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Sophia the Robot is coming to Africa

Sophia, the Saudi-Arabian citizen and first Android national in history, will attend Egypt’s Creative Industry Summit from 17th to 18th April in her first appearance on the continent.

Sophia, the most advanced robot and first artificially intelligent (AI) robot to be granted citizenship, is coming to Africa for Egypt’s Creative Industry Summit. Since its launch in 2014, the summit focuses on the latest developments in advertising, marketing and design in Egypt and the Arab world.

It is no wonder that the summits organisers‘, Idea Bakers and The Worx, set their sights on Sophia – she is currently the most advanced Artificially Intelligent being around. Her recent appearances at the UN and the World Economic Forum Davos made it an easy choice to include her.

Mai Salama, the Creative Industry Summit’s founding partner, said in a statement, “The summit mainly targets six key areas, namely advertising and marketing, art and design, film, radio and television, photography, business innovation, and music. We aim to develop creative industries by putting forth new and innovative ideas in these fields.”

Salama added that through Sophia the organisers could showcase the latest breakthroughs in technology.

“We have always tried to bring whatever is new and a breakthrough in terms of technology. She’s been very successful, having recently spoken at the UN and Davos. So, we felt we should try to bring the most advanced AI to Egypt.”

In further comments to Startup Scene, Salama explained that AI is becoming an integral part of life. “There are agencies hiring AI as creative directors, and when you think about it, it will add a lot because a robot like Sophia can eventually come up with content.”

Who is Sophia really?

Sophia, the brainchild of David Hanson, is the world’s most advanced and ‘real’ android. According to an AFP article, her artificial skin consists of organic and non-organic material and she is able to express her ‘emotions’ through a number of facial expressions installed via a large number of motors under her ‘skin’. It has also been said that her face was designed to match the legendary Audrey Hepburn.

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Sophia has cameras installed in her eyes and torso to help her maintain eye contact and ensure she is able to recognise human faces. Her programming allows her to carry out non-scripted conversations, during which she is able to collect emotional data and form emotional relations.

Her ability to converse autonomously is demonstrated on her ‘date’ in a viral video with actor Will Smith.

Sophia’s media appearances range from Elle magazine to Good Morning Britain and The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon. She also appeared in the movie The White King.

Killer Robots?

Intellectuals around the world have shared their concerns about AI as the development of robots like Sophia can represent a great danger to mankind.

Hanson robots are connected through Wi-Fi to a cloud to enable them to share information with each other in order to maximise learned experiences. In other words, they share their ‘thoughts’ and ‘feelings’. This, however, also means they can be controlled or ‘hacked’.

Elon Musk, CEO of Space X and Tesla, and Ben Goertzel, Hanson Robotics’ chief scientist, have both warned about the dangers of AI. In an interview with AFP, Goertzel said, “There’s reasonable speculation that if we don’t build machines that really care, they’ll have motives of their own.”

These sentiments were echoed by economics experts at the World Economic Forum, who warned against the “killer robots,” which, according to reports by Forbes, can be programmed to track down people and kill them. They were called “a threat to mankind”.

For now, however, the threat is not imminent as AI technology is still in the “rudimentary” phase. So Sophia coming to Africa is merely a technological spectacle and an excuse to re-watch I, Robot.

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