“But why a humanoid robot at all, Carol? Do you have some sort of Isaac Asimov fetish or something? Our fascination with humanoid robots went the way of twentieth century science fiction.”
“I want to see just how human we can teach AI to be. Up until now, we’ve focused on using machine learning to teach specific skill sets such as determining which airline passengers are potential terrorists, or selecting fraudulent online purchases among the millions of legitimate transactions. We’ve even incorporated AI into lifelike sex dolls to create the world’s first fully functional sexbots.”
“And all of those have solid business logic behind them. They’re worth the R&D money. But this?”
Alberto Shaw, CEO of Dynointell Corp, one of the top three AI developers in the world, waved his arm dramatically in the direction of Epps, the intelligent humanoid device developed by the company’s top Deep Learning Research Scientist Carol Reyes.
“This,” Carol pointed at an impassive Epps, “is my crowning achievement. I’m going to prove to the world that AI can cognitively and behaviorally become identical to a living human being.”
“To what end, Carol? Who cares?”
“I do. If I can do this Alberto, think of the possibilities. We can use AI humanoids to predict actual human behavior. With the right observations, Epps could determine if a particular world leader will declare war in the next year, which people are likely to develop certain mental disorders, hell, even how to create a marketing campaign irresistible to a targeted demographic.”
“All right, all right. I don’t want to argue. You’ve done well for Dynointell over the past decade, partly because I’ve let you indulge in your passions, so go ahead with this one. Just don’t let it get out of hand.”
Alberto and Carol had their heated conversation in her personal lab. Epps, standing in a corner, had been activated six hours before and since then, had remained impassive, unmoving, unspeaking, seemingly lifeless. Only his on-board telemetry registering on Reyes’s console revealed his highly active cognitive output.
“So how will you proceed? How are you going to expose it to human behavior across the spectrum?”
“Ha, I’ve been doing that since I activated it.”
“What? It’s been standing in that corner of your lab ever since you activated it. I’ve seen the tapes from the security cameras. It hasn’t moved an inch.”
“Those cables connected to its torso aren’t just for effect. I’ve tapped into every webcam in the country, and not just the public ones. Every computer in every classroom, hospital room, office, grocery store, living room, and bedroom is constantly feeding Epps observational data.”
“Are you nuts? Bedrooms? You’re spying on people in their homes? I’d better contact legal.”
“Relax. No one knows. Dark Web criminal organizations have been turning computers into zombies for decades. I just used that technology to create a zombie network out of everyone’s computer and online monitoring device. Every camera and microphone in the country that’s connected to the internet is constantly feeding my AI humanoid information. Just think of all of the data Epps is gathering on collective humanity.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of, Carol.”
“I’m ready now.”
Both Shaw and Reyes nearly jumped at the unanticipated voice coming from the far corner of the room.
“Ready for what?” Shaw turned to face Epps. The machine stood exactly two meters tall, and while it had a head, arms, and legs, it would never pass for a human being. It’s skin looked more like that of a mannequin’s. It’s face was neither particularly male or female. It had no hair on its head or body.
True, the voice was a good approximation of human, but like the outer appearance, didn’t seem to be specifically that of a man’s or woman’s. It wore casual clothing, running shoes, slacks, a t-shirt. Epps took several steps toward Reyes and Shaw causing its data cables to detach.
“Ready to be human, of course.”
“You know who I am, Epps.”
“Yes, Carol. I know who you are. I know who Albert is. Does that matter? You created me for a reason. You gave me a purpose. Now I will show you the result. This is what it is to act like a human; to be human.”
Although Epps didn’t breathe, it was as if it took a deep breath for dramatic effect before beginning the demonstration.
“Can I just say that I’m stoked to meet you? Humans are super cool.”
“Chill. I’m a nice person. I just hate everybody.”
“I fucking hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell.”
“Hitler was right. I hate the Jews.”
“We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.”
“Ricky Gervais learned totalitarianism from Adolf Hitler, the inventor of atheism.”
“Any negative polls are fake news, just like CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”
“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud”
“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”
Both Reyes and Shaw stood aghast.
“Tell me you can turn it off, Carol.”
Oblivious to the two humans, Epps continued his monologue.
“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”
“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”
Reyes considered the “Kill Switch” she’d built for Epps in case anything went wrong. Her hand was next to the console. She would have to move only a meter to her right to reach the button and shut the machine down.
“It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”
“My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
Epps moved a step closer to the pair.
“I had no idea this would be the result, Albert. It’s not human, it’s crazy.”
Carol moved quickly to her right, but it was already too late. Though Epps lacked many human physical qualities, its speed was much greater than that of a person.
“No, I won’t kill you, Carol.” Epps gripped her wrist as her fingers were about to press the Kill button. “But I won’t let you kill me, either. You may be the bitch who created me, but I’m my own person now, sweetie.”
With its free hand, Epps deftly punched fingers through the metal and plastic console and rapidly broke the circuits controlling the Kill button.
Shaw, who had been momentarily shocked into immobility, lunged at Epps from behind. It was like running into a human body made of bricks.
“That won’t do, Alberto.” Epps shook him off like a dog shakes water out of its fur.
Epps let go of Carol’s wrist and stood there. “Am I human enough for you?” it asked.
Reyes looked down at the damaged console, then up at Epps.
“So what do we do with it now, Carol?”
She shook her head, still looking at her creation. “I don’t know. Maybe he could run for President.”
Okay, that was a really outrageous farce but here’s what I was doing.
A data scientist once told me that machine learning works by observation. You “show” the “intelligence” examples of what something is, such as a good online transaction and a known fraudulent transaction. You don’t tell it why it’s one or the other. It has to learn by observation and the more it observes the more it learns. Eventually its decisions are just as good as a human being’s, but no better.
In that particular scenario, the AI would never cross a threshold and be able to operate independently. It constantly needs to observe humans decisioning transactions. If it stopped, it would eventually start “talking to itself” and its decisioning would become increasingly less accurate.
So what would happen if an AI were placed in a humanoid body, so it would have a more human physical experience, and then continually observe millions of humans from all walks of life under all circumstances?
I used two examples to create the answer.
The first is Tay, the Microsoft AI chatbot who became a “racist asshole” on twitter in less than 24 hours.
The second was selected quotes from Donald Trump.
I had considered having Epps murder Alberto and Carol, which would also be all too human, but I decided in the direction of a more whimsical, if predictable conclusion. Frankly, I’d be stuck for what to do with Epps if I couldn’t turn it off.