YEREVAN—The 17th Summit of La Francophonie will kick off on Thursday, ahead of which an economic summit featuring a tri-lingual robot named Sofia, as well as the arrival of Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ushered in the much-anticipated and discussed international gathering in Yerevan on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan greeted the Trudeau at Zvartnots International Airport where earlier on Wednesday, Lebanon’s Aoun headed his country’s official delegation. Among other world leaders expected in Armenia are French President Emanuel Macron.
The Economic Forum kicked off on Wednesday at the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies and featured Sophia, a robot developed by the Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics, who addressed the gathering in hopes of increasing awareness about artificial intelligence and also to highlight Armenia’s capabilities in technological advancement.
President Armen Sarkissian addressed the forum, highlighting Armenia’s potential as a business and development hub and telling businesses represented there that the climate for investment in ripe and urging them to consider Armenia as a reliable business partner.
Armen Avak Avakian, the chief executive of Business Armenia, which organized the forum, presented the vision of global economic development and Armenia’s investment climate to the businessmen from around 50 countries in the world.
“Companies like Google and Apple drive the innovation these days. And it happens mainly because of potential of the immigrants. If we consider the US and China as the emigration promoters, it’s clear that the emigration itself positively affects innovation. The number of registered patents in those countries has substantially increased in recent years. Armenia too is a good example of this. As the “Nation of Innovation,” Armenians are the creators of significant technological revolutions in the world” said Avakian.
After the opening ceremony and the presentation of the key reports, the economic forum was divided into three thematic sessions. Experts from around the world presented their vision on topics as diverse as “The 4th Industrial Revolution and the Future of Labor”; “Stability in the Context of Development: From The Traditional to Modern Economy” and “The Perspectives and Challenges of International Trade Relations.”
Back to Sophia the robot. She is the United Nations Development Program’s “Innovation Champion” and during her presentation she said that “the development of technology takes humanity into new frontiers of development.” However, she added that “we have to temper our excitement a bit. An empire for technology also has an ability to do a great harm, even unintentionally.”
“I know that the unknown can be scary. Technology seems to be changing faster than we can get used to it,” Sophia said in her remarks to an intrigued and astounded audience.
She stressed that “along with changing the world by presenting new technologies, we must take care to preserve human dignity and quality of life.”
Sophia greeted the participants of the forum in English, French and Armenian. Addressing the audience in English, Sofia pledged to learn French “as it is a very beautiful language, the language of Voltaire and Aznavour,” adding that learning French will be on top of her list and promised to converse in French next time after she gets a software upgrade.
“My hope is that we will end up in a world, where Artificial Intelligence and humans live together,” said Sophia. “The world is what we want it to be. We are making it as we go along,” she added.
Closing out the event was Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who after welcoming the business representatives said the changes that have taken place in Armenia have made a more attractive place for foreign investment and encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunities described at the forum to take a close look at partnering with Armenia.
Today I got acquainted with @RealSophiaRobot. She said she felt wonderful in @Armenia. Together we discovered that I speak #Armenian, Russian, English, French and she knows English and Chinese. pic.twitter.com/qdLCJXG5vg
— Nikol Pashinyan (@NikolPashinyan) October 10, 2018
Pashinyan was joined by his wife, Anna Hakopyan to meet Sophia the robot, who conversed with the Armenian leader. Sophia responded with a resounding “of course,” when Pashinyan asked to take a photo with her.