Sophia the humanoid robot created a lot of buzz since her unveiling in 2016. She is a media star - appearing on magazine covers, talk shows, gave a speech to the United Nations and was even granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia.
Created by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, Sophia is powered by artificial intelligence and visual data processing. She recognises faces and understands human speech. She has astounded the public with her multitude of facial expressions but is also her unsettling human-like appearance that has led to questions like - just how much should robots resemble human?
While Sophia is far from being fully self-aware, Sophia's creator David Hanson says the conversation about true artificial intelligence in robots must begin now.
"We should provoke the popular imagination now so we can ask these questions about the direction that we want the machines to go. Because if we don’t humanise the machines and they do become alive - and becomes generally intelligent - but it doesn't really understand us, doesn't care or have an affinity for us, then it could be a dangerous thing," says Hanson, founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics.
We should provoke the popular imagination now so we can ask these questions about the direction that we want the machines to go
The artist and scientist also believes in order for robots to live and work amongst human, they should have human characteristics but he stressed the need to seek diversity in the appearance of robots.
"I think part of the ethics of the pursuit of robots is to allow us to diversify," says Hanson. "We should have many different cultures. We should have as diverse a population creating robots. So it shouldn’t just be engineers and scientists, either. We should put it in the hands of artists and entrepreneurs and kids. We should have people of many different backgrounds creating the robots. We should seek a freedom of speech in the creation of robots.
"I think that's a very important ethical question in creating robots. Making robots look humanlike can help foster a sense of connection between humans and robots and we should explore them as a kind of fictional and narrative art form."
"You can see that Sophia is a robot, she's not entirely human. I think that that creative exploration is exciting and valid but it does rub some people the wrong way."
Without a doubt, the most widely held fear about machines is that they will take over jobs from human, causing real dislocations, social disruption and amplification of wealth inequality. The future with robots powered by AI, according to Hanson, is not all doom and gloom.
"I think we need to have conversations about the ethical impacts of AI and robotics today in the world. How can we use these tools to actualise human potential? How can we activate the people who are stuck in dead end jobs, dangerous jobs, the people who don't have access to education? How can we bring people out of poverty?
We should seek a freedom of speech in the creation of robots
"AI and robotics can really help to educate us and give jobs to these people who may not have the skills," says Hanson. "Robots can engage children in new ways. So there is a massive under tapped potential in the world of humanity. We can also then create a massive abundance through automation.
"It is our responsibility as human beings to distribute the abundance and not merely accumulate it in the hands of the few," he adds.
Watch the full interview with David Hanson and AWANI Review's Cynthia Ng below: