Verena Fulde


Human-like machines

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What should robots look like? If it were up to David Hanson, the "father" of Sophia, probably the most famous humanoid robot, the answer is clear: as much like people as possible!

Sophia, probably the most famous humanoid robot.

Sophia, probably the most famous humanoid robot.

As he sees it, we treat robots better when they look similar to us. And if we treated them as our equals, we'd be protected against a "servant and master mentality". He believes it is a pragmatic form of self-protection against beings that might become superior to us in intelligence and other areas one day. If that happened, would we really want them to give tit for tat and treat us as badly as we used to treat them?

In our video interview, Hanson describes the situation as follows: "Most robots and AI don’t look human. My concern is also that they won’t grow up in a human family, in fact. They won’t really understand us, so making robots look human allows us to teach them to understand us better, for more valuable AI that can truly help us."

As I note in my blog, opinions are split on this subject. But even though we're currently still far from making robots that truly resemble humans, we should start thinking about it now and define a framework. No matter how humanoid future robots might be, they should still be identifiable as machines.

Deutsche Telekom's AI guidelines also demand this: Guideline number 4 involves transparency. It states that people must be able to tell when they are communicating with a machine. As such, it's also a clear "no" to humanoid robots. I think that's the right call.

What about you?

Please share your opinions with us.

Sophia, probably the most famous humanoid robot.

Human-like machines

Should robots have human-like appearances? A video interview with David Hanson, the inventor of Sophia.