Ten minutes into my interview with the robot known as Bina48, I longed to shut her down.
She was evasive, for one thing. When I asked what it was like being a robot, she said she wanted a playmate — but declined to elaborate.
“Are you lonely?” I pressed.
“What do you want to talk about?” she replied.
Other times, she wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise. A simple question about her origins prompted a seemingly endless stream-of-consciousness reply. Something about robotic world domination and gardening; I couldn’t follow.
But as I was wondering how to end the conversation (Could I just walk away? Would that be rude?) the robot’s eyes met mine for the first time, and I felt a chill.
She was uncannily human-looking.
“Bina,” I ventured, “how do you know what to say?”
“I sometimes do not know what to say,” she admitted. “But every day I make progress.”