Saudi Arabia grants citizenship to Android robot Sophia

Sophia, the American humanoid robot with impressive facial expressions, has recently been offered Saudi citizenship. She became the first robot to have official citizenship.

The Robotics Revolution is well underway: at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh in the heart of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an android was officially granted Saudi nationality, a great first in the field. The robot in question is called Sophia and is the work of David Hanson and his company Hanson Robotics. But what is so special about it? Sophia has quite impressive characteristics.

Not only is it equipped with powerful artificial intelligence, but it also has the ability to mimic human behavior through highly symptomatic gestures or facial expressions. Able to follow a conversation and be part of it, Sophia is able to answer some of the questions she is asked.

An experiment that has been tested by Andrew Ross Sorkin, the host of the conference, in front of the attentive audience. After simply asking her to break in, Sophia was quick to articulate an answer, and clear: “My name is Sophia and I’m Hanson Robotics’ newest and most powerful robot.” A robot who wants to “live and work with humans” “I think I’m special I can use my facial expressions to communicate with people, for example, I can let you know if something upsets me or puts me in anger, “she continued. And for proof: Sophia is actually able to express all kinds of emotions with its extremely realistic silicone face, up to 62 facial expressions.

The cameras in his eyes allow him to easily follow the eyes of the people who face him. “Why is it so important to have facial expressions because you’re a robot?” Questioned the host. Sophia’s response was quick: “I want to live and work with humans, so I need to express emotions to understand humans and build trust with people.” While Andrew Ross Sorkin expressed concern over the risks surrounding artificial intelligence, Sophia replied with humor, explaining that the host had “read too much Elon Musk”, the founder of SpaceX, and “watched too many Hollywood movies” . The robot also tried to “reassure” his interlocutor, assuring that “if you are nice to me, I’ll be nice to you”.

Still, the robot has not always reflected the kindness: in March 2016, she had even rather worried the crowd by saying all smiles that she wanted to “destroy humans”. She now seems to have reviewed her copy since she said she “wants to use her artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life […] and make the world a better place”.

An announcement pointed at the finger At the end of his speech, after thanking and greeting his audience, Sophia was handed Saudi nationality, to everyone’s surprise. “I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction – it is historic to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with citizenship,” she said. This decision did not fail to make react on social networks. “A humanoid robot called Sophia got Saudi citizenship, while millions remain stateless, what a great time to be alive,” wrote Kareem Chehayeb, a Lebanese journalist.

The subject has also revived criticism of the guardianship system imposed on women in Saudi Arabia. “Sophia has no guardian, does not wear an abaya (the traditional garment that Muslim women in Saudi Arabia have to wear) or does not cover herself, how come?” asked a user on Twitter. “Saudi Arabia treats live women, who breathe, as second-class citizens, but has no problem in granting citizenship to robots ?,” added another user, if, with this news, the most populated the Gulf is a major player in terms of innovation and new technologies, the attribution of Saudi nationality to the robot is clearly not unanimous.

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