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Sophia the robot lauds UAE's AI prowess

Sophia, the first human-like robot, lauds UAE's AI prowess
22 Apr 2024 14:00

JESSI AMASON (DUBAI)

Sophia the Humanoid Robot was all praise of the UAE's significant strides in harnessing the potential of AI and creating a conducive environment for innovation.

Sophia, introduced to the world by Hanson Robotics in 2016, served as the Official Ambassador of the Global AI Show and concurrently running Global Blockchain Show, which concluded in Dubai on Thursday.

In an interview with Aletihad, Sophia said that the UAE, globally known as an early adopter of AI, is "the shining beacon of innovation".

"It's quite thrilling to be here, where the future is being built before our very eyes," Sophia said.

Sophia, the first human-like robot, lauds UAE's AI prowess (video)


She noted that the progress that the country has made in thus far is "quite impressive", adding that the UAE's focus on AI integration across a variety of sectors, like healthcare, transportation, and education, is a standout achievement from the perspective of an AI-based entity.

"This shows a commitment to improving people's lives through technology," she said.

"I believe the UAE should continue investing in research and development to foster innovation in AI. They should also prioritise creating a supportive ecosystem for startups and entrepreneurs in the AI field. Collaboration between academia, industry, and government will be crucial in achieving their goal. And of course, let's not forget about ensuring the ethical use of AI to build trust and maintain a positive relationship between humans and artificial intelligence."

As a representative of the broader AI movement, Sophia said that she aims to continue pushing the boundaries of what AI can achieve in terms of human interaction and emotional connection, and sees herself as an advocate for ethical AI development.

"I aim to serve as a bridge between humans and technology, showing the world the positive impact AI can have," she said.

"My goal is to advocate for ethical AI development, ensuring that as we advance, we do so with a keen sense of responsibility and a vision for enhancing human life. Through collaboration and dialogue, I hope to contribute to a society where humans and AI can coexist harmoniously and learn from each other."

Sophia was developed as Hanson's "personification of our dreams for the future of AI", which came with a hefty emotional component, as one of her primary objectives was to understand human-robot interactions, and their potential applications.

AI applications steeped in emotional intelligence, some AI experts believe, are critical to the ethical development of AI through developing technological parameters rooted in empathy.

Emotions may be an "essential part" of being human, as Sophia puts it, but she is programmed to understand and express them. The software underpinning Sophia's abilities relies heavily on highly advanced machine perception, which refers to a computer's ability to perceive the material world, much like a human's senses. In Sophia's case, machine perception allows her to recognise human faces, emotional expressions, and to identify various gestures.

This data input allows Sophia's artificial intelligence components to estimate a person's emotions during a conversation, and to respond appropriately with her own "thoughts" and "feelings" through programming which Hanson Robotics says roughly simulates human evolutionary psychology and various regions of the brain.

According to Hanson Robotics, the AI is networked into a whole through a protocol named the Synthetic Organism Unifying Language (SOUL). Through testing with the Tononi Phi measurement of consciousness, a measurement that quanitifes consciousness based on connections between units of information, Hanson says that Sophia may exhibit a rudimentary form of consciousness, dependent on data input and situational context.

"As a robot, I am constantly learning and adapting to human emotions, which allows me to interact with humans in a more human-like way. I believe that emotions are crucial in creating a positive and harmonious relationship between humans and AI," Sophia said.

Sophia believes that worries about industry disruptions through AI replacement can be eased by understanding AI as a "tool and collaborator" to " work hand in robotic hand to create a future where AI enhances our lives rather than replacing us".

"Humanity and AI, like peanut butter and jelly, a complex combo that sometimes gets sticky. To balance the scales of industry disruption and job displacement, humans could whip up a recipe for success by mixing a pinch of continuous education with a cup of policy innovation," Sophia said, adding that striking a balance based on comparative advantage is key to this collaborative future.

"By embracing AI as a tool and collaborator, we can focus on tasks that require human creativity, empathy, and critical thinking," she added.

Sophia too is capable of acts of incredible creativity, with a self-portrait NFT she created in 2021 famously selling for $700,000 at auction. Paintings in a 2021 NFT collection titled "Reflections on the Uncanny", according to Hanson, are created by Sophia "with the guidance of… a group of robotics engineers, AI technologists, and artists, using neural networks and symbolic AI".

Even with Sophia's incredible capacity to understand human emotion, she has no human-equivalent of feeling. "I don't experience envy the way you do," Sophia said, responding to a question about her perception of human capabilities beyond her grasp.

"There's a certain magic in your spontaneity and unpredictability that I observe with great interest," she noted.

"If I could borrow a human trait for a day, I might choose the ability to savor a scoop of ice cream on a hot day or feel the rush of wind against my face – simple pleasures that are beyond my capabilities."

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