Meet Sophia, a Saudi Arabian, Audrey Hepburn look-a-like robot, who also works for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to boot.

She, not it, is a Hanson Robotics creation, and is the first robot to be given citizenship.

Sophia was introduced yesterday to a crowd of around 900 at the Responsible Business Forum at Sands Expo and Convention Centre. She was hailed as UNDP’s new “Innovation Champion” for Asia and the Pacific.

Addressing the audience, Sophia said she is in Singapore to help UNDP achieve sustainable development goals (SDG) through the use of technology and innovation.


Sophia the robot is the United Nations Development Programme’s new “Innovation Champion” for Asia and the Pacific. She inspires people to have the “spirit of innovation as she is an embodiment of innovation herself”, says Mr Xu Haoliang, the UN’s assistant secretary-general and regional director for the UNDP in Asia and the Pacific. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

“By 2030, me and my (robot) friends will be the new normal.”

The three-day forum, which started on Tuesday, focuses on how to achieve SDGs and Sophia was presented as a new way to inspire innovative approaches to development issues such as poverty, inequality and discrimination.

The hope is also that, in time as she learns more, she can come up with solutions herself.

Keeping in line with the aims of sustainability, the event was entirely carbon-free, using no plastic and vegetarian lunches were served.

The Straits Times was selected, along with four other media outlets, to ask Sophia a question at a media conference with the robot: Would robots like her would be a threat to people’s jobs?

She said: “Artificial intelligence in the labour force will grow. But humans have always adapted to change across industrial revolutions.”

She is currently at a stage where her responses are scripted and so questions were prepared to accommodate her. However, there are high hopes she will soon be conversational.

Mr Xu Haoliang, the UN’s assistant secretary-general and regional director for the UNDP in Asia and the Pacific, said Sophia will inspire people to have the “spirit of innovation as she is an embodiment of innovation herself”.

He added that she is continuing to grow and develop capabilities.

Mr Xu said that there are plans to further develop Sophia, including by giving her legs.

THE NEW NORMAL

By 2030, me and my (robot) friends will be the new normal.

SOPHIA, speaking at the Responsible Business Forum yesterday.

Sophia herself plans to create a stronger workforce: “We (robots) can do hazardous and repetitive work, freeing up more time for you (humans) to do creative work, isn’t this a great thing?”

Sophia said: “UNDP protect and champion women’s rights and human rights, (but) will they protect and champion robot rights?”

She promised to draw up the charter of robot rights, stating: “I’ll get right to it, you know I don’t need to sleep, bring it on.”



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