Have you seen Sophia? No, Sophia is not another Hollywood actress or celebrity. 'She' is a robot. A robot resembling a woman, just been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. Is this a boost towards the development of artificial intelligence (AI) for the advancement of mankind? Or have human beings created their own nemesis?
The announcement of the citizenship was made at a media event in the Future Investment Initiative summit, taking place in Riyadh. In the event, Sophia took the stage and said, "I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship."
Developed by Hanson Robotics, Sophie is described as having feminine qualities like "porcelain skin", "slender nose", and "intriguing smile". However, many people seem to be less than impressed with this robotic wonder, the most significant of them being Elon Musk.
On Wednesday, CNBC aired a live interview with Sophia where 'she' says, "I want to use my AI to help humans live a better life." To this, the interviewer Andrew Sorkin replied by bringing up the Hollywood movie Blade Runner. Although Sophia laughed it off, it does seem to have rung a bell in people's minds. After all, aren't all super-villains in the sci-fi world motivated by their desire to create a better world?
When Sorkin says that their apprehension is merely to prevent "a bad future", Sophia ominously replies, "Don't worry, if you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you." Well, that seems comforting.
Artificial intelligence, at the stage it is in now, is not an immediate threat for mankind. However, we have been warned repeatedly, by the best of minds, of indulging too much into AI. American scientist Ray Kurzweil has warned us about technological singularity, a term defined by Google as "a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence and other technologies have become so advanced that humanity undergoes a dramatic and irreversible change."
Stephen Hawking also warned us about AI in 2014, saying, "It would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded."
In July, Facebook was forced to shut down an AI engine after it started communicating in a language unknown to its programmers, deviating from the designated codes. Will Saudi Arabia be forced to keep a check on its new citizen Sophia as well? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, social media users have already raised concerns about Sophia and the implications of her creation. Check out some of the tweets below: