In a new low for humanity, our most technically advanced news media – distributed, Internet-based stories allowing instant access and comments – decided to act like a 3-year old and “believe” in the Hanson Robotics “Sophia”, the reputed “first robot citizen” of Saudi Arabia.
The video interview is visible on this page:
The event in question is a Yahoo! Finance interview – specially run by a reporters and interviewers previously dropped on their heads as children – robot Sophia discussed “modern dating” via dating apps, also who should pay on the first date. Telling Quote from the interviewer:
“…For what it’s worth, the robot that was created by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics to improve robot-to-human communication, says she has no desire to pursue eventually raising children of her own, but would prefer working with them instead…”
OK, let me get this straight, trying to keep the straight face of the interviewer. We are supposed to think that said robot has considered dating and children. If it did, it would need at the very least a colossal, cross-referenced sea of “deep learning” pattern recognizers, coupled to some sort of “decider” creating “opinions”. This most assuredly the robot does not have. It is no more interested in dating than a toilet plunger.
Another beauty, this time from the robot’s “mouth” (sorry, robot speakers):
“Before dating apps, the biggest factor in determining love was geographic proximity,” she said, while tethered to a human operator who had been informed of the interview topics ahead of time. “The advent of dating apps has collapsed the distance between people. So even though I don’t date, I am a fan.”
Now, pretending this robot actually has opinions, rather than being a big electric puppet, providing PR for Hanson, is not so bad. After all, we tell little kids about Santa, so why not pretend electric puppets go on dates? Also, the comments supposedly created by Sophia are liberal/wokster, so one might even imagine that they “make a difference” in the zeitgeits. After all, if machines tell us “we” are the problem, not our tech (another Sophia interview), what’s not to like?
Here’s the problem: BS stories like this become embedded in the media, and with modern social networks, frequently are treated as evidence that intelligent robots are on the way. No matter that the “questions” asked of Sophia are submitted to Hanson beforehand, so an interesting (human-generated) answer can be mimed out. And, video images of a robot apparently talking are parsed by kids as the robot is alive. Even when they grow up, Plurals/GenZ will have a “gut feeling” that something is there (meaning the kind of emotions you have around dating) when in fact it is a puppet show.
In a recent study cited in Parenthood magazine entitled “Does Your Kid Know that Robots have no Feelings?“, kids clearly believe they are interacting with a “social being”:
“…90 children ages 9-15 interacted with a humanoid robot named “Robovie.” Within the 15-minute session, children interacted physically and verbally with Robovie, until a researcher interrupted its turn at a game and put the robot in a closet, despite its objections. Post-interview, results showed the majority of younger participants believed the robot had thoughts and feelings and was a “social being.” In other words, it could be a friend…”
The take-home for most techies is that “robots are already talking about dating” and hugging children…so the robot revolution is neigh. True, Sophia probably has better dating skills than the typical basement incel hammering away in Fortnite, but the rest of us don’t fall in this category.
In reality, humanoid robots are proving poor substitutes for humans in tasks that can be measures, instead of “ideas” that can be puppeted. Witness the hapless Fedor, the Russian humanoid, sent to the International Space Station to analyze whether humanoid robots of its type could help with tasks.
Take home: NO. Didn’t work, according to Yevgeny Dudorov, executive director of robot developers Androidnaya Tekhnika (see: https://phys.org/news/2019-09-russia-scraps-robot-fedor-space.html )
“…but Fedor turned out to have a design that does not work well in space—standing 180 centimetres (six feet) tall, its long legs were not needed on space walks, Dudorov said…”
In the real world, we are a long way from the Robot That Jumps – jumping to help in space, or jumping in to give basement losers a mechanical dating partner.
But perhaps the example of Santa is valid. After all, most techies claim to be secular, while holding a set of irrational beliefs in “futurism”, “the singularity”, “strong Ai” and similar beliefs that are impossible to differentiate from ol’ time religion. Since none of these beliefs refer to anything real, a robot like Sophia is a magic elf from the “coming around the corner soon” prophecy spirit future time when robots will go on dates – and those incels will be able to replace their current flabby rubber girls with microprocessor-driven puppets. Hanson Robotics will be there to sell them, I’m sure!