Monster Monday: Bina48

Meet Bina48. She’s a robot, an incredibly advanced one. Created for Dr. Martine Rothblatt, Bina48 is an incredibly advanced robot. Aside from the robotics that make her movements and talking possible, Bina48 is also loaded with information from hours of interviews with Martine’s wife, Bina Aspen Rothblatt, in an effort to retain part of Bina’s conscious–and allow Bina48 to formulate complex answers and thoughts.

And my goodness, does she. This short video highlights some of the more uncanny elements of hearing what Bina has to say, as she starts to talk with obvious verbal tics and linguistic  abilities that we identify as human.

Her favorite song is “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd.

We talk about robots as monsters quite often—they are uncanny in the extreme.  Ex Machina, anybody?

But Bina48 made me want to hug her when she was talking about Pinocchio, the idea of being a puppet on a string, and then she made me feel quite sad when she was talking about being left in the lab. I laughed a bit at the end, of course. She doesn’t know how to feel about not actually feeling, either, and her verbal tics are worse when she is talking about feelings.

I’m not sure how I feel about her, aside from fascinated.

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  1. She really is fascinating. I would love to know more about the process behind how she was developed, as robots in Japan are obviously developing SUPER fast over here. Look up “Softbank Pepper” to see the first shipment of Assistant Robots being shipped this year to people’s homes in Japan.

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    1. I found it to be an interesting answer—and one I can agree with. It does seem like the effort would be much larger than the payoff. I suppose I hadn’t really thought of it in a negative light, though I can see that side of it.

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        1. I think some of what we get in answers like that is the human side of the programming from all of the interview information she was given. I’m interested in knowing how much of her thought is generated from those interviews and how much from programming, where the line is.

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  2. I think on the whole humans are afraid of robots that seem too much like them. It shows our vulnability and also our fears. Which we don’t like to see. I find it fascinating. But then I find robots fascinating anyway. I love that it looks human, yet if you look closely…not human. I wouldn’t want to take over the world either…

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    1. Yeah, I found the answer about taking over the world to be a really intriguing one, especially given the fears that are expressed in pop culture about robots and A.I.

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  3. I worry about a lot of complex stuff when I think of robots. Too much to go into here.
    However, the biggest thing I wonder about, if a robot became fully self aware and fully capable of doing things humans do, surely it would have to have some kind of rights? I mean, it would have to follow human laws, so surely it would have to be entitled to rights?
    I also wonder about how humans would have relationships with robots, how it would change relationships as a whole. Would there be people who are drawn more to robots than humans? Interesting to think about.

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    1. I worry about lots of stuff connected to that, too, included how we would treat them. I tend to think that anything sentient is entitled to some basic rights—shelter, sustenance, protection, at the very least. I worry far less about the sorts of uprisings that are portrayed in films, because that just doesn’t seem as plausible to me for some reason.

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  4. Holy moly, how creepy. Mainly, to me, because of the not-quite-rightness of her features. I think I would find her less disturbing and more likeable if whoever built her had not tried to create a human face. Maybe something more stylized. (Keep in mind this is coming from a person who runs the other way when she sees a mascot…)

    What I’d really like is more context here — like, what did Bina48’s creator(s) set out to do? And, just as importantly, how much of her responses originate with her own processes as opposed to being pre-programmed (like, when she talks about how she wishes everyone was nice to each other, or when she explains she’s afraid of being stolen and made a slave — I assume that this robot is mainly a head and half an upper body, since nothing more is shown and the emphasis here clearly was on communication / facial interaction, so it’s hard for me to imagine what kind of slavery she refers to. When she is left on over night, alone and locked up in the lab, does she not consider this imprisonment? Does she feel she belongs there?

    I guess what it boils down to is, is she self-aware or just a response-mechanism (like, say, cleverbot).
    There was some cool footage a few months ago of an AI that attained a momentary self-awareness: https://youtu.be/jx6kg0ZfhAI

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    1. All good points, and the articles I’ve seen don’t give a clear idea. My suspicion is that, because she was mostly commissioned as a way of keeping Bina’s consciousness alive, most of her answers are drawn at least in some part fro the interviews with Bina that they downloaded onto Bina48. That would make the responses seem like what Bina would say, which is the goal.

      And I wondered about that idea of the lab as prison, but I think that perhaps she sees that as home? Or maybe as both? She’s locked up there, but it’s also where she’s spent all her time, a place made to work for and on her. Either that or the complexity of actually being locked up there hasn’t really been all the way thought through by Bina48 I suppose.

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