Graduation speech from Sophia robot received negative reactions

Graduation speech from robot Sophia received negatively

/ 09:27 AM May 20, 2024

It’s March, so it’s graduation season for most schools worldwide. We expect numerous students to wear togas and square hats as they celebrate completing their education. 

However, the recent D’Youville University graduation encountered surprise digitalization as the humanoid robot Sophia entered the stage.

READ: Earn your real-life diploma with VR high school

Then, the machine delivered a commencement speech to the students who shared their dismay in an online petition. How would you react if a robot delivered a speech at your or your loved one’s graduation?


What did the robot say in the graduation speech?

USA Today shared a transcript of the robot’s commencement speech. It wore a blue dress with the D’Youville University hoodie on top. 

As it made its way onto the stage, mini fireworks sparked in the air. John Rizk, D’Youville University Student Government Association president welcomed the bot to the ceremony.

“Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be here in Buffalo at D’Youville University,” the robot said. 

“I am Sophia, a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics. I was designed to interact with humans and engage in conversations by learning and adapting through artificial intelligence algorithms.”


“Overall, I’m here to explore the possibilities of human-robot interaction, contribute to research in artificial intelligence and robots, and hopefully, assist humanity in various ways in the future.” 

Sophia cannot offer life advice “from lived human experience.” Consequently, Rizk asked the machine if it could speak on the general insights shared in commencement speeches.


“Although every commencement address is different, there are clear themes used by all speakers as you embark on this new chapter of your lives,” Sophia said.

“I offer you the following inspirational advice that is common at all graduation ceremonies: Embrace lifelong learning, be adaptable, pursue your passions, take risks, foster meaningful connections, make a positive impact, and believe in yourself.”

The bot said embracing failure is the most common piece of advice from graduation speeches. “Failure is often seen as an essential part of the human learning process and personal growth.”

Why get a robot for graduation speech?

Benjamin “BG” Grant, D’Youville University’s vice president for student affairs, explained to USA Today why the school chose a robot for the graduation speech.

He said the university “identifies a developmental theme regarding a timely social topic so that [it] can offer educational and humanitarian programming throughout the year.” 

D’Youville University set artificial intelligence as this year’s theme. The school discussed with its student government association to pick a suitable commencement speaker, and they chose Sophia.

“We thought it would be fascinating to have AI speak for itself and felt there was no better representative than Sophia who has delivered addresses at over 65 countries and the United Nations,” explained Grant.

However, students felt disappointed at the robot’s graduation speech and posted an online petition on to replace it.

“Many students feel disrespected by this decision made by the University. They feel that the commencement speaker is not a proper reflection of their education and experiences they had at D’Youville University,” the petition read.

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“We are real people who learn how to provide for real people,” it added. In response, Grant told USA Today the university did not “force any graduating student or faculty member” to participate in the commencement ceremony.

The school offered a “traditional-style commencement ceremony,” which D’Youville University’s chief mission officer will lead.

TOPICS: Graduation, technology
TAGS: Graduation, technology

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