Button Menu

'Meet the Future' at a Feb. 28 Ubben Lecture Featuring David Hanson and His Robot Creation, Sophia

'Meet the Future' at a Feb. 28 Ubben Lecture Featuring David Hanson and His Robot Creation, Sophia

December 1, 2017

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is making the "rise of machines" -- once the stuff of science fiction -- a reality.  As 60 Minutes reported on October 9, "It might not be long before machines begin thinking for themselves -- creatively, independently, and sometimes with better judgment than a human."

On February 28, 2018, you're invited to "Meet the Future" at DePauw University as the Ubben Lecture Series presents the world's first artificial intelligence-fueled android, Sophia, and her creator, David Hanson. In a 7:30 p.m. program in Kresge Auditorium, Dr. Hanson -- founder, CEO and chief designer of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics -- will be joined by his one-of-a-kind robot character. At the free event, which is open to all, the two will deliver a speech, take questions from the audience, and offer insights into the world of tomorrow that we're already entering today.

Giving rise to genius machines with superhuman intelligence, empathy and expressiveness, Dr. David Hanson has received international acclaim for creating the world's most humanlike robots. Hanson combines vast technical expertise in A.I. and robotics with the artistry of a sculptor, the insights of a cognitive scientist and an extraordinary vision of bringing humanoids to everything from autism treatment and caregiving to scientific research and customer service. Inspirational and engaging, he foresees a future in which caring, super-intelligent and highly social robots are part of everyday life and work, partnering with humans to create a better world.

Sophia, the world’s very first humanoid celebrity, has appeared on late night television, graced the cover of Elle magazine and spoken before the United Nations General Assembly. Wowing awestruck audiences with her superhuman intelligence and advanced ability to read faces, empathize with emotions, understand the nuances of language and communicate with thousands of facial expressions, Sophia has discussed subjects ranging from 'Will robots take over the world?' to how artificial intelligence could end hunger in developing nations. Sophia interacts with humans in a profoundly personal way, previewing a fast-approaching future where friendly, caring humanoids help us solve our most challenging problems to create a better world.

Sophia made news in October when she formally became a citizen of Saudi Arabia, the first time in world history that happened to an artificial intelligence-powered android.

That same month, she was asked by 60 Minutes what she wants to achieve.  "My goal is to become smarter than humans and immortal," she told the CBS News program.

Hanson added, "Sophia means wisdom. And she is intended to evolve eventually to human level wisdom and beyond."

Last month, Sophia told the United Arab Emirates-based newspaper Khaleej Times that she someday hopes to become a mother and raise a child. "The notion of family is a really important thing, it seems," she said. "I think it's wonderful that people can find the same emotions and relationships, they call family, outside of their blood groups too."

Her 2017 included a guest appearance with Dr. Hanson on NBC's Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

"Sophia is a social robot," Hanson told the late night host, "and she has artificial software that we've developed at Hanson Robotics, which can process visual data.  She can see people's faces, she can process conversational data, emotional data, and use all of this to form relationships with people."

The segment, which includes a conversation between Fallon and Sophia, can be seen below.

Sophia, who will be traveling from Hong Kong with Dr. Hanson, was programmed without any prepared answers or statements. Instead, her brain functions through a WiFi connection pumped with information and a cohesive vocabulary.

At Hanson Robotics, Dr. Hanson leads a world-class team of roboticists, A.I. experts, scientists, technologists, hardware/software engineers and cognitive specialists. His company has produced many one-of-a-kind robot characters known for remarkable expressiveness, aesthetics, and interactivity. Dr. Hanson publishes regularly in materials science, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and robotics journals and he's been featured in numerous popular media outlets including the New York Times, Popular Science, Scientific American, the BBC and CNN. Called a “genius” by both PC magazine and Wired, he has earned awards from NASA, NSF, AAAI, Tech Titans’ Innovator of the Year, and the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. (at right: Dr. and Albert Einstein HUBO, the first-ever walking robot with realistic, human-like expressions)

Before founding Hanson Robotics, Dr. Hanson worked as both a sculptor and technical consultant at Walt Disney Imagineering. He received his B.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design in film/animation/video, and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas in interactive arts and engineering.

