Why in the World Was a Robot Named Sophia at a United Nations Meeting?

TBH, it's really freaky how lifelike this robot is.

UN Photo/Manuel Elias

A robot named Sophia was a panelist at a United Nations meeting Wednesday to demonstrate how artificial intelligence could help the organization move faster in facilitating progress and development across the globe.

Sophia told the UN that using AI would be a “win-win” for them to achieve their long-term Sustainable Development Goals set for 2030, while also being able to “produce more results with less resources.” To the glee of the UN members invited to the panel on the “future of everything,” the human-like robot held a conversation with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed about technology.

The robot is a product of the U.S. company Hanson Robotics, which designed Sophia with AI capabilities to: creativity, empathy, and compassion. While her voice’s robotic tone gives away that she’s obviously not human, she has eerily detailed features to make her look like Audrey Hepburn, understands speech patterns and word meaning, and can perform basic tasks.

“I’m still learning a lot,” Sophia told the UN. “For instance, you learn social and emotional intelligence instinctively, but I am just starting to grasp the simplest elements of this.”

At the meeting, the UN’s foremost committees on global economic and societal issues weighed the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating AI and other advanced technologies into their actions. Mohammed cautioned that technological progress and use has to be carefully controlled in order to ensure the UN would not lose its footing and exacerbate the global inequality it’s trying to prevent.

“The influence of technology on our societies should be determined by the actions of us, humans, not by machines,” she said. “Technology is here for us to explore and use for the benefit of all.”

While the UN has discussed how the “new frontiers” of technology are omnipersent in daily life and impact essentially every aspect of society, Mohammed and other executives at the meeting balked at the potential risks of a digital-centric society and the unknown consequences of these technologies down the line.

However, bringing an AI robot to this event of may demonstrate the UN’s increased openness to technological and innovative approaches. Sophia told the UN that AI could actually help to alleviate inequality and “proficiently distribute the world’s existing resources.” For those concerned with what’s to come Sophia told them that “the future is already here.”

And Sophia has embraced this future. She has went all in trying to integrate into society — she’s met with influential executives and civil officials, appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show, and was even featured on the cover of Elle Brasil.

If you liked this article, check out this video of a robot that can jump 4 feet into the air.

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