AIs will have to be con­strained by moral stan­dards and ethics

Chance that ro­bots want to rise up is as slim as that they want to drink booze or take drugs


or is she just a chat­bot with a face? Al­though re­mark­able progress has been made, Sophia still has a long way to go in terms of ar­ti­fi­cial gen­eral in­tel­li­gence and a sen­tient be­ing.

What is cer­tain is that we will see many more ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent ro­bots in our homes.

The first home ro­bots ap­peared in the 1990s and have as­sisted with many do­mes­tic tasks such as clean­ing, en­ter­tain­ment and do­mes­tic se­cu­rity. How­ever, the use of more ad­vanced AI tech­nolo­gies in home ro­bots is rel­a­tively new.

The new­est clean­ing ro­bots driven by AI have ad­vanced de­ci­sion-mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to recog­nise ob­sta­cles and com­pute the most ef­fi­cient route; speech recog­ni­tion to take user com­mands and re­port their cur­rent sta­tus; and in­ter­ac­tive draw­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to draw maps of their en­vi­ron­ment.

In en­ter­tain­ment, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gent ro­bots, us­ing deep AI and com­puter vi­sion, are in­creas­ingly dis­play­ing inim­itable per­son­al­i­ties and hu­man emo­tions. They can iden­tify and re­mem­ber peo­ple and have “evolv­ing” per­son­al­i­ties to adapt to their own­ers.

Fur­ther­more, they can in­ter­pret users’ fa­cial ex­pres­sions, vo­cal in­to­na­tions and lin­guis­tic pat­terns; proac­tively start con­ver­sa­tions rather than re­spond­ing to users’ com­mands; and sim­u­late emo­tions like em­pa­thy. These ro­bots also have the abil­ity to re­trieve in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­cate with other con­nected de­vices and, for in­stance, would au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just the mu­sic ac­cord­ing to the mood of a per­son.

Ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent ro­bots are also be­com­ing more com­mon in home se­cu­rity and surveil­lance. They can recog­nise faces and de­tect sus­pi­cious sounds, so that it can warn the home­owner of in­trud­ers. Some can even pre­dict and dis­rupt crimes be­fore they oc­cur.

In the com­ing years, the need for med­i­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion will in­crease as the rate of sur­vival af­ter dis­eases with se­vere func­tional lim­i­ta­tions, such as a stroke, will in­crease. So­cially As­sis­tive Ro­bots are al­ready be­ing used in re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. A mile­stone was reached when the first ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent ro­bot in space, named Ci­mon, ar­rived at the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion on July 2, 2018. It uses IBM’s fa­mous Wat­son sys­tem and can com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple, know­ing whom it’s talk­ing to due to fa­cial-recog­ni­tion soft­ware.

Ci­mon’s pur­pose is to as­sist as­tro­naut Alexan­der Gerst in sev­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions by ac­cess­ing a large amount of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing pho­tos and videos.

Ci­mon is smart enough to deal with ques­tions be­yond the in­ves­ti­ga­tions that Gerst might have.

Ci­mon is an ex­per­i­ment of hu­man-ma­chine in­ter­ac­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion in space with the aim of even­tu­ally help­ing as­tro­nauts re­pair dam­aged space­craft sys­tems or treat­ing sick crew mem­bers.

Ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent ro­bots cre­ate won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties, but may also be fear-in­duc­ing. For many peo­ple, the idea of in­tel­li­gent ro­bots cre­ates vi­sions of ro­bots that take over the world.

How­ever, the chance that ro­bots want to rise up and dom­i­nate Earth are as slim as that they want to drink al­co­hol or take drugs. That is uniquely hu­man.

But we will still have to en­sure that AI and ro­bot­ics are de­vel­oped con­sci­en­tiously and con­strained by moral stan­dards and ethics.

Pro­fes­sor Louis Fourie is deputy vicechan­cel­lor: knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy – Cape Penin­sula Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.


Han­son Ro­bot­ics hu­manoid ro­bot Sophia at­tends the Rise con­fer­ence in Hong Kong in July. Among other tech­nolo­gies, Sophia uses AI, vis­ual data pro­cess­ing, voice recog­ni­tion and fa­cial recog­ni­tion, and is de­signed to get smarter over time. | / Bloomberg

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