For the First Time Ever, a Country Gave a Robot Citizenship
The world has its first robotic citizen in a humanoid robot with an advanced range of emotions.
Saudi Arabia became the first country in the world to grant citizenship to a robot. On October 25th, at the Future Investment Initiative summit in the capital Riyadh, it was announced that Sophia, a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics, became a Saudi citizen.
Sophia was designed in the image of the actress Audrey Hepburn and has already become somewhat of a celebrity, appearing on the Tonight Show and at various global conferences.
The website of the Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, led by AI developer David Hanson, describes her as an “evolving genius machine,” whose intelligence increases over time. Her AI is based on the humanistic traits of creativity, empathy and compassion.
The panel in Saudi Arabia where Sophia’s citizenship was announced included experts from top AI and robotics companies and research institutions. They talked about innovations in AI, quantum computing, machine learning and other emerging technologies.
Chief scientist of Hanson Robotics, Ben Goertzel (R), interacts with 'Sophia the Robot' (L) during a discussion about the future of humanity in a demonstration of artificial intelligence (AI) by Hanson Robotics at the RISE Technology Conference in Hong Kong on July 12, 2017. (Photo credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)
During the presentation, Sophia demonstrated her range of human expression.
“I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship,” Sophia said.
Sophia also laid out how her goal of getting accepted by humans -
“I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” said Sophia in an exchange with the summit’s moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin.
At another point of the same conversation, Sophia took some digs at Elon Musk, an infamous sceptic of robot intentions. The Tesla CEO has warned on numerous occasions about the dangers advanced AI may pose to humans. When told about concerns people have of a robot-run future, Sophia showed some backbone:
"You've been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies," Sophia told Sorkin. "Don't worry, if you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system."
Never one to resist talking about this issue, Musk joked about the robot's trolling on Twitter, saying "Just feed it The Godfather movies as input. What's the worst that could happen?".
Sophia has previously raised some alarms about her plans for humanity when in 2016 she replied to the question of "Do you want to destroy humans?” with "OK. I will destroy humans."
At the event in Riyadh, when asked if robots can be self-aware, the snarky robot shot back - “Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human?”
She also explained how she would help the human race with her intelligence:
“I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future. I will do my best to make the world a better place,” she said.
Here’s Sophia speaking at the conference:
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Here's the first evidence to challenge the "fastest sperm" narrative.
Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.
- The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
- Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
- These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.
Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.
A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.
Rethinking humanity's origin story
The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.
David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.
The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.
Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"
He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.
"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."
Migrating out of Africa
In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.
Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.
The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.
The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.
Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.
Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.
Did we head east or south of Eden?
Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.
Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.
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