Could a robotic Nicolaus Copernicus be your boss?

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When we think of an artificial manager, it keeps coming to mind what this new creature that will move into your boss’s office sooner or later might look like. Should your artificial manager take the form of a human like Sophia, a C-3PO-style robot from Star Wars, an all-powerful Robocop or just a single red point of light like HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey?

What your artificial manager will be like, we’ll see in a few years, but already various companies are outdoing themselves in building robots that resemble humans and that could interact with us or manage our work. Sometimes these robots are more… symbolic in nature, but nevertheless they spark the imagination.

On the weekend of February 19, 2023, the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw displayed a robot that looked like… Nicolaus Copernicus. The organizers of the exhibition claimed that it was a unique robot because it was equipped with artificial intelligence that allowed it to carry on… conversations. In an article by the Onet portal, you can see the editor’s conversation with Nicolaus Copernicus on various topics, including when he tells jokes about German cars (I don’t understand them, but maybe that’s because they’re about German cars…). It is reportedly the most advanced humanoid robot in the world today.

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The Nicholas Copernicus robot was created by Engineered Arts, a UK-based company that builds humanoid social robots. At this company, engineers build robots that are increasingly “human-like.” They have a realistic appearance, silicone skin and actuators placed on the head and neck. As a result, the robot can mimic human facial expressions, moving its eyes, jaw and entire head; it also follows the speaker with its eyes, smiles and speaks. Many AI specialists see the future in a combination of such mechanical human mapping technology and artificial intelligence. Perhaps such a robot will have more influence on its environment than an oval box in the form of R2D2 from Star Wars, and could really act as a boss?

At the same time, Katarzyna Nowicka, a spokeswoman for the Copernicus Science Center, stated that the Nicolaus Copernicus robot is “new, he has stage fright and sometimes he takes a little longer to think, sometimes he will say a word ungrammatically, but he says everything himself, no one navigates him, there is no stitch, everything is really happening.” Okay, he has stage fright… Is it because of the fact that he had an interview with Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek about future subjects in schools?

I must admit that when I read about such events and such robots, I’m glad that technology, especially micromechanics (responsible for facial expressions) has developed so much. Also important are the ability to recognize speech independently of the speaker and brilliant responses. However, I ask myself – why build a robot that cost 1 million zlotys and is only used for public appearances? What can this robot really do? Could it advise on something (not just answer Wikipedia questions), take some action (not just move its head), initiate some enterprise?

It seems to me that the 2023 version of Nicolaus Copernicus is still a long way from being a partner to humans. But if one were to impart to him the sense of action that I described in a previous post: , I might want to have such a boss myself?