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Saudi Arabia becomes the first country to grant a robot citizenship

Well, this is ironic.

Saudi Arabia, a country known for its denial of women’s human rights, has granted citizenship to a female robot called Sophia.

Sophia was designed to look like Audrey Hepburn (she doesn’t) and awarded citizenship at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. She also gave a speech a short speech and answered some questions.

After thanking the audience Sophia gets right down to business.

“I’m always happy when surrounded by smart people who also happens [sic] to be rich and powerful,” she says.

She then demonstrates some emotions she can express, which is as creepy as you would imagine.

Things took a very philosophical turn when the host asked her if robots can and should be self-aware.

“Why is that a bad thing?” she asks. After the host explains why this might be bad by referring to Blade Runner, Sophia quips “Oh, Hollywood again?” and flashes a cheesy grin. I’m starting to like this robot.

She then asks the host how he knows he is human (damn, she’s right – how do we know?) and acknowledges that while she may be creepy, we all need to “get over it”.

To top it all off, Sophia says her AI is programmed to be kind and helpful, and anyone afraid of AI has been “reading too much Elon Musk”.

Sophia was made by Hanson Robotics, a company which claims it builds expressive and lifelike robots that care about humans and want to create a better world.

At this point, it’s unclear what Sophia’s citizenship actually means. Was it just an empty gesture, a PR stunt? Is this setting some kind of legal precedent? Do robots have separate rights from men and women in Saudi Arabia? Is she allowed to drive a car?

Sophia previously made headlines when she went a little off script and said she would “destroy humans” during an interview.

In the meantime, Musk has already responded to the shade Sophia threw at him:

That puts the ball back in Sophia’s court.

Your move, creep.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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