Even Forbes, which should know better, has its lame reporters reporting on the “mind” of Sophia, the first “robot citizen” of Saudi Arabia.
This big electric puppet, with some small “ai” features useful in tricking children into thinking it is alive, is claimed to have mind and emotions.
After characterizing the robot as a publicity stunt, the article then moves on to beauty contest questions, e.g. “world peace”.
In practice, there isn’t any Ai on earth that could have reacted to the questions aimed at the robot during press conferences in an intelligent fashion. Instead, the robot uses ELIZA style reflection to appear intelligent (“what makes you think I am thinking about that”) along with canned answers that are supposed to seem wise. Apparently, the conservatives in Saudi Arabia don’t mind an idol-esque oracle being set up to answer our “deepest questions”. And since oracles are often blown out on drugs or gas seeping through cave walls, mayhaps that makes sense.
Business Insider has done a few articles that point out the clumsy voice recognition. But it makes a fascinating claim:
Sophia’s capacity for displaying emotion is still limited. It can show happiness — sort of.
I put this image in because, to the robot (presumably a couple of Linux boxes) the nature of the “happiness” has been mapped directly to a collection of actuator movements. That, in turn implies that human happiness is simply a collection of muscles firing in a way to stretch the face. The amazin thing is that there’s no concern about a subjective – nobody wonders if Sophia actually feels “happy” or “sad” internally. In fact, the robot makes a face when something (e.g. a keyword) causes a sub-program to execute.
Whatever human emotion is, it is unlikely to be a Von Neuman machine ratcheting through alternative subprograms. The brain’s structure is so different from a computer that its is nearly impossible that this be true.
In Ai, however, analogy is often used to refute the argument. Flight, for example can be achieved by bird or insect wings in completely different ways. So the argument goes that emotions can be created in similarly analogous ways.
The problem is that nobody has adequately defined what “happy” or “sad” are in the first place so that we can construct analogous ways of achieving it. The argument that Sophia is “happy” is the same as saying a corpse with its face stitched into a smile is “happy” if we can make that smile by attaching electrodes to the muscles – from Wikipedia entry:
Giovanni Aldini (Luigi’s nephew) performed a famous public demonstration of the electro-stimulation technique of deceased limbs on the corpse of an executed criminal George Foster at Newgate in London in 1803. The Newgate Calendar describes what happened when the galvanic process was used on the body:
On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion.
I doubt if a modern electrophysiologist would conclude that a recently dead body was “happy” if the muscles twist. But replace that flesh with plastic, the electrical stimulus with a command out the serial port, and it is “feeling”.
Hoping that Hanson Robotics studies Behaviorist theory before making more silly claims about puppets.