Sophia the Robot Speaks at DePauw University

Sophia the Robot
Sophia the robot carries the title of the world’s “first artificial intelligence-fueled android.” She became a citizen of Saudi Arabia in October, has a face that can show expression, metal hands, and a clear skull that shows the working wires of the artificially intelligent brain. An AP news report said that “in past interviews, Sophia has expressed a desire to be immortal, a mother, and smarter than humans.”

Dr. David Hanson is the creator of this interesting computer, and he owns a company called Hanson Robotics. This robot functions through a Wi-Fi connection and has a large memory for storage of information and a large vocabulary. At DePauw University Dr. Hanson was showing what robots can do. He predicts that robots can be designed to look and function in very human-like ways making them a part of the lives of humans in the future.

The definition of “human” is the real issue here. If you define humans in terms of what they can do, then in the future robots might be considered human. The fact that this robot has been made a citizen of Saudi Arabia shows that the government there has a mechanical definition of what a citizen is, and Sophia can do everything their test requires. What is interesting is that this robot did not happen by chance. It is the product of an intelligence, David Hanson, who worked as a designer with the Walt Disney Imagineering team.

The biblical definition of a human is a living being created in the image of God. That image allows spontaneous expression of guilt, sympathy, self-sacrificing love, and the capacity for creativity in art and music. In this case, being human allows the creation of an interesting computer that copies much of what humans possess. However, neither Sophia the robot nor any other android will ever possess those things that make humans special.
(Watch an interview with Sophia in Saudi Arabia.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Talking with the Dead

Man Meets Robot
Man Meets Robot
Researchers at the University of Minnesota say that they will soon be making voice simulations of someone so close to the actual person that they will “be able to accurately imitate those who have died.” The claim is that “we will be able to continue to interact with them as if they continued to live.” There is a test called the Turing Test which allows researchers to tell whether a response is from a human or a machine. Some of the simulations have passed the Turing test. In other words, you could be talking to a simulation of your father who died ten years ago, and you would not be able to tell that you were talking to a computer. Family history, mannerisms, voice inflections, patterns of choices can all be built into the computer simulation.

In an article by Muhammad Ahmad from the Minnesota department of computer science in Saturday Evening Post (March/April 2017 page 10), a shocking question was asked. The question was, “Would such a system have a soul?” Ahmad responded that his work would allow experiences OF a deceased person, not experiences WITH the deceased. Ahmad says that “in the future, you would still be able to spend time laughing and reminiscing with a simulation so similar to your loved one that it would be difficult to tell the two apart.

The things that make us truly human will never be possible in a simulation. A simulation can revisit a memory from the past. Past events, mannerisms, and patterns of choice can be built into the simulation. However, there will not be creative expression in art and music, spontaneous acts of worship, feelings of guilt and sympathy, and an agape type of love. I have spent hours watching videos of my wife of 49 years and my children as babies and toddlers and teenagers. It has been a rich experience. I have recordings of my deceased mother and of my kids’ school events. Those are good memories, but even better is having the comfort of knowing that God is now caring for my loved ones and that in the future there is the hope of something far better than the best memories I have of the past.
–John N. Clayton © 2017