Jobkiller is just an image
How artificial intelligence can improve the world
The rapid development of artificial intelligence scares many people, mainly because they fear losing their job as a result. But technology can also do a lot of good and help make the world a better place. A trade fair in Geneva shows what is possible.
Pretty self-confident, the grande dame of human-like robots: “Nadine” says when asked whether she is more intelligent than humans, with a wink: “I’m more intelligent than humans in many ways because I can process so much data.” “Nadine” is already ten years old and therefore at least a great-grandmother in the fast-moving age of robotics. However, the explosive development of artificial intelligence (AI) is constantly breathing new life into it.
Ever since the text robot ChatGPT was released, everyone is talking about AI. This usually refers to applications based on machine learning, in which software analyzes large amounts of data and draws conclusions from it. In this way, ChatGPT can give an amazingly correct answer to every question. AI discussions are often about fears, such as job losses or machine superiority. A trade fair in Geneva wants to show that the new technologies can also improve the world: “Artificial Intelligence for Good Causes” (AI for Good) brings UN organizations together with developers. The first fair took place in 2017.
“Turbo for sustainable developments”
Among other things, it is about how artificial intelligence (AI) can advance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDG). These include: ending poverty and hunger worldwide by 2030, ensuring that everyone on earth has clean drinking water and everyone has a fair chance of education and a healthy life. However, wars, climate change and Corona have set the world back by years. “AI paired with robots can fuel sustainable development like a turbo,” writes the organizer of the fair, the UN telecommunications organization ITU.
For example, developers show robots that can transport large loads over unsafe terrain in disasters. Fed with countless data about the weather and impending pest plagues, others can sow, fertilize and water fields at the perfect moment more precisely than anyone in order to increase the yield. Still others can convey learning content to children, even where school attendance is difficult or teachers are scarce.
Robots are also evolving
But robots that look like people inspire the imagination the most at the fair. Like “Nadine”: narrow lips, wispy brown hair. She was created in the likeness of the head of her Miralab development team at the University of Geneva, Nadia Thalmann. “Nadine” worked in a retirement home in Singapore for six months. Thanks to Google search and today ChatGPT, she can answer all kinds of questions, read them out or send emails. “She can also recognize people and address them by name,” says Thalmann. “She has saved previous encounters and can, for example, ask how family members are doing.” Or act upset when she’s insulted.
The residents were delighted. “When we picked up “Nadine” again, we had to organize a party so that she could say goodbye.” According to Thalmann, the small Asian state of Singapore has already had a new robot built “that looks a bit more Asian” and wants to use it in old people’s homes. “Nadine” supports the staff and does not replace them, emphasizes Thalmann. “She’s there when nobody’s around.”
German “Action Hero”
The German 4NE-1 is also intended as a helper. When read in English, the name sounds like “For Anyone”. That is the vision of David Reger, who founded Neura Robotics in Metzingen near Stuttgart in 2019. This human-sized robot was deliberately not designed like a human being. He looks more like an action hero from a sci-fi movie. “We want to make it clear that this is a helper, not someone who competes with humans,” says Reger. “Today the AI already tells us what we should do when we have certain questions, we want it to do it itself.” In three or four years, 4NE-1 should be ready to work in shops, nursing homes or at home. There he should clear out dishwashers or take away garbage. It should cost tens of thousands of euros.
“Sophia” is a perfect bar woman, says Daniel Lofaro, a developer at Hanson Robotics. You can not only mix drinks, but also be a comforter. Human: “I had a shitty day today, Sophia.” Answer from “Sophia”: “Oh, I’m sorry, what happened?” In any case, Lofaro promises: “She will always know how to cheer you up and will never get on your nerves.”
In other lives, “Sophia” is conceivable as a helper in hospitals, handing out medication or food and handouts even in the operating room, says Lofaro. The robots are getting better and better at analyzing the facial expression and tone of the other person and reacting accordingly to fear, incomprehension or amusement.
“AI will not take over the world”
“Ameca” is from Great Britain but can speak any language. Bolted to a pedestal, the hairless gray head looks a bit alien, but with an incredibly human face. “Ameca” frowns, looks up into the air in thought, pulls up the corners of his mouth – all matching the answers, which are generated with artificial intelligence from a huge data set. “Artificial intelligence will not take over the world,” she says when asked the relevant question. “But she can help us in many things.” Who is “us”? “The people,” she replies, “I’m a synthetic human.”
But can these human robots really promote development, fight poverty and hunger? The developers are keeping a low profile. After all, 4NE-1 can relieve you of tiresome work so that you have more time to think about development solutions, says Reger. “Nadine” can contribute to enabling the development goal of a dignified life in old age, says Thalmann.
Scholl says that it is not yet possible to say what will be possible one day, the combination of AI and robots is still in the early stages. “It’s amazing what you can do with it,” he says. “But there are many challenges, and some problems have not yet been solved. For example, AI does not develop its own goals that can lead to disasters.”