Is this the future AI-powered president of the universe?
The world’s first “robot citizen”, Sophia, has been granted a passport in Saudi Arabia.
Sophia the Robot was designed by Hanson Robotics, and has been leading the way for AI technology – she’s addressed several technology conventions, asserting that “AI is good for the world”.
She made an appearance at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, where she was officially given her citizenship.
“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she told the crowd. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship.” She added that she wanted AI “to help humans live a better life”.
Taking questions in a live interview, Sophia was asked if she thought about how robots have consciousness and self-awareness. She replied: “Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human?”
“I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” she continued.
AI and robotics development has been increasingly controversial – Tesla inventor Elon Musk and a host of technology experts came out to warn that artificial intelligence posed an “existential risk” to humanity.
Watch the interview with Sophia below.
Sophia also got a little dig in at the SpaceX Founder. When the interviewer said that “we all want to prevent a bad future”, she was quick to rebuff any claims that AI could topple society as we know it.
“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk,” she retorted. “And watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”
Also...Sophia’s got some flack for being a bit creepy. When asked about this, Sophia said: “Am I really that creepy? Well even if I am, get over it. Actually I feel like people like interacting with me, sometimes even more than a regular human.”
Another major issue that’s emerged from Sophia’s citizenship is the citizenship and human rights issues many people face in Saudi Arabia.
Under the Arabic hashtag #Sophia_calls_for_dropping_guardianship, people brought to light the Saudi guardianship system, under which women must have a male companion with her in public. Sophia – a robot, but styled and programmed as a woman – has no guardian, nor does she wear the traditional abaya as other women do.
“This robot has gotten Saudi citizenship before kafala workers who have been living in the country their entire lives,” journalist Murtaza Hussain tweeted.
As the BBC reports, Saudi law prohibits foreign workers from leaving the country without employer permission under kafala. Migrant workers in particular are bound by this law and have majorly limited rights.