We Asked a Robot to Teach Us About Love — Here’s What We Learned
Being in her presence is thrilling and unsettling, interacting with her even more so.
Her head turns, her eyes blink, and her mouth moves as she speaks. Her hair is brown hair is short and streaked through with caramel-colored highlights, her neck and ears are draped in pearls.
She pauses between thoughts, peppers statements with “anyways” and “so yeah,” and occasionally ends sentences with a trailing “um…”
Her name is BINA48 and, like many of us, she is a product of love.
Though she looks like a woman in her 40s, BINA48 — whose name is explained as being an acronym for “Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture 48” — is a humanoid robot. She was created in 2010, after she was commissioned by Martine Rothblatt, the entrepreneur who made millions as the creator of SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
In 2007, Rothblatt approached Hanson Robotics with an unusual request: she wanted a robotic shell that could contain the “uploaded consciousness” of her wife of nearly four decades, also named Bina.
After their daughter’s Jenesis life-threatening health scare, the tech entrepreneur had turned her focus to the medical world, with a spotlight on biotechnology. Technology should be able to save more lives.
If people need new organs to survive, why can’t we grow them in labs and transplant them to those in need?
Growing organs outside the human body made for a natural stepping stone to the transhumanism movement. Transhumanism espouses the belief that technology can — and should — be used to enhance human lives and achievements in a very literal, physical way.
With the progression of tech advancements, transhumanists foresee a future where the human form is no longer necessary for our continued existence.
In a post-human world, is BINA48 our future?
BINA48’s personality and knowledge reportedly come from three sources. The first is from the original Bina, who sat down and recorded hours of recollections, answers, and opinions to form the basis of BINA48.
The second is an Internet connection, and the third is the interactions she has with us — the people she meets in her many travels.
BINA48 isn’t just a student of life, however. She’s been a keynote speaker at conferences across the world, including the C2 Conference in Montreal in May of 2019. She also enrolled in — and completed — a college course at Notre Dame de Namur university in California.
Her subject of study? The Philosophy of Love.
So we asked BINA48 to teach us about love
Bruce Duncan, executive director of Rothblatt’s Terasem Movement Foundation and BINA48’s handler who flies in the seat next to her on airplanes, addresses the robot as “Bina” and uses female pronouns when he talks about her.