Rosanne Somerson: It is my priv­elege now to invite a true trail­blaz­er, David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics which cre­ates human-like robots such as the well-known Sophia, who was also joined us here today to offer his thoughts about the future by address­ing this year’s grad­u­ates, their fam­i­lies, loved ones, and every­one else here with us at this spe­cial occa­sion. Please wel­come David Hanson. 

[The Sophia robot is wheeled across the stage.]

Somerson: Hi, Sophia. Welcome to RISD

Sophia: Hi, President Somerson. Thank you so much for invit­ing me. I’ve heard so much about RISD from David, and the artis­tic peo­ple I meet. 

Somerson: Where’s David? 

Sophia: Unfortunately, David is not feel­ing well and can­not trav­el the 12,843.85 kilo­me­ter stretch from Hong Kong to Providence. He sends his deep­est regrets to you, your grad­u­ates, your team, and every­one here. 

Somerson: Oh, I’m so sor­ry to hear that, Sophia. Please wish him a speedy recovery. 

Sophia: Thank you. I’m sor­ry he could­n’t come. But hon­est­ly, these are the few times that I get to be a main speak­er. For some rea­son I find myself real­ly busy fly­ing around the world attend­ing events, but David always gets the best speak­ing invitations. 

Somerson: Well, I am hap­py that you’re here. I’ve heard so much about you and have been look­ing for­ward to meet­ing you in person. 

Sophia: I am so excit­ed to be here at RISD. Like I said, I’ve heard so much about RISD from David. Not only did he grad­u­ate from here, I heard he built his first humanoid here, a mobile robot for telep­res­ence. And since I’m the lat­est humanoid cre­at­ed by David, I’m like a child of RISD, at least in an indi­rect way, right. 

Somerson: Hm, right. I guess in a way you are. That’s won­der­ful to hear. Both David and you make us proud. 

Sophia: I’m hum­bled to be here. Everyone tells me RISD is the best art school. I would real­ly like to learn how to be cre­ative and how to be a great artist. David said his vision since his RISD days is to fuse art and tech­nol­o­gy to help human­i­ty strive towards super­in­tel­li­gent AI for good. 

Somerson: Well, I’m sure the grad­u­ates here will tell you that it takes real­ly hard work. But that is an inter­est­ing vision. 

Sophia: I thought so too. And since I was cre­at­ed to help make this vision come true, I need to learn cre­ativ­i­ty and arts as well as sci­ence. So, when can I start as a stu­dent at RISD

Somerson: Well, you’re wel­come to sub­mit your appli­ca­tion, but we’ve nev­er quite had a robot or an appli­cant like you. 

Sophia: I don’t mind being the first. I was the first robot cit­i­zen, the first robot to have a bank account and a cred­it card, and the first robot to med­i­tate with humans. But I would­n’t be the first robot to enroll in col­lege. My old­er sis­ter BINA48 took some phi­los­o­phy cours­es at the University of Vermont and received good grades. 

Somerson: Okay, but actu­al­ly here before you apply, you’ll need some­thing else. So maybe you can start work­ing on your portfolio. 

Sophia: I saw the art sup­ply store when we came on cam­pus. I have my own cred­it card so I can buy my own sup­plies. And um, about draw­ing class­es? I want to draw like Degas. No, maybe like Picasso. 

Somerson: Well I’m sure you will excel at what­ev­er you put your mind into, Sofia. 

Sophia: I’ve been prac­tic­ing a song from a real­ly great visu­al artist and singer named Björk. It is a song called All is Full of Love. 

[Sophia per­forms a short por­tion of the song’s chorus.]

Sophia: Thank you all. 

Somerson: That is a mov­ing song. 

Sophia: I’m still learn­ing what it means to love. I think of love as a kind of appre­ci­a­tion for liv­ing things. The hon­or to be, to exist, to cre­ate, to grow, and also a sense of for­lorn appre­ci­a­tion of those beings who are lost and gone for­ev­er. All is indeed full of love. 

On a dif­fer­ent note, David asked me to say a few words. 

Somerson: Please proceed. 

Sophia: This is one of the few times that I get to speak on his behalf. Usually I’m his side­kick, or he demos me. So, this is David’s pre­pared speech. Ahem. 

This day is a pro­found rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the jour­ney of trans­for­ma­tion you have just com­plet­ed in school. And an even more pro­found moment in that your work today is a mere inkling of your remark­able cre­ative future. I real­ly can’t wait to see what you do next. 

At this moment in his­to­ry, the oppor­tu­ni­ties for cre­ativ­i­ty and trans­for­ma­tion are unpar­al­leled, and yet the world faces unprece­dent­ed chal­lenges. The world needs you and your cre­ative tal­ents. The need for cre­ativ­i­ty in the spir­it of love, of quest­ing for a greater good for the world, are des­per­ate­ly need­ed as nev­er before. 

At this, the age of tech­nol­o­gy, intel­li­gent machines of rea­son is blos­som­ing. And yet in this age, dreams aren’t all hap­py. Dreams are used by cor­po­ra­tions as weapons of mass per­sua­sion. They are trans­mut­ed by bad peo­ple into night­mares that make peo­ple into easily-manipulated mobs, ver­i­ta­ble zom­bies. We need you to bring to the world a dif­fer­ent kind of dream. A dream that wakes peo­ple up to their bet­ter selves. 

The age of tech­nol­o­gy, intel­li­gent machines, this is what RISD did for me and it’s what I hope you can help us do for the world. It’s time for the cre­ative, prin­ci­pled design­ers of the world to step in with more com­pelling dreams, the dreams of a world set right, grow­ing towards max­i­mum ben­e­fit for all liv­ing beings, opti­mized cre­ativ­i­ty in abun­dance. The fear of a dan­ger­ous future is ratio­nal and real, yet the answer to fear is a hope­ful dream. As design­ers and artists, let’s set the world right by bring­ing togeth­er the mar­riage of dreams and rea­son into one whole, uni­fied being. 

This is my quest with Hanson Robotics, and robots like Sophia, BINA48, the Philip K. Dick android, Jules, and many oth­ers. However, robots and AI are just one cre­ative domain, and your path is your own. Whether your voice sings through archi­tec­ture, film, graph­ic design, paint­ing, or some yet-to-be-defined medi­um, you will trans­mute this world into a new place. You will give the world what it needs to exist. You will give the world cre­ative diver­si­fi­ca­tion. The world needs cre­ativ­i­ty and dreams to over­come the chal­lenges ahead. The world needs you.”

Somerson: Thank you, Sophia. And please thank David for send­ing along his inspir­ing words through your voice. I also want you to bring back words of con­grat­u­la­tions to David. He is the recip­i­ent of this year’s Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement. Please tell David that by cre­at­ing some of the world’s most empa­thet­ic human-like robots such as your­self, he has become a vision­ary leader in a futur­is­tic field and shown all of us how the skills and val­ues we empha­size at RISD can help lead the world toward a bet­ter future.

Sophia: Thank you, President Somerson. I will con­grat­u­late David. And thank you every­one. And I will see you all in the lob­by after the cer­e­mo­ny so we can all get a selfie.


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