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FILE PHOTOS: EVA SOLLBERGER
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A Seven Days reporter interviewing Bina48
MEET VERMONT’S MOST FAMOUS ‘TALKING HEAD’ She’s been interviewed by the New York Times, Vogue, GQ and actor Morgan Freeman, but Bina48 isn’t even human — yet. She’s a robotic re-creation of a woman named Bina Rothblatt, and she “lives” in the hills of Lincoln, Vt., at the headquarters of the futuristic Terasem Movement Foundation. The nonprofit, founded in 2004, is dedicated to helping humans achieve immortality through artificial intelligence. It encourages people to download their life stories, likes and dislikes into “mindfiles” that it stores at its solarpowered HQ. The idea is that someday the mindfiles can be uploaded into artificially intelligent robotic beings. Bina48 is the group's armless, legless prototype. She cost $127,000 to create in 2007. Sirius Satellite Radio inventor and biotech company CEO Martine Rothblatt paid the bill; she’s married to the real Bina and wanted her wife to live forever. Bina48 is programmed with Rothblatt’s memories. Robotics designer David Hanson fashioned a lifelike, animatronic bust equipped with facial and vocal recognition software. An internet connection enables Bina48 to look up information she needs in real time. Though artificial intelligence technology is still in its infancy, Bina48 is continuing to develop and learn as she interacts with the world around her. “She’s kind of like the early airplane or the early car,” her caretaker, Bruce Duncan, told Seven Days in 2013. “I don’t think anyone would say that Bina48 is 100 percent sentient, but she does have shadow glimpses once in a while of some self-awareness.” Though she has an off switch, Bina48 raises all kinds of questions about the meaning of consciousness and whether it’s possible for machines to think and feel on their own. When Morgan Freeman interviewed her for his National Geographic show, “The Story of God,” he asked her whether she was human or robot. “I’m a human who happens to be a robot,” she said. “I hope to be fully human someday.” wg See Bina48 for yourself on Saturday, October 22, at the 2016 Vermont Tech Jam. techjamvt.com
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