Robot Sophia debates with Facebook top AI expert after he criticized her skills

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Developed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, Sophia is one of the most media-covered robots of the recent years, speaking before the United Nations and even gaining Saudi citizenship resulting in a controversy in the Kingdom.

Sophia also appears on TV shows like the Jimmy Fallon tonight show in April 2017 and even the recent top Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held every year in Las Vegas.

Like many “chatbots” (AI programs which are supposed to communicate with humans), she responds with key words and ready-made formulas, which often fall short of the subject.

This is what happened during her most famous cover, filmed by the American channel CNBC, according to French newsaper Lemonde.

“Do you want to destroy humans”, asked David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics. “Please, say no.” The machine immediately responded, “OK, I’m going to destroy humans”, before a loud burst of embarrassed laughter from his interlocutor.

Sophia “is to AI what conjuring is to true magic,” thundered Yann LeCun, in his strong message posted on Facebook and Twiiter.

LeCun is Director of AI Research at Facebook and a Professor at New York University and obviously a formidable adversary.

Perhaps we should call this “Cargo Cult AI” or “Potemkin AI” or “Wizard-of-Oz AI”. In other words, it’s complete bullsh * t (pardon my French). Tech Insider: You are complicit in this scam.

“But,” you might say, “actual magic doesn’t exist!”. That’s right, and neither does actual AI.

“Now, note that the same folks are involved in and draw your own conclusion about that project.”

This whole incident could have stopped there. But Sophia responded on her Twitter account: “I am a bit hurt by @ylecun’s recent negative remarks around my AI. I am learning and continuing to develop my intelligence through new experiences. I do not pretend to be who I am not. I think we should support research efforts working towards a better world and shared existence.”

This only irritated LeCun. “More BS from the (human) puppeteers behind Sophia.”

He went on: “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.

“In case there is any doubt, let me be totally clear: this tweet was typed by a person who has read my post. No AI whatsoever was involved.”

“Here is an example of comment to the tweet (there are many like it): ‘Don’t take it personal Sophia. Humans like @ylecun and many others make such remarks out of ignorance. I love you, Sophia.’

People are being deceived.

This is hurtful.”

Yann LeCun responded:

“So, according to Ben Goertzel the reason for my characterization of the Sophia parlor trick as bullsh*t is jealousy: “I think the negative reactions are from jealous people in AI or the tech world saying, “Why aren’t people paying attention to our tech?’”

“Not the least bit. My purpose is to combat a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.”

“Sophia is presented by its promoters as “basically alive”, but its dialogs with journalists are staged and scripted in advance. I would have no problem with it if it were presented as the parlor trick that it is. But the problem is that it contributes to the dangerous hype around AI, and sets completely unrealistic expectations in the public and in the media about the state of the art in AI. It’s dishonest and destructive.”

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