At a United Nations event on Wednesday, Sophia, a humanoid robot made a surprise appearance, drawing rapturous applause from attendees.
The day-long event themed ‘The future of everything – sustainable development in the age of rapid technological change,’ featured Sophia, a humanoid robot, having brief interaction with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed.
To Ms. Mohammed’s question about what the UN can do to help people in many parts of the world who have no access to the Internet or electricity, Sophia said “the future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed […],” quoting renowned science fiction writer William Gibson. “If we are smarter and focused on win-win type of results, A.I. [artificial intelligence] could help proficiently distribute the world’s existing resources like food and energy.”
Sophia is Hanson Robotics’ latest and most advanced robot. Sophia has also become a media sensation, having given numerous interviews to multiple media outlets, performed in concert, and even graced the cover of one of the top fashion magazines.
In her opening speech, Ms. Mohammed warned that despite profound potential for accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), if technological progress is not managed well, it risks exacerbating existing inequalities.
“The influence of technology on our societies should be determined by the actions of us, humans, not by machines,” she said. “Technology is here for us to explore and use for the benefit of all.”
The humanoid uses artificial intelligence to read people’s emotional responses and react to how they talk and act.
Sophia who is nicknamed “Hot Sophia” was modelled after Audrey Hepburn and creator David Hanson’s wife. The bot can see with cameras in her eyes. She has 62 different facial and neck mechanisms to create the natural-looking movement under her patented silicon skin.
In the future, Mr Hanson believes that expressive robots will be able to form strong emotional connections with humans .
According to ECOSOC President, Marie Chatardová, the long-term consequences of the deep technological changes underway, for economies and societies at large, are unknown.
“We are only starting to see the benefits, but we do need to assess the risks of these technologies,” she said.
Currently, there are divided opinions on Sophia who has a cult following. While with some finding her “alluring”, others have found the robot, who has the back of her head missing but shows very human gestures on her face, a little creepy.