Why Continued Development of AI Will Rely on Public Opinion and Perception

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At the end of October, 2017, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia raised quite a few eyebrows by becoming the first country in the world to grant citizenship to a robot. Business Insider reports that this “empty-eyed humanoid” is named Sophia, and was produced by Hanson Robotics. You can watch her full presentation at the Future Investment Initiative here, with moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin leading the conversation.

During the presentation, Sorkin alludes to the public’s uneasy stance on AI. Sophia replies: “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies… Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”

Sorkin’s (and the public’s) uneasiness are not necessarily unwarranted. In March, 2016, Sophia was already making headlines for an interview in which she stated “OK. I will destroy humans.” However, Sophia’s inference that the moderator’s perception, as well as the perception of the public at large, has been tainted by popular culture is something that we need to take into account as well.

While it’s important to take great precautions in the face of great power, it’s also easy to add to an alarmist echo chamber when it comes to …

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