Very human robots

Writing novels, composing music, making up cooking recipes and even flirting ... Robots are doing more and more things like humans do.

“What would it take for a thing to go from being merely humanoid to actually human? “, wondered recently the American magazine New Republic in a fascinating article on the quest of the human rights of a sensitive robot. Should he be able to create works of art, arouse emotions, or even to express them? With “machine learning” – a machine’s ability to learn to progressively evolve and interact with their peers and humans – “creative and emotional robotics” has made significant progress. Robots are now engaged in very human activities and could even claim rights…

They compose music

In the 18th century, the French inventor Jacques Vaucanson built a robot that plays the flute, while the Swiss watchmaker Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz designed a young mechanical harpsichord player, which beats and salutes the audience when finished playing. Some experiments later, in 2016, the title Daddy’s Car appeared on SoundCloud and YouTube. Born in the private Sony CSL research lab, this “pop song created by computer [which] holds the road” is inspired by a set of Beatles songs drawn from a huge database.

They develop emotional relationships

Last January, the Internet was fascinated with two Google Home speakers, engaged in a discussion without end on the meaning of life on Twitch. For several days, three million Internet users observed the strange banter which indulged Vladimir and Estragon, fascinated by the improbable exchange between two machines on humanity, love, Harry Potter and cats.

The idea of ​​creating an artificial intelligence with emotional sensitivity comes from science fiction to entering the world of research. Although it will take a while before we see the first robots in love, the example shows that they are already able to flirt and argue like an old couple.

They make up cooking recipes

You already know Watson, the AI developed by IBM that caused a stir in 2011 by winning the Jeopardy. The programme is now experimenting in different areas, including the kitchen. Big Blue’s engineers have created an amazing algorithm, capable of developing new recipes. On the site, you just enter an ingredient and Chef Watson comes up with culinary combinations and recipes. Besides the fact that he has “swallowed” thousands of know-hows and techniques, the main quality of Chief Watson is that he is not constrained by the preconceptions of any culinary culture. This allows him to offer combinations of bold flavours which are (mostly) successful.

They won the game of go

On 15 March 2016, Alpha Go, the AI program developed by the Google subsidiary, Deep Mind, beat the south Korean champion Lee Sedol in the game of go. In January 2016, he had already beaten a professional player, crossing a step many years before that which experts had predicted, by combining deep learning techniques and reinforcement. After the victory of Deep Blue against the world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, the game of go remains the only bastion where human intelligence still resisted that of machines. Behind simple rules, the game indeed hides a great depth and complexity that made hitherto traditional techniques of AI ineffective against human intuition and creativity.

They write novels

We knew about the robot-journalists that were located in the newsrooms of sports and financial newspapers. Since 1983 and the release of the book The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed written by the Racter program, we also knew about robot-poets. Now we must reckon with robot-writers. Japanese researchers have developed an AI with literary “sensitivity”, able to build a story from pre-established parameters. Its new, soberly entitled The Day a computer wrote a novel, impressed the jury of the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award, known for accepting non-human participants, without dropping prizes. Phew!

They will (perhaps) have rights and duties

At a time when the European Parliament is debating on the adoption of a legal framework for robots, the three laws of robotics formulated by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov have never been more relevant. More and more lawyers are considering a specific robot law, designed to regulate the impact on society, the economy and the use of robotics. Among them is the lawyer Alain Bensoussan, President of the Association of robot rights. He promotes in particular the recognition of the legal personality of robots so that the most sophisticated autonomous robots can be considered as “electronic persons” with rights and duties.

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