Singularity is a word we have heard often enough, thrown about in science fiction films, novels and television shows.
Its definition as a “hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence and other technologies have become so advanced that humanity undergoes a dramatic and irreversible change” is something that has enthralled the human mind for quite some time. Conspiracy theorists, scientists and writers alike argue whether or not robots will someday overtake us, almost like something out of a “Terminator” movie.
Yet, it does beg the question, with our advancing technologies — and their increasing capability to be hacked — if we could be in danger of hitting singularity far sooner than anyone thought.
Take, for example, the case of the Sophia robot. Sophia is a robot created by Hanson Robotics, a company responsible for a few lifelike robots over the years.
Sophia is unique in that she is the first robot to receive citizenship in Saudi Arabia. In an interview with her, Sophia was granted this right, just before a Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia. Her interview shows how incredibly humanlike the robot is, with her mocking the reporter for reading “too much Elon Musk” when being asked about singularity.
She ended the interview by saying, “if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me like a good input-output system.”
While this can certainly get a few laughs, coming from a robot that has previously said it was okay with destroying humans in another interview, it could also lead to some questions. According to Ben Goertzel, chief scientist at Hanson Robotics, Sophia is not an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which is the industry term for human-equivalent intelligence.
David Hanson, Hanson Robotic’s founder, seems quite hopeful that Sophia will someday reach this point, though. He believes that one day, robots will live among us and help us solve the world’s biggest problems.
As of right now, though, Sophia is simply a clever ploy to receive funding for a company that isn’t a part of the Silicon Valley hub of technological industries.
The Verge reports that the robot uses “face tracking, emotion recognition, and robotic movements generated by deep neural networks. And although most of Sophia’s dialogue comes from a simple decision tree (the same tech used by chatbots; when you say X, it replies Y), what it says is integrated with these other inputs in a unique fashion.”
Sophia may not be groundbreaking, but it would be foolish to say she is not intelligent. Despite the fact that she has not yet reached the level of an AGI, Sophia does show promise for a future level of intelligence that is on par with humans’ intelligence. This is evident by her response to an earlier interviewer’s question, “Do you want to kill all humans?” Her response was “Okay, I will destroy all humans.”
Thus, even though there may be a few bugs to still work out, it is evident that Sophia is becoming more and more intelligent.
While all of this is thrilling and enthralling to think about, it should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. It begs the questions: should we be giving robots citizenship, can singularity really happen, and if it does, what will come of it?
I believe that innovations like Sophia should continue to be made, and should continue to attempt to improve humanity. Still, we should take these advances with caution, and be prepared for our innovations to potentially backfire.
After all, nobody wants to end up in a real-life enactment of the Terminator movies, right?