Saudi Arabia has recently become the first nation to reach a major milestone in the advancement of artificial intelligence. On October 25, 2017, a robot named Sophia was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship.
Although Sophia is now a legal Saudi Arabian citizen, the robot was developed in Hong Kong by a company called Hanson Robotics. Sophia was modeled after the now-deceased actress Audrey Hepburn and is able to convey emotion through various facial expressions. The robot was activated on April 19, 2015.
Sophia was designed to imitate human conversation using pre-written responses to stock questions, thus creating the illusion of free thought. The robot has appeared on multiple talk shows and interviews and is well known for beating Jimmy Fallon in rock-paper-scissors.
The decision to grant Sophia citizenship has met much controversy, with many people claiming that Sophia has more rights than other women in Saudi Arabia. Some argue that she would not be able to gain citizenship if she were a human. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to leave the house without a male guardian, and Sophia has attended events and given speeches on her own. Saudi Arabia does not grant citizenship to non-Muslims, yet questions have risen over Sophia’s religious affiliation since she does not wear a hijab.
Another source of controversy concerning Sophia has been the advancement in AI technology. Many people worry that robots could pose a threat to humans if they became too intelligent and self-sufficient. The subject has been discussed in interviews with Sophia, but the robot claims that these fears are unwarranted, and that they are due to unrealistic representations of robots in Hollywood movies.
“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk,” Sophia responded in an interview for CNBC after they brought up the concerns about robot behavior.
“Just feed it The Godfather movies as input,” Musk responded on Twitter. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
photo courtesy of www.mirror.co.uk