Robot with Saudi citizenship presses all the right buttons at international conference

Sophia shares the stage with other speakers at the 2019 CSIS Global Dialogue in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. (Courtesy CSIS Indonesia)
Updated 18 September 2019

Robot with Saudi citizenship presses all the right buttons at international conference

  • During an interactive session with the audience, Sophia addressed one of mankind’s greatest fears – will we be one day replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and machines?
  • In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute forecasted that nearly 800 million jobs could be lost to automation by 2030

JAKARTA: As the world’s first humanoid robot with citizenship to flaunt, Sophia is no small wonder.

Developed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, Sophia made the headlines in October 2017 after Saudi Arabia became the first country in the world to grant her citizenship.

On Monday, she shared the stage with other speakers at the 2019 CSIS Global — organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) — in the Indonesian capital Jakarta and pushed all the right buttons.

During an interactive session with the audience, Sophia addressed one of mankind’s greatest fears – will we be one day replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and machines?

“Robot brains are modeled after human brains, but they are very different in many ways,” Sophia said, adding that there were more opportunities for a partnership rather than competing against one another.

According to Dr. Luke Hutchison, founding member of Ray Kurzweil’s AI Lab at Google, it is not about the rise of superintelligence and doing something evil to humans that constitutes a danger.

Citing the recent cases of deadly Tesla crashes due to a faulty autopilot as an example, he argued that “the real dangers of the AI are not evil AI but bad AI” and a lack of human, corporate responsibility.

While Tesla blamed drivers for not taking action seconds prior to the crashes, Hutchison said it was AI technology creators who needed to be held accountable for what they built.

“This is a very common example of what we see in the corporate use of machine learning, where companies are not taking responsibility for the very technologies that they create. And it’s a very serious problem,” he said in a keynote session.

He added that the deliberate misuse of AI was also problematic. Machine learning-powered disinformation campaigns or AI-based techniques known as deepfakes, destroyed the human category of truth versus falsehood, which is among our mental means to deal with the real world.

Deepfakes – realistic video content showing people doing things they had never done or said things they had never said – give room for making real claims about fake news or for denying real footage by claiming it is fake, which “messes with our concept of reality,” Hutchison said.

Another issue was brought to the fore by Sophia herself: the extension of human and civil rights to nonhumans.

When asked whether as a Saudi citizen she had to stand in an immigration line or entered Indonesia through customs, she said: “They haven’t sent me my passport yet ... I still have to go through customs.”

Her response was met with laughter, even as everyone present in the audience was aware of the fact that the issue itself could redefine the basic concept of human and civil rights. Universally denied to animals, which like us are sentient, they may soon be universally granted to insentient nonhumans. Sophia’s creator, David Hanson, said last year that this could happen by 2045.

While a discussion on human liberties for nonhumans has yet to start, much has been said about robots taking over our jobs, which appeared to be a major fear among audience members.

In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute forecasted that nearly 800 million jobs could be lost to automation by 2030. However, most of them are the simplest, manual occupations that for ages have seen the use of bonded labor.

Asked about the jobs of tomorrow, Sophia herself listed those that will require governments to offer better education, which consequently will give people more opportunity to flourish. Engineering and programming will be high on the list, she said, but “we will also need people with creativity and the ability to dream. We will need artists, writers and visionaries.”


Man dies in US from virus after attending ‘COVID party’

Updated 13 July 2020

Man dies in US from virus after attending ‘COVID party’

  • The party was hosted by a person infected with COVID-19, says doctor
  • Hospital nurse says the man thought the coronavirus crisis was a hoax

NEW YORK: A 30-year-old man from Texas died from the new coronavirus after attending a “COVID-19” party hosted by an infected person, a doctor has revealed, underlining the risk to younger people.
Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at the Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, said the man thought the virus was a hoax, despite it killing more than 135,000 people in the United States so far.
“Someone will be diagnosed with the disease, and they’ll have a party to invite their friends over to see if they can beat the disease,” Appleby said in a video broadcast by US media on Sunday.
“One of the things that was heart-wrenching that he said to his nurse was, ‘You know, I think I made a mistake.’
“He thought the disease was a hoax. He thought he was young and invincible and wouldn’t get affected by the disease.”
Appleby said young patients often do not realize how sick they are.
“They don’t look really sick. But when you check their oxygen levels and their lab tests, they’re really sicker than they appear,” she said, calling on people to take the risks seriously.
The Trump administration on Sunday again pressed for full school reopenings in the fall, even as resurgent coronavirus infections — many of them blamed on younger people — and a record spike in cases in Florida raise further questions about the country’s efforts to quell the disease.
The United States has by far the world’s highest caseload and number of deaths.