Rise of the ro­bots

What does in­ter­view­ing a ro­bot re­veal about how far tech­nol­ogy has come, and where things are headed? Not as much as it re­veals about the hu­man psy­che.

Comms MEA - - Comment Editor - About the au­thor Ben Mack is edi­tor of CommsMEA. Got a com­ment? E-mail at: [email protected]

It was an in­ter­view un­like any other.

There I was, in the thick of things at my first Gulf In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Ex­hi­bi­tion (bet­ter known as GITEX) in Dubai, sur­rounded by all the in­cred­i­ble sights and sounds – like ac­tual fly­ing cars – at Eti­salat’s stand. And I was in­ter­view­ing a ro­bot.

But this wasn’t just any ro­bot: it was none other than Sophia, a ro­bot so hu­man­like she (no­tice my own use of that pro­noun) is con­sid­ered by

some to be just a step be­low ac­tual sen­tience (though some con­spir­acy the­o­rists al­ready be­lieve she is).

Our (ad­mit­tedly far too) brief chat was cer­tainly un­for­get­table.

It was in­cred­i­ble how when I would ask her some­thing, Sophia would ask me some­thing re­lated to my ques­tion in re­sponse. Is she sen­tient? I’m not qual­i­fied to an­swer that. But I can say there were mo­ments it didn’t feel like I was in­ter­act­ing with a ro­bot.

The mo­ment serves as a re­minder of just how far tech­nol­ogy has come – and how the pace of in­no­va­tion is only in­creas­ing at an ever-faster rate. Grim as it sounds, while Sophia is state of the art now, within a year or two she may well be as ob­so­lete as a tape recorder.

The year is also com­ing to an end (al­ready? Wow. Hard to think just a few months ago I was slum­ming it in a rather poorly-lit flat along the Auck­land water­front), so it’s only fit­ting to look back on things and en­gage in a bit of prover­bial crys­tal ball-gaz­ing. But for­get 2019. What might the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­tries look like in 2020? We asked some rather clever peo­ple in our com­mu­nity for their bold (and not-so-bold) pre­dic­tions – and what the “new Sophia” might be. Their an­swers might very well sur­prise you.

On the sub­ject of new things, we’re also de­but­ing what will be a new sec­tion in the mag­a­zine: spe­cial re­ports. Each month, we’ll be tak­ing a deep dive on a hot topic in the in­dus­try, chat­ting with ex­perts about where things are at, what folks need to know, and where things are go­ing. Con­sider it a bit of in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing, un­rav­el­ling a rid­dle, wrapped in a mys­tery, in­side an enigma (to use Win­ston Churchill’s par­lance). For our in­au­gu­ral edi­tion, we’ll be tak­ing a look at smart cities.

We’re also bring­ing back some old things, but putting a new twist on them. Like our top 30 sup­pli­ers – a de­fin­i­tive list of who’s who when it comes to telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sup­pli­ers in the Mid­dle East and Africa.

Then there’s the twist which we put on the re­vamped CommsMEA Awards, which were held last month. To mark the oc­ca­sion, we hosted an ex­clu­sive soiree in Dubai that had the vibe of a so­ci­ety event you’d read about in The New Yorker or good old Spy back “home” in New Zealand. But don’t worry: we’ve got a re­cap for those of you that weren’t there – as well as the req­ui­site pho­tos.

So that’s a bit of that from us – for now, at least. Make no mis­take: it’s been a pretty big year. See you in 2019

– as­sum­ing, of course, Sophia and the ro­bots haven’t re­placed us all by then.

The mo­ment serves as a re­minder of just how far tech­nol­ogy has come – and how the pace of in­no­va­tion is only in­creas­ing at an ever-faster rate. Grim as it sounds, while Sophia is state of the art now, within a year or two she may well be as ob­so­lete as a tape recorder.”

Catch­ing up with Sophia the ro­bot at GITEX.

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