Saudi Arabia grants citizenship to a robot named 'Sophia'


Of course, ss gotten people pretty riled up, because while Saudi Arabia may have just become the first country to recognise a robot as a citizen (how useful!), it's still a country famous for treating its women citizens as though they have far less worth as human beings than men. Years ago, Saudi Arabia began experimenting with robots boldly, tasking them with everything from building construction to brain surgery.

She was appeared on the stage without any male guardian, as required by Saudi law for women in the country.

Women are required to receive guardian approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study overseas on a government scholarship, or to get married.

An early version of our story on Sophia the robot referred to the machine as "she". It's also not clear if Sophia will be schooled in the distinctly strict Islamic teachings of sharia, the favored practice of Saudi's Wahhabism.

Indeed, if only "persons" can be granted citizenship, then treaties protecting "persons" in other countries might have to be construed to protecting even robots, argues Banzhaf., citing both legal and illegal aliens in the US who are nevertheless protected as "persons".

Sophia is a robot with human female features that can make facial expressions and hold conversations.

Sophia was made by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, created by a former Disney "Imagineer" who designed her to look like Audrey Hepburn, a resemblance that I have to say I don't quite see! But she does not have her own consciousness. According to The Independent, the citizenship was awarded as an attempt to promote Saudi Arabia as a place to develop artificial intelligence. The traditions of the Saudi kingdom are coming face to face with the technological future, and the progress that comes with it.

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Saudi's opened the doors just recently for women to drive. The kingdom is investing $1 billion in the Virgin Group's space companies, and, according to Engadget, "will fund three companies within the Virgin Group, starting with Virgin Galactic, which is responsible for developing the VSS Unity (also known as SpaceShipTwo) created to fly paying tourists to suborbital space".

Saudi Arabia has been seeking to highlight a series of reforms being rolled out by the authorities in the Kingdom. Some call it "odd", and others "Terminator in real time". Al-Youssef's petition made waves in the country.

In the Middle East country, a guardianship system means every women has to have a male companion.

However, Saudi women are still left behind in many areas.

Well, only the future can tell if Sophia really has the interest of humans at heart. We're hoping it will happen.

The robot named Sophia spoke Wednesday at the Future Investment Institute panel in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia.