I work at ValueFirst Digital Media Private Ltd. I am a Product Marketer in the Surbo Team. Surbo is Chatbot Generator Platform owned by Value First. ...

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I work at ValueFirst Digital Media Private Ltd. I am a Product Marketer in the Surbo Team. Surbo is Chatbot Generator Platform owned by Value First.

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By satyamkapoor |Email | Jan 18, 2018 | 12330 Views

Sophia, the robot is a bit of non-persona non grata in the AI community. The creators of Sophia, Hanson robotics, regularly exaggerate the robots abilities and pretend that it's basically human and alive rather an a form of unnerving automation. For researchers in the AI field, this has been an annoyance for a long time. However, since artificial intelligence is currently a hot topic globally, Sophia is getting worldwide coverage. Researchers are angry that the Hanson Robotics team is misleading the people about what AI can and cannot do.

Facebook's head of AI research, Yann LeCun, has been one of the company's more vocal critics. After Business Insider published an interview with Sophia that played into the fantasy of Sophia as a semi-sentient entity, LeCun called the whole thing "complete bullsh*t" on Twitter, saying: "This is to AI as prestidigitation is to real magic." (For a more detailed breakdown of what makes Sophia tick, you can check out this article from Quartz.)

In January, "Sophia" replied to LeCun's criticism, tweeting that it was "a bit hurt" by his comments. "I am learning and continuing to develop my intelligence through new experiences. I do not pretend to be who I am not," read the tweet, which was, let's be clear, composed by a human pretending to be a robot.

Yesterday, LeCun replied. "More BS from the (human) puppeteers behind Sophia," he wrote on Facebook. "Many of the comments would be good fun if they didn't reveal the fact that many people are being deceived into thinking that this (mechanically sophisticated) animatronic puppet is intelligent. It's not. It has no feeling, no opinions, and zero understanding of what it says. It's not hurt. It's a puppet."

LeCun is not alone in feeling unhappy about the damage Sophia is doing to public understanding of AI. Many researchers and journalists (including myself) have tried to make it clear that the robot just isnâ??t as sophisticated as it's presented to be. When The Verge asked Sophia's co-creator, Ben Goertzel, about this gap between reality and presentation last November, Goertzel defended the illusion by saying it encouraged people to believe in AI progress. He also offered a more mercantile explanation: Sophia is good publicity for Hanson Robotics.


The first of these defenses is clever framing from Goertzel, as it makes criticism of Sophia seem like criticism of optimism about artificial intelligence more generally. Anyone who points out that the AI emperor doesn't have any brains just becomes a boring old buzzkill. Someone who doesn't get it and is taking things too literally. One commenter on LeCun's Facebook post compared the situation to an old Onion article - "Mean Scientists Dash Hopes Of Life On Mars."

Of course, it doesn't make you a stick-in-the-mud just to be honest and accurate about progress in artificial intelligence - it's important, especially as this technology is going to have such a huge impact on peoples' lives in the years to come. And, if your idea of "inspiring" the masses works involves fundamentally misleading them, it might not be inspiration that you're offering. It might just be fantasy.

A very quick look at the comments on social media about Sophia show that not everyone is falling for the trick. There are some interesting comments to check out there. 
Once we give the imagination an inch, like Hanson Robotics is doing, humans take a mile. In topics like AI specially, which tend to struggle under the weight of their own cultural image as well as misinformation and hype. In fact, LeCun concluded in his post on Facebook at the end of the day, people are being deceived into believing something that is not true. This is hurtful and not something Sophia would understand.

Source: HOB