Approximately one week after Saudi Arabia became the first country to endow citizenship on a robot named Sophia, Japan granted a robot named Shibuya Mirai residency in Tokyo. The development is believed to be a world first for artificial intelligence (AI) robots.
Though Mirai is technically a Japanese resident, he is very different from his neighbors. For starters, “he” is a chat box on the Japanese messaging service LINE. And unlike Sophia — who once expressed she would like to “destroy humans,” Mirai doesn’t have a physical “body” or presence. He lives online and exists as part of an effort to make the local government more accessible.
According to IFLScience, Mirai translates to “future” in Japanese. And for an unknown reason, he was programmed to behave like a 7-year-old boy.
Said Shibuya Ward in a statement with Microsoft, “His hobbies are taking pictures and observing people.” He also loves to talk, apparently. “Please talk to him about anything,” the district added.
Shibuya, a Ward in Central Tokyo, is home to about 224,000 residents. It was the first place in Japan to recognize same-sex marriage, so it makes more sense why it is also the first to recognize the rights of artificially intelligent beings.
Though the latest development is mostly a publicity stunt for the local government, it does raise questions about how humans should manage AI consciousness. Though we are nowhere near an iRobot scenario, there is reason to be concerned about a possible machine takeover — at least, according to Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and dozens of robotics experts.
In the past, Musk tweeted that he fears a global arms race for artificial intelligence will cause the third World War. And in August, the Tesla co-founder and more than 100 technology leaders signed an open letter calling on the United Nations to ban the development and use of killer robots.
More recently, Stephen Hawking warned of the importance of regulating artificial intelligence. He said at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon: “Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many.”
Though AI technology could improve people’s quality of life substantially — specifically in transportation, education, and medicine, the risks may be too great if the same technology is applied to weaponry. This is what AI experts from Canada and Australia expressed in a new letter they submitted to their respective governments on November 2, 2017. According to CNBC, the experts support the United Nations move to ban autonomous weapons.
The letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reads:
“As you know, AI research — the attempt to build machines that can perform intelligent tasks —has made spectacular advances during the last decade. The evolution of classical AI, bolstered by rapid advances in machine learning, has revived the ambitions of the AI community to build machines that can carry out complex operations with or without human oversight or intervention.”
“AI is of transformative significance. The transformations — actual and potential — demand our understanding and, increasingly, our heightened moral attention.”
“It is for these reasons that Canada’s AI research community is calling on you and your government to make Canada the 20th country in the world to take a firm global stand against weaponizing AI,” the letter states. “Lethal autonomous weapons systems that remove meaningful human control from determining the legitimacy of targets and deploying lethal force sit on the wrong side of a clear moral line.”
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