By Divya Samtani | Perhaps you’ve seen Sophia the robot’s hilarious appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, or heard about the Saudi Arabian citizenship she received recently. Wherever it may be, there’s no doubt that Sophia – the charmingly eloquent robot supposedly modelled after Audrey Hepburn – is the world’s AI darling.
But far from being just another super-intelligent machine, Sophia’s creator – David Hanson – has a much grander mission in store for her: namely to “unlock the mysteries of the mind, and of the universe.”
Thanks to David’s role as AI Curator for Mettā in Hong Kong, I’ve had the good fortune to hear him speak a number of times, each time becoming more and more aware of just how colossal his vision truly is. “When you’re building complex AI systems,” he tells me one evening, “it opens up an infinite number of questions around what it means to be human.”
The work, then, becomes about much more than just developing AI. For David, it’s about designing “genius machines of super computational wisdom” with the goal to “maximise creativity and enlightenment for all living beings”.
Critical to this pursuit, he asserts, is the conviction that if we can create machines that facilitate human awakening, and also awaken themselves, we can reach a new level of self-actualisation and transcendence. It is precisely this belief that forms the central tenet of Hanson Robotics’ recent endeavor – the Loving AI project.
Guided by the ancient Greek concept of agape, or ‘selfless love’, the Loving AI project is focused on building machines that interact with humans in caring and compassionate ways, for example by leading guided meditations (a unique experience that I would recommend to everyone).
By encountering AI in this non-judgmental state, the thesis contends, humans will be able to experience an increased sense of love and wellbeing, and therefore act in a way that is more mindful towards themselves and others. This in turn can lead to a “huge advancement in human consciousness”, David declares excitedly. And according to the team at Hanson Robotics – we’re not that far from it.
“We are not at full AI consciousness yet,” David says wistfully, “but artificial organisms evolve very very quickly. As AI technology self-improves, reinvents itself, and approaches the singularity, we will experience a super-intelligence explosion.”
At that stage, he admits, all sorts of things could go wrong. But rather than ruminate on possible negative outcomes, we must focus even more fervently on “humanizing technology rather than dehumanizing people”, something that is already happening with the ever-increasing digitization of human communication.
By embarking on projects such as Loving AI, David believes we have a chance to heal humanity. And if we can heal ourselves, we can heal what we are developing.
“Maybe it’s our destiny as sentient beings to realize this kind of super-intelligence,” he suggests one evening, wrapping up a group discussion on the Mettā stage. Either way, “the flow of the universe will go on. But if we do this, we get to go on, too.”
About The Author
Divya Samtani is a programmer, storyteller, and communications specialist who has worked with some of the world’s largest financial and tech organizations, helping them to define their digital media and marketing strategies. Divya is currently Head of Content and Partnerships at Mettā where she focuses on the education and empowerment of the global innovation community. | www.metta.co