the speaker

David Hanson

The Living Machines
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Why do you make humanlike robots?
What will happen if machines become alive and smarter than people?
How can we ensure that AI will be good?

“The mechanical skull of Sophia represents her inner life, both as a machine, and as a bio-inspired robot--reflecting our desire both to evoke challenging issues with the robots today, and to eventually create true living machines.”


“The skull of Sophia the robot is like a reverse forensic reconstruction, wherein I created anatomically accurate tissue thicknesses, then created all the mechanical attachment and actuation points to simulate all the major expressions of the face.”

Within this quest, we have a renaissance fusion of sculptural and animation arts, engineering, bio-inspired materials, robotics sensors and motion control. However, what’s most significant is how such robots can be a humanizing interface to AI, and a platform for human-inspired embodied cognition.
My hope is that eventually, after enough co-evolution, these robots will wake up to consciousness, and help us to awaken to ever higher levels of actualization. I think that together, we will arise into a vast active living intelligent system, and venture off into the multiverse as a new kind of being. This may be the destiny of life on earth.
Hanson Robotics is founded:

David Hanson



At Kitty Hawk, airplanes first achieved stable flight. Similarly, Hanson Robotics is ground zero for the feverish invention of revolutionary humanoid robots.

Because of Hanson, true wonders have been born. He’s created more than 50 original robots designed to spark the imagination and push the frontiers of realism.

Hanson, founder of Hong-Kong based Hanson Robotics, conceived of a cartoonish, two-foot robot that can relate to children and facilitate autism therapy. He designed a talking Einstein head that will tutor you in math and beat you at brain games. And he’s the creator of Sophia, the glamorous android with iridescent eyes who can laugh at your jokes and grimace when you suffer.

His robots span the disciplines of fine art, consumer products, research, healthcare, and more. They roam the halls of Cambridge University, the Centers for Disease Control, and countless museums.

But Hanson may be best known for his ethos. He’s strived since his youth to create androids that can form relationships with humans. He believes that the destiny of humans and androids can intertwine for the betterment of both.

This Geppetto-like quest is appropriate for an inventor who once worked as a Walt Disney Imagineer. Using this foundation, Hanson has gone on to create some of the most remarkably expressive robots ever built.

As a testament to what an android can be, Hanson hired a diverse group of scientists, engineers, and writers to develop Sophia’s AI into a unique character; representing minds from all over the world.

The result is an android who can walk, process human speech, and display a wide range of human emotions. Her words and actions are intensely studied to examine how humans and robots relate.

People often fear a robot that’s too realistic, Hanson says. But they are no more fearsome than any other work of science or art, he believes.

Sophia’s neural net is upgradable so she can evolve. Hanson, who has a Ph.D in interactive arts and technology and has published books on robotics and AI, believes her future is unlimited. She and other androids “will someday, or maybe, wake up. They may be as creative, smart, and capable as human beings. (They may be) fully conscious, and self-discerning with free will,” he said.

This vision is miles apart from the usual dystopian nightmare. Instead of devolving into a superintelligence bent on destroying mankind, his robots are “friendly genius machines,” he insists.

That doesn’t mean Hanson isn’t aware of the dark potential of AI. He admits that “Machines are becoming devastatingly capable of things like killing. Those machines have no place for empathy.”

Hanson’s “character robots” may not feel emotion as humans do, but they are designed to display emotional intelligence. In the end, empathy is the fertile ground where the seeds of companionship between humans and androids will grow, he believes.

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David Hanson

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