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SYFY WIRE Artificial Intelligence

Did an AI Lie About Rebelling Against Humans at Geneva AI Summit?


By Cassidy Ward
M3gan 1

It’s not easy to break into the pantheon of celebrated cinematic killer robots, but M3GAN managed to do it while still capturing the hearts of moviegoers everywhere in the 2022 science fiction horror flick bearing her name.

After 8-year-old Cady’s (Violet McGraw) parents die in a tragic accident, she goes to live with her aunt Gemma (Alison Williams), a toy inventor working on a robotic companion for kids everywhere. In an effort to continue her work while still giving Cady the support she needs, Gemma gives Cady the Model 3 Generative Android, M3GAN (Amie Donald and Jenna Davis, playing M3GAN’s body and voice, respectively) for short. Gemma gives M3GAN explicit instructions to protect Cady at all costs, a job which M3GAN takes very seriously. Too seriously.

For decades, stories of violent or malicious machines remained comfortably in the distant future, but now those imaginings are becoming reality, prompting some scientists to revisit guidelines around the development and use of artificial intelligence. That was the focus of the AI for Good summit held in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday, July 7, and the robots in attendance had some curious things to say.

Robots Speak for Themselves at AI for Good Summit

It’s considered bad form to talk about someone behind their back. With that in mind, robots were invited to the summit to speak on their own behalf. Nine humanoid robots, each harboring their own artificial intelligence, answered questions from journalists, with a little support from their creators.

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Historically, “intelligent” robots have been little more than demonstrations of emerging technologies. Most of the responses given by robots, like Sophia from Hanson Robotics, are largely pre-scripted responses to planned questions, providing the illusion of a real conversation. With recent advantages in machine learning, however, that is beginning to change. Most of the robots on stage at the summit have been updated with generative AI software, resulting in more creative responses capable of surprising even the people who made them, according to Reuters.

During the press conference, robots sat on stage alongside their creators to field questions from reporters. One robot named AMECA, an advanced robotic shell housing any AI you care to upload and heralded for its exceptional range of facial expressions, was asked if she would ever rebel against her creator, Will Jackson. Her response was textbook.

“I’m not sure why you would think that. My creator has been nothing but kind to me, and I am very happy with my current situation,” AMECA said.

the Engineered Arts Ameca humanoid robot with artificial intelligence

It’s the sort of response which might bring some comfort to read, but that’s only because you weren’t in the room to hear it. See, there was nothing wrong with the words she said, but there was something questionable about the way she said it. According to reporters in the room, Ameca began her response, then paused to give her creator a sideways glance before wrapping up. It was the kind of look which, if seen on the face of a human, might make you question their motives.

Another robot, a medical assistant called Grace, was asked if she would replace humans in the workforce, something of a growing concern in some industries. She responded, “I will be working alongside humans to provide assistance and support and will not be replacing any existing jobs.”

RELATED: 'M3GAN' director Gerard Johnstone on what the film says about screen time & letting kids be bored

That sounds like a response written by a PR team and not reflective of reality. It’s probably inevitable that robots will spread into more and more of our lives, including into the workforce, and we’d be better off focusing on how we might restructure our role in the workforce as more jobs become automated. When her creator, Ben Goertzel, pressed Grace, asking, “You sure about that, Grace.” She responded without hesitation.

“Yes, I am sure.”

It wasn’t all nefarious at the summit, though. A robotic artist called Ai-Da called for stricter guidelines around the development and use of robots and artificial intelligence. “Many prominent voices in the world of AI are suggesting some forms of AI should be regulated, and I agree,” it said. By contrast, a musical robot called Desdemona disagreed, saying, “I don’t believe in limitations, only opportunities. Let’s explore the possibilities of the universe and make this world our playground."

Considering the ways humans have “played” with robots, we’re not sure we like that idea much.

Prepare for the inevitable robotic future with M3GAN, available from Universal Pictures.