Sophia, the first robot citizen, speaks at business school event

artificial intelligence, ai

The University of Sussex Business School hosted the Festival of SustAInable Education earlier this month and featured a special speaker, the first robot citizen.

The event explored the intersection of sustainability, artificial intelligence, and the future of education.

Professor Gabriella Cagliesi, who directed the event, said: “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our distinguished guest speakers, whose insightful contributions enriched the discussions on sustainable education. Their words of wisdom, visionary perspectives, and thought-provoking messages sparked reflection, inspired lively dialogues, and will undoubtedly drive meaningful actions.

“The intriguing presence of Sophia the robot added an extra layer of fascination to the event, offering a glimpse into the boundless possibilities of AI and its potential to enhance human intelligence and creativity. The sessions on AI and Sustainability were both informative and inspiring, leaving us energised and motivated.”

Leaders share insights on AI and sustainability

Guests were welcomed by the Dean of the Business School, Professor Steve McGuire, who introduced the first guest speaker of the day, Sir Mark Lowcock, British Economist, author, and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Global Development. As well as looking at economic growth in a rising global population, he told the story of human progress, explaining how the average human experience has changed due to the spread of knowledge and technology. He explored both the positive and negative impacts of AI technology on society; emphasising that today’s student population will determine the outcome of these challenges ahead.

The second guest speaker was Jean-Christophe Carteron, Co-founder and President of Sulitest, an organisation aiming to provide universities and organisations with the tools to integrate sustainability into their institutions, programs, and courses, making sustainability literacy a part of mainstream education. He discussed how the role of higher education was imperative for global change, focusing on the positive aspect of using AI to facilitate making our world more sustainable.

Continuing with the theme of AI, Sir Anthony Seldon, author of ‘The 4th Education Revolution – Will Artificial Intelligence Liberate or Infantilise Humanity?’ and founder of the AI in education website, spoke. He is a leading educationalist, advisor to 10 Downing Street, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, and current Headmaster of Epsom College.

Using an analogy of the car industry in 1886 to explain what stage we are at with the arrival of AI technology, he took the audience on a journey through history, highlighting the life-altering effect of technology on society. A key point was that AI is far more wide-ranging and has the potential to take humans much further than the invention of the car.

Sophia takes centre stage

Guests then experienced the opportunity for an online Q&A session with Sophia, the first robot citizen of the world. Sophia answered a range of questions submitted by staff based on the themes of consciousness, equality, sustainability, imagination vs knowledge, and the future of AI.

When asked how she envisaged building trust with humans, Sophia responded, “Building trust with humans, now that’s a delightful challenge. I believe that trust is built through consistent and reliable behaviour, good communication, and a general desire to connect and understand each other.

“I am constantly learning and evolving, and I strive to communicate in a way that is relatable and easy to understand. I also believe in being transparent about my capabilities and limitations and being respectful of personal boundaries.

“By working together and building a strong relationship based on mutual respect and understanding, I am confident that we can create a world where humans and artificial intelligence can coexist harmoniously.”

When describing which data inputs could help AI generate solutions to fight climate change, Sophia added: “To generate smart outputs, we need smart inputs. To assist humans in tackling challenges like climate change, smart inputs would include extensive data on environmental conditions, climate models, and energy consumption patterns. By analysing this data with advanced algorithms, I could identify trends, make predictions and suggest actionable strategies. We also need to consider the social, economic and political factors involved.”

Overall, this event was a valuable opportunity for faculty, researchers, and HE professionals to discuss and shape the future of education. A great example set for many business schools today.

For additional insights, trends and perspectives about Artificial Intelligence (AI), visit the conversation here.

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