The Question That Tripped Erica – The Japanese Humanoid Robot
In my PhD thesis at the Africa Regional Centre for Information Science, University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 2002, I looked at the human cognitive and emotional factors in the development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) system covering Expert Systems, Wizards and Robotic systems. The study pointed out a number of key ways in which AI Systems could be better integrated into human society. A summary of this study was published in a paper (Bamitale, Adebayo (2006). The Guru and the Wizard: Psychological issues in the development and use of Intelligent Interfaces In Morgan, K, Brebbbia, A. and Spector, J.M. (ed), The Internet Society II: Advances in Education, Commerce and Governance. Wessex Institute of Technology Press. 2006.( pp 177 – 189).
The BBC is focusing on Development in AI and this focus has taken Peter Allen to Japan to meet Erica, the Japanese humanoid Robot. For decades now, Japan has been at the cutting edge of Artificial Intelligence research making the country a veritable point for revealing the development in this field. With the focus of the BBC on Artificial Intelligence this week there have been important revelations about the current state of development in the field. Although most of the concern being expressed by the BBC has been on the fear of what AI and robotic systems could do to our professions, the week has brought to the public the development in the hitherto esoteric field.
I was watching this video of Peter Allen and Erica in an interview with the Japanese humanoid robot, which brings to fore the limitations of the Artificial Intelligence systems. Erica looks like a female human being and actually answers questions with confidence. However, Erica was tripped by a question from the BBC reporter. It was a simple question which should have been answered with a yes or no, but this question tripped the humanoid robot.
The BBC reporter, Peter Allen, asked Erica “Is Erica a person? Does Erica have a soul?”. This question was beyond the programmatic level of Erica and it tripped the Humanoid Robot, leaving her in a confused state.
Much advancement has been made in the field of AI but to replace the human personality is still a step way ahead of the AI Systems, and that is why the focus of our educational system should be to cultivate those things that make humans human – creativity, artistic impulses, intuition, social interaction, imagination, and other subtle aspects of humanity that are difficult to capture algorithmically. While AI will help humanity to deal with drudgery and remove tedium, it will be the responsibility of mankind to find correct way to use leisure, to learn to distribute resources equitably, and to move to higher spiritual aspect and higher mental functions which at present is closed to the vast majority of mankind because of the need to make ends meet.