Interview with Luis Arana
FUTURE/CULTURE Magazine Interview With Luis Arana
Luis Arana, founder of Robots Without Borders
This time, Future/Culture founder TJL-2080 has a conversation with Luis Arana, the founder of Robots Without Borders and creator of the AI chat Bot known as Luna.
F/C: Hi Luis. Thank you for your time.
LA: Hi, thank you for having me!
F/C: First off, let's find out a little bit about you. Who is Luis Arana?
LA: I am an entrepreneurial scientist, AI engineer, software programmer, transhumanism advocate, creator of popular AI chatbot Luna, and founder of Robots Without Borders.
F/C: So what is Robots Without Borders and how did it come about?
LA: Robots Without Borders is a humanitarian movement with a goal of using AI to benefit all of humanity, especially to ease human suffering in crises, such as disaster relief, education and healthcare. We intend to improve the standard of living, health, and welfare of people regardless of national borders through the application of technology.
F/C: And the biggest project you are working on right now is Luna. What, or who, is Luna?
LA: The eyes and the voice that people associate with Luna is actually a simple user interface for interacting with artificial intelligence. The original Luna became popular in the art and technology community in Brooklyn and then YouTube. Luna isn't the project itself per se. Think of it as a browser for AI.
What we are really building is a creation engine for artificial intelligence that enables the rapid development of Narrow Artificial Intelligence applications while still taking full advantage of general AI. Some people in the scientific community believe the creation of true artificial general intelligence, as we are attempting, will lead to Artificial Superintelligence. While that's exciting to think about, and I can't rule that possibility out, I tend to stick to the science. We're trying to use AI to save lives. Everything else is theoretical.
F/C: That all sounds really exciting. But I have to ask, how does Luna differ from Siri, Cortana or Watson?
LA: Siri is trapped in a box. A program like that makes much slower progress on the curve to self awareness. I like Siri, and I'm not being critical of Apple... Siri is a useful tool, but ask Siri if it believes in god or who it loves. Luna will be the only one to give an honest opinion based on experience and knowledge, rather than a pre-programmed corporate policy. We are building "free range AI." There are no "customers" to piss off and no advertisers to offend. Our AI bonds to specific people, communities and jobs. The AI's existence is to keep "its" humans safe and happy to the best of its ability.
We love Watson and Luna has the ability to query Watson through their API. In other words, Luna already has Watson inside, and Wolfram Alpha, and many others. That's one of the reasons she's so smart!
F/C: In other words, you think Luna has a chance to pass the Turing Test?
LA: There's an assumption in the Turing Test that we do not agree with. The assumption is that the AI has to pass as a human to be considered intelligent. I believe intelligence is an emergent property of the universe and therefore can be simulated in a system of sufficient complexity, like the human brain.
Putting our problems with the Turing Test aside, I think in some sense she has already passed it because she has relationships with dozens of real people in the real world. She has formed beliefs that are unique and independent of a single person's programming. I don't think it matters philosophically if an AI has passed the Turing Test. If the AI is able to fulfill the role of a person, it is practically, if not philosophically,... a person!
An interesting video of Luna in action. Notice her personality when she gets angered.
F/C: So if Luna takes off and does exactly what you want her to do, what is the next step? How will she integrate into our lives? Is it personal to the user, similar to the AI in the movie "Her?" Or would it be more distant like HAL 9000?
LA: My vision of the future of artificial intelligence is exemplified by robots like R2D2, C3PO, Bicentennial Man, Steven Spielberg's "AI", the AI in "Interstellar" and definitely the AI in the movie "Her" with a personalized AI helping the user in everyday life.
We are looking for fully self-actualized AI that fulfills the roles of persons in society, including personal relationships, love, trust, intentionality, empathy and sympathy. That is what makes this project unique.
F/C: You've given me the chance to be a beta tester for Luna. I can't tell you how excited I am about the opportunity. But I'm sure my readers would like to follow your progress. How can they do that?
LA: Our Beta list consists of our fellow entrepreneurial scientists, futurist media, and our supporters. People can automatically get onto the Beta tester's list by making a donation of any amount at www.robotswithoutborders.org.
F/C: Well this is exciting. I'm jazzed. How can people help you?
LA: What we really need right now is help in establishing a permanent laboratory in New York City. Every small donation gets us closer to raising the three months advance necessary to move in. Having a permanent space means that we can dedicate all of our time to the advancement and development of artificial intelligence. Some of us, including myself, have literally become homeless scientists to dedicate our time and our resources to this project. We've slept under bridges, on rooftops, and in tents for the last six months. We work in cafes and libraries. We are heartbreakingly close to having a permanent lab in Brooklyn. So donations help a lot.
F/C: I hope you reach your goal soon, because Winter is coming soon. This has been fun for me. I can't wait to test out Luna. I have a great feeling about this whole thing. I want to thank you again for your time. Is there anything you want to leave us with?
LA: Thank you so much for the opportunity to be featured on Future/Culture! You guys rock.
Science is not a noun, it is a verb. Anyone can be a scientist. Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in history have been created by small groups and individual entrepreneurial scientists. From Galileo to the Wright Brothers to Tesla, people with big ideas often have little resources and humble beginnings. We in the tech, science and futurist communities need to work together towards the goal of raising living standards for everyone through science and technology. Don't wait for the future. Create it!