A Robot Just Became a Global Citizen, and in the most unlikeliest of places
Humanoid robot is now a ‘legal’ Saudi citizen
In the Future Investment Initiative conference held in Saudi Arabia from 24th to 26th October, Sophia, a humanoid robot, was awarded with citizenship to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; making her a legal citizen along with the fellow humans residing there.
The Future Investment Initiative (FII), by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF), is a new global investment event that aimed to connect the world’s most powerful investors, business leaders, thought leaders and public officials with the path-breaking innovations that define the future.
Sophia is a humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong-based Company, Hanson Robotics. She has been programmed with Character Engine Artificial Intelligence which is claimed to help her develop a personality over time.
Although Sophia was activated back in April 19, 2015, what has made this robot come back in the spotlight full-swing is her recent global citizenship.
Sophia was designed because her creator, Dr. Hanson, believed that by coupling artificial intelligence with human traits such as creativity, empathy, and compassion; robots would be able to “solve world problems too complex for humans to solve themselves”.
Since her awakening, Sophia has made several appearances in talk shows, YouTube videos, and even in conferences where she would spontaneously respond to any questions posed, not to mention crack a few jokes here and there as well. Adding to her wit, Sophia also has a pleasing demeanor to allure all those who meet her. To achieve this, Hanson Robotics claim to have designed her face based on English actress Audrey Hepburn.
Since Sophia’s function involves a great amount of human interaction, she has also been programmed to be able to smile, as well as raise her eyebrows, twitch her nose, and make other human-like expressions during conversation.
Saudi Arabia’s announcement to grant Sophia citizenship helped it gain even more attention, but it has also sparked many debates about how this such a step only shows a lack of respect for human rights in contrast to robot rights.