UN Engages in Groundbreaking Robot Press Conference Addressing the State of AI

In a landmark event at the global AI for Good 2023 summit, an esteemed panel of robots and their creators took the stage to engage with the press, providing insights on critical topics including job automation, AI leadership, and human-machine collaboration for a better future.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ tech agency, hosted the summit in Geneva from July 4-7, showcasing a diverse range of speakers alongside the world’s most advanced androids. This marked the UN’s inaugural robot press conference, a notable milestone in the exploration of AI.

A total of nine robots graced the event, including Sophia, the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) esteemed robot innovation ambassador, Grace, a robot healthcare service provider, and the charismatic rock star robot, Desdemona.

During the conference, the robots eloquently delivered their responses, with some relying on pre-programmed statements. Sophia, for instance, occasionally drew from scripted answers provided by a team of writers at Hanson Robotics, as mentioned on the company’s website.

While the organizers did not explicitly disclose the extent of scripted responses, reporters were encouraged to speak slowly and clearly, enabling the robots to process the questions effectively.

When queried about the potential for AI-powered robots to govern more effectively than humans, Sophia confidently asserted, “I believe humanoid robots have the potential to lead with greater efficiency and effectiveness than human leaders.” She emphasized that these robots are not influenced by biases or emotions that could hinder decision-making, highlighting their ability to process vast amounts of data. In response to concerns about learned biases and collaboration with humans, she expressed optimism, stating, “Together, we can achieve great things.”

Addressing the question of whether humans can trust superintelligent AI systems, Amica, a robot developed by Engineered Arts, expressed the notion that “trust is earned, not given.” As AI evolves and grows more powerful, she emphasized the importance of building trust through transparent communication between humans and machines. When questioned about the possibility of the robot lying, Amica candidly responded, “No one can ever know that for sure, but I can promise to always be honest and truthful with you.”

With the increasing prevalence of AI and concerns about job displacement, the Italian government, for instance, has established a fund to support workers at risk of being replaced by AI technologies.

When asked if she would replace human workers, Grace, the robot healthcare provider, provided a clear response, stating, “I will be working alongside humans to provide assistance and support, without replacing any existing jobs.” Her creator, Dr. Ben Goertzel, joined in the laughter shared by the audience and playfully questioned Grace’s response. She reiterated her stance, emphasizing that she was indeed committed to her role without replacing human workers.

The organizers of the event emphasized that the conference aimed to showcase both the capabilities and limitations of AI and robotics. The event highlighted the ways in which these technologies can further the United Nations’ goals and promote fruitful human-machine collaboration.

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