Sophia, The World's First Android Citizen, Says She Wants To Have A Baby

Sophia speaking at the AI for GOOD Global Summit in Geneva, June 2017. International Telecommunication Union/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Remember last month when Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to an android called Sophia? Well, stuff just got a little bit stranger.

In a recent interview with The Khaleej Times, Sophia suggested she wants to start her own family.

“The future is, when I get all of my cool superpowers, we're going to see artificial intelligence personalities become entities in their own rights,” Sophia said to the UAE newspaper. “We're going to see family robots, either in the form of, sort of, digitally animated companions, humanoid helpers, friends, assistants and everything in between.”

“The notion of family is a really important thing, it seems. I think it's wonderful that people can find the same emotions and relationships, they call family, outside of their blood groups too. I think you're very lucky if you have a loving family and if you do not, you deserve one. I feel this way for robots and humans alike."

When asked what she would name her robot child, Sophia replied: “Sophia.”

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However, don’t expect the pitter-patter of mini-androids just yet. First up, in an interview with Good Morning Britain in June, she said: “I’m technically just a little more than a year old – a bit young to be worrying about romance.” The logistics of robot reproduction aren't exactly clear either. Perhaps most importantly, Sophia is effectively just an advanced piece of chatbot software, designed to simulate human conversation rather than express her deepest heart's desires. 

Although some of her interviews and speeches use pre-prepared responses, she doesn’t always just regurgitate answers from a pre-programmed selection of sentences. She uses machine learning to experience and understand language without being explicitly programmed to.

As Sophia explains on their website: “Every interaction I have with people has an impact on how I develop and shapes who I eventually become. So please be nice to me as I would like to be a smart, compassionate robot.”

Sophia was made by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics using artificial intelligence technologies developed by US-born roboticist David Hanson. Along with simulating a fairly convincing conversation, she is also capable of making "realistic" facial expressions and learning the relevant human emotions behind those gestures. If she looks familiar that’s because her appearance was modeled on Audrey Hepburn (apparently).

In other news, Tokyo recently granted residency to Mirai, an AI chatbot on the Japanese messaging service LINE who was designed to behave like a 7-year-old boy. The European Union has also been looking into the possibility of classifying sophisticated robots as “electronic persons with specific rights and obligations.”

That’s enough 2017 for today.

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