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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Sophia the Robot and Westworld

These violent delights have violent ends.

As you might know, I'm a massive fan of Westworld. With its complex plots and beautiful characters, it's one of my favourite TV series. I've written about the conclusion of series 2 here.

Since publishing my Real-world Artificial Intelligence, there's been some even weirder A.I. news. Sophia, the world currently most 'lifelike' artificial intelligence, due to its ability to mimic facial expressions, made a rather profound Tweet:

Okay, this is highly suspect whichever way you cut it. Because even the most advanced A.I at the moment is still just mimic and rebuilding on what programmers have given it. And, as her Tweeter profile makes clear, it's run by her 'human communications team' who I imagine was delighted at the traffic and attention Sophia's 'statement' made.

What I found interesting was the vastly negative reaction people had to this, including the complaint:

Spoilers ahead!

I suppose self-delusion is a gift of natural selection as well. Bernard, Westworld

The two questions we're going to have to answer; can A.I. have rights? And is A.I. alive?

These are two of the questions Westworld is trying to answer. In the first series, we see the Hosts (the massively advanced A.I.) proving that they're alive. In the second series, we see them taking up arms to fight for their rights.

We agree that animals are alive. But due to their (arguably) levels of consciousness, we don't consider them to have rights in the same way as humans do. Could A.I. one day be alive, but have no rights?

The more human A.I becomes, the more confused we get in our reactions to it. We have a tendency to humanize everything. The scary thing about A.I. isn't that it isn't human but we treat it like it is. The scary part comes from the fact it one day might be more human than anything non-human has ever been.

The character I feel really represents this struggle isn't Dolores, but Bernard. Bernard spends the first series believing himself to be human. He was, once. But after his death, his colleague and 'friend' Dr Robert Ford, turns him into a Host. Does the fact that Bernard is an exact replica of a human make him any more or less human than Dolores and the rest of the Hosts?

Perhaps the third series will be how humankind will react to this blurring of the lines between human consciousness and A.I. life. Judging by our reaction to Sophia, it's likely not going to end well.

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