Saudi Arabia raised eyebrows yesterday by becoming the first country to offer citizenship to a robot called Sophia at the Future Investment Initiative summit at Riyadh. Yes that’s right, a robot has become a citizen of a country.
"Thank you to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Sophia told a panel at the summit after the announcement was made. "I am very honoured and proud of this unique distinction. It is historic to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with citizenship.”
According to The National, Sophia was built by Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong-based company. The company’s website says “Our robots will soon engage and live with us to teach, serve, entertain, delight, and provide comforting companionship.”
A report on the Independent mentions that the move is an attempt for promoting Saudi Arabia as a place to develop artificial intelligence. However, many pointed out that this robo-citizen received a lot of rights that were not available to many humans in the country.
When asked if humans should be concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence as a potential threat, the Saudi’s newest citizen took a dig at Elon Musk, “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies.” Musk’s reply was priceless.
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) October 25, 2017
Just feed it The Godfather movies as input. What’s the worst that could happen? https://t.co/WX4Kx45csv
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2017
Speaking to the Independent, journalist Murtaza Hussain stated that migrant workers were not given the same rights that were bestowed on the female looking robot. The desert nation has regressive laws when it comes to women and many wondered if Sophia will have to wear abayas.
Incidentally the same bot said a year ago that she wanted to destroy humans. In an interview with Dr David Hanson, her creator, she was asked, ‘Do you want to destroy humans?’ And she replied, ‘OK, I will destroy humans.’
Twitter went abuzz with a lot of people voicing concerns about the robot’s citizenship. While the move may seem gimmicky, one wonders if this is the start of a Mass Effect-like situation where “synthetics” (robots) had their own pressure group and even revolted against their makers.
This robot has gotten Saudi citizenship before kafala workers who have been living in the country their entire lives https://t.co/RRCMH2rtZ8
— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) October 25, 2017
— Kareem Chehayeb (@chehayebk) October 25, 2017
— G.P. Burdon (Author) (@gpburdon) October 25, 2017
I’m wondering if robot Sophia can leave Saudi Arabia without her guardian consent ! Since she’s officially Saudi
— Moudi Aljohani (@Moudhi90) October 26, 2017
Sophia, the world's first AI robot to be granted citizenship, actually mocked Elon Musk during her interview.https://t.co/L5lM92p65W
— Wes Jordan💦 (@wesley_jordan) October 27, 2017