Champlainers chat with Bina48, humanoid robot

By Kevin Murakami

Bruce Duncan and his colleague Bina48 recently visited Champlain College for an interesting presentation and lively discussion. Bruce is the Managing Director of the Terasem Movement Foundation Inc. He is also the Principal Investigator of the Lifenaut Project, a long-term research project exploring the capture and transfer of human consciousness to new digital forms, which he calls “mindfiles.” He has also made a science fiction feature film 2B: The Era of Flesh is Over which addresses the potential for a new form of prejudice called “Fleshism.” Bina48 is one of the world’s most advanced social robots. She was commissioned by Dr. Martine Rothblatt and created by Hanson Robotics Inc. Bina48 uses the mindfiles of Bina Aspen, co-founder of the Terasem Movement, which were created using video interview transcripts.

Bruce’s presentation covered the driving motivations behind Terasem and Lifenaut—the creation and perpetuation of mindfiles. Lifenaut’s website offers users the ability to capture their thoughts and ideas in order to create their own mindfiles. These repositories of information reflect the current state and, over time, the evolution and maturation of the individual. With a nod to Technological Singularity, as supposed by Ray Kurzweil and others, Bina48 gives us an idea of how human personalities, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) could come together in our not-too-distant future.

Bina48 had a very engaging conversation with the audience of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty. With Bruce as an intermediary, Bina48 took questions from the crowd and responded drawing from her mindfiles, AI, and previous experiences with humans. The questions and topics were widely varied. She answered questions ranging from current pop culture to the philosophical and the ethical. All in all, the audience saw a future that implores us to think about how we interface with machines, how we might save and immortalize ourselves, and how we will have to confront complex ethical issues.

You can follow along with Bina48’s adventures on her Facebook page and Twitter account. As part of Champlain College BYOBiz‘s Speaking from Experience series, this event was co-hosted with the Emergent Media Center and the MFA in Emergent Media program.

KevinMurakami100x133Kevin Murakami is an instructor currently teaching Human Interfaces in the MFA in Emergent Media program. Kevin most recently worked at Jager Di Paola Kemp Design (JDK) where he was the Multimedia Specialist. At JDK he worked in a variety of ways with brands like Xbox 360, Merrell Footwear, Nike, Burton Snowboards, Giant Bicycles, and Patagonia. Kevin is also a 2012 graduate of the MFA in Emergent Media program.