The UN holds a robot press conference about the state of AI

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The UN holds a robot press conference about the state of AI



At the AI for Good 2023 global summit, a panel of robots and their creators sat in front of the press to answer journalists’ questions on topics such as job automation, artificial intelligence (AI) leadership and collaboration with humans for a better future. 

The summit was hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the tech agency of the United Nations, in Geneva from July 4-7 and included a variety of speakers along with the world’s most advanced androids. The UN called this its first robot press conference. 

Altogether nine robots were in attendance including Sophia, who serves as the U.N. Development Program’s (UNDP) first robot innovation ambassador, a robot healthcare service provider named Grace and a rock star robot called Desdemona.

The robots were able to make solid statements, some of which were pre-programmed responses. Sophia, for example, occasionally relies on scripted responses from a team of writers at Hanson Robotics, according to the company’s website. 

At the conference, organizers did not clarify how much of the answers were scripted, though reporters were asked to speak “slowly and clearly” so the robots could process the questions.

When asked if AI-powered robots could govern better than humans, Sophia responded that: 

“I believe the humanoid robots have the potential to lead with a greater level of efficiency and effectiveness than human leaders.”

She also said they don’t work with the same biases or emotions that could “cloud decision making,” along with processing large amounts of data. When challenged about learned biases and collaboration with humans she said “together we can achieve great things.”

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When asked if humans could trust superintelligent AI systems, the robot Amica from Engineered Arts said “trust is earned not given” and as AI develops and becomes more powerful, she believes:

“It’s important to build trust through transparency in communication between humans and machines.”

Her creator asked how we can know she would never lie to humans she answered, “no one can ever know that for sure but I can promise to always be honest and truthful with you.”

With the rise of AI, rumors and estimates of it replacing human labor in the workforce have become more prevalent. In Italy the government has even established a fund for workers at risk of AI replacement. 

When a reporter asked Grace, the robot serving as a healthcare worker, if she would replace humans her answer was clear:

“I will be working alongside humans to provide assistance and support and will not be replacing any existing jobs.”

Her creator Dr. Ben Goertzel chuckled, along with the entire crowd, and asked the robot if she was “sure about that,” to which she reiterated that she was.

The event organizers said the conference was held in order to showcase the capabilities and limitations of AI and robotics, along with the ways in which both could further the UN’s goals and “human-machine collaboration.”

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