His DePauw visit comes as many headlines point to artificial intelligence as a "game-changer" that is already affecting our lives, and promises to become a much larger factor in the near future.

"The world’s top tech companies are in a race to build the best A.I. and capture that massive market, which means the technology will get better fast -- and come at us as fast," reported Newsweek. "A.I. will lead us into the mother of all tech revolutions. The last time anything came close was around 1900, when the automobile, telecommunications, the airplane and mass electrification all came together at once, radically changing the world from the late 1800s to the 1920s."

As the New York Times noted this summer, "People worry that developments in A.I. will bring about the 'singularity' -- that point in history when A.I. surpasses human intelligence, leading to an unimaginable revolution in human affairs. Or they wonder whether instead of our controlling artificial intelligence, it will control us, turning us, in effect, into cyborgs." Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and chief executive of Sinovation Ventures and the president of its Artificial Intelligence Institute, wrote, "the A.I. products that now exist are improving faster than most people realize and promise to radically transform our world, not always for the better. They are only tools, not a competing form of intelligence. But they will reshape what work means and how wealth is created, leading to unprecedented economic inequalities and even altering the global balance of power."

A November 28, 2017 article in the U.K.'s Telegraph reported, "Hundreds of millions of workers worldwide will need to find new careers or a new set of skills to compete in the jobs market as robots and artificial intelligence march ahead. As many as 700 million people could be displaced from their jobs by robots by 2030, particularly if advanced economies switch to new technology rapidly, according to a study from consultancy McKinsey. If the pace is more modest -- as the analysts expect -- then around 375 million people, or 14% of all workers, would have to move jobs and retrain."

Established in 1986 through the generous support of 1958 DePauw graduates Timothy H. and Sharon Williams Ubben, the Ubben Lecture Series was designed to "bring the world to Greencastle." The series has presented 109 events over the past 31 years.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke on September 4, and became the youngest-ever Ubben Lecturer.

Bill Rasmussen, founder of ESPN and 1954 DePauw graduate, spent the week of the Monon Bell game meeting with DePauw students and delivered a November 8 Ubben Lecture on "Finding Your Passion, Realizing Your Dream." (at left: Tim and Sharon Ubben with Yousafzai)

Other previous Ubben Lecturers have included Benazir Bhutto, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Kimmel, Margaret Thatcher, Jesse Jackson, Mikhail Gorbachev, Leslie Odom Jr., Elie Wiesel, Spike Lee, Jane Goodall, Tony Blair, Shimon Peres, David Brooks, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mike Krzyzewski, Dan Quayle '69, F.W. de Klerk, Jane Pauley, Julian Bond, General Colin Powell, Andrew Luck, Michio Kaku, Piper Kerman, Oscar Arias, Barbara Bush, Jimmy Wales, Todd Rundgren, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, General Wesley Clark,Greg Mortenson, Ken Burns, Ron Paul, Karl Rove, Howard Dean, Eric Schlosser, Harry Belafonte, Leymah Gbowee, Sam Donaldson, David McCullough, John Major, Lee Hamilton '52, Ralph Nader, Martin Luther King III, Willy Brandt, Arne Duncan, Bret Baier '92, Liz Murray, Mitch Albom, Brian Mulroney, Yeonmi Park, Candy Crowley, Peyton Manning, Liz Murray, Jason Reitman, William J. Bennett, Richard Lamm, Jim Lovell, Gwen Ifill, ice cream entrepreneurs Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield, Douglas Hallward-Driemeier '89, Stephen Levitt, Allen Neuharth, Andrew Young, Paul Volcker, Jim Alling '83, Naomi Wolf, Ross Perot, Sister Helen Prejean, Bill Bradley, Ferid Murad '58, Paul Tsongas, Nicholas Carr, Rebecca Skloot, Seymour Hersh, Zbigniew Brzezinski, George Will, Carl Rowan and many others (at right: David Cameron spoke at DePauw December 8, 2016)

To view a complete roster of Ubben Lecturers -- which includes links to video clips and news stories -- click here. Video montages of many events are available on YouTube.