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.