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.
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.