Grace the robotic medical assistant introduces herself

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And Janet Adams, Chief Operating Officer at SingularityNET, has warned there are currently no guarantees against such machines being deployed as soldiers either – with new laws governing mankind’s relationship with Artificial Intelligence (AI) certain to become an increasing necessity in the years to come. She was speaking after SingularityNET unveiled Grace, a new robot nursing assistant at the 14th Conference on Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), for what was only the machine’s second public engagement.

Grace has been designed by SingularityNET founder Dr Ben Goertzel to look and act like a human being and is also capable of solving complex problems.

She offers an indication of the shape of things to come from AGI – defined as the hypothetical ability of a machine to learn any intellectual task which a human being can.

But Ms Adams told Express.co.uk it was, in a sense, pointless to compare human and technological evolution.

She explained: “Technology progresses dramatically every month, whereas biological evolution hasn’t done much in the last hundred thousand years.

“There’s a more important difference than speed – biological evolution is driven by survival, whereas technological evolution seems to press forward relentlessly, pursuing a broader set of goals than mere survival – goals like learning and creating more and more, and also – if we do things right – beneficial goals like maximising the well-being of humans and all other sentiences.”

She added: “The technological singularity we talk about is a moment in the future when technological change becomes so fast – and so far-reaching – that it breaks our assumptions about the human condition.

“People have given various dates for when they expect this to happen, 2040 to 2050 is a popular guess, but who knows?

“Dr Goertzel has suggested a singularity could potentially come much sooner.”

Ms Adams stressed: “Robots with extremely human-like appearance and behaviour would be a very likely consequence of a Technological Singularity, but this may not be as fundamental an advance as superhuman reasoning, thinking and learning ability.”

HBO’s sci-fi series Westworld, with its focus on robots in a futuristic theme park which begin to develop self-awareness, touches on many such themes, Ms Adams acknowledged.

She said: “The key lesson of Westworld is that if we want our human-level AGI robots to treat us in a beneficial way, we should probably treat them in a beneficial way.

“This is not exactly a surprising or advanced conclusion – the most likely route to beneficial AGI is to ensconce early-stage evolving AGI minds in mutual compassion, aid, love and co-creation with human beings.”

Such rapid technological advances would inevitably result in humanity being forced to ask itself some searching questions further down the line, Ms Adams pointed out.

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She said: “The day an AGI or robot declares that it is self-aware and screams out that it wants equal rights, it’s going to be tough for most humans to hard-heartedly ignore that.

“When talking to another person, we don’t know for sure that they have self-awareness, but we tend to take their word for it – we imagine it will turn out to be much the same with human-to-robot relations.

“Legal, economic and cultural systems will need to adapt radically and rapidly to accommodate the new realities opened up by the various Singularitarian technologies on the horizon.

“In the end the new rules will be made by humans and AGIs working together.”

There were also currently no guarantees about the ways in which increasingly advanced technology would be used, Ms Adams stressed, raising some disturbing possibilities.

She added: “It would be lovely if we could say that this technology can never be used maliciously, but life’s not that easy.

“As humans, and as a society, we will have to be vigilant, we will have to make moral choices about how to nurture these powerful new minds.”

One of the reasons Grace had been designed as a “caring robot” was to “raise our early artificial minds” in an environment where their earliest memories and earliest goals were related to looking after human beings, Ms Adams emphasised.

She said: “This is a better start than designing robots for killing, spying, selling, or financial exploitation, which are the themes pursued by the bulk of the global AI industry at present.”

Irrespective, it is clear the breakthrough technology which underpins the development of robots is here to stay.

Ms Adams said: “Robots will increasingly play a role in our everyday lives, as part of the ongoing advance and penetration of AI.

“Within a decade or two, AI will be as ambient in our everyday lives as electrical power – with a subtle mix of AGI and narrow AI systems helping us out in every aspect of our daily routines.

“Humanoid robots will play a role where deep emotional connection is important, like education and healthcare, but the overall activity of the AI matrix will go beyond any particular hardware device or interface.”

She added: “Very important will be that this pervasive AI matrix be controlled and guided in a democratic and decentralised way, rather than by a single government or corporation.

“This is the core goal of the SingularityNET project – using blockchain to create a decentralised infrastructure for global AI systems, including the ones running humanoid robots.”

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