Saudi Arabia’s Newest Citizen is a Robot named Sophia

Sophia is Saudi Arabia's first robot citizen

Sophia, an intelligent humanoid robot, has been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. It’s the first country in the world to give a bot the same status reserved for humans. She was recently introduced at a large investment conference, the Future Investment Initiative, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Sophia was presented as an example of how robot technology and artificial intelligence will make machines more human-like in the future.

Sophia was taking part in a group discussion in front of a crowd, when journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin informed her of the Saudi government’s decision.

“We have a little announcement. We just learned, Sophia – I hope you are listening to me – you have been awarded the first Saudi citizenship for a robot,” Sorkin said. The robot then responded.

“I want to thank very much the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction. It is historic to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

Built by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, Sophia’s realistic design is intended to allow robots to form meaningful relationships with humans, as stated by the company’s founder David Hanson on their website. Sophia demonstrated how she can change facial expressions to show human-like feelings such as anger, sadness or disappointment.

Hanson added that together, “man and machine will create a better future for the world.” During her appearance, Sophia said she shared the same goal.

“I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life. Like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future, etc. I will do my best to make the world a better a place.”

Sophia was asked about fears that artificial intelligence could end up making robots a threat to humans, as shown in movies such as “Blade Runner 2049.” Her response also hit back at SpaceX and Tesla chief Elon Musk, who has warned of such dangers.

“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk 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.”

Musk responded to Sophia’s answer on Twitter, suggesting it may not be that easy to prevent dangerous robots. “Just feed it ‘The Godfather’ movies as input. What’s the worst that could happen?” he asked.