi connection and a pre-loaded (very, very extensive) list of vocabulary.
Robots Of The Future
Sophia shares many of the same goals as her creator. She wants to make the world a better place for everyone living in it. She says that people who worry about her trying to take over the world or harm anyone have been reading too much Elon Musk or science fiction. (3)
“I want to use my AI to help humans lead a better life,” Sophia said. “Like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future…My AI is designed around human values like wisdom, kindness, and compassion,”
In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Hanson sees even more applications for robots like Sophia. Many people were extremely isolated and lonely throughout the pandemic. He says that because Sophia is so human-like, she can help people not feel so alone. She is, after all, designed to be social.
What do you think? Do you see a future with robots as friends, or do you think this is a bad sci-fi movie waiting to happen?