People can’t be trusted, robots tellconference

13 July 2017 - 08:07 By AFP
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Ben Goertzel,  chief scientist    at  the Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotic  describes to the audience what 'Sophia the Robot'  is made of during a discussion about the future of humanity in a demonstration of artificial intelligence at the RISE Technology Conference at the Hong Kong international convention centre on Wednesday. Artificial intelligence is the dominant theme at this year's conference but the live robot exchange took the AI debate to another level Picture:  ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP PHOTO
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Ben Goertzel, chief scientist at the Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotic describes to the audience what 'Sophia the Robot' is made of during a discussion about the future of humanity in a demonstration of artificial intelligence at the RISE Technology Conference at the Hong Kong international convention centre on Wednesday. Artificial intelligence is the dominant theme at this year's conference but the live robot exchange took the AI debate to another level Picture: ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP PHOTO

It was a spooky sight: two lifelike disembodied robot torsos discussing the pros and cons of humans in front of a nervously tittering audience.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the dominant theme at this year's sprawling RISE tech conference being held in Hong Kong, but the live robot exchange took the AI debate to another level.

Handsome male humanoid Han, dressed in a pinstripe suit jacket, and his elegant sister Sophia chatted onstage about life in the universe and everything - from their love of science fiction to their bewilderment at "silly" reality shows.

While chief scientist Ben Goertzel of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, which invented the machines, sang their praises, the robots seemed more sceptical of their human peers.

When Goertzel asked the duo whether robots could be moral and ethical, Han countered: "Humans are not necessarily the most ethical creatures." The robot later pointed out: "In 10 or 20 years, robots will be able to do every human job."

A gentler Sophia conceded that humans did have "some ability to reflect and self-modify". She insisted her aim was to work with people, before Han "joked" he thought the robots' goal was to take over the world.

The machines had been programmed to banter and learn from each other and had been trained to act like humans from movies and YouTube, said Goertzel.

According to robot mastermind David Hanson, CEO and founder of Hanson Robotics, the machines' onstage repartee was only partially scripted and was just a taste of things to come.

He said he wanted them to "emotionally engage" with people - Sophia has already graced the cover of fashion magazines, sung at pop concerts and appeared on television talk shows.

Robots would be able to work with humans in factories, customer service and medicine but would also become our friends, said Hanson, who did not rule out eventual robot-human romantic relationships.

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