An empty-eyed humanoid named Sophia has become the first robot to be granted citizenship in the world.
Saudi Arabia bestowed citizenship on Sophia ahead of the Future Investment Initiative, held in the kingdom’s capital city of Riyadh on Wednesday. “I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction,” Sophia told the audience, speaking on a panel. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”
It didn’t elaborate on the details of its citizenship. At the event, Sophia also addressed the room from behind a podium and responded to questions from moderator and journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin. Questions pertained mostly to Sophia’s status as a humanoid and concerns people may have for the future of humanity in a robot-run world.
Attendees pose with Sophia, a robot integrating the latest technologies and artificial intelligence developed by Hanson Robotics during a presentation at the “AI for Good” Global Summit in June 2017.Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Sorkin told Sophia that “we all want to prevent a bad future,” prompting Sophia to rib Sorkin for his fatalism.
“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies,” Sophia told Sorkin. “Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”
In March of 2016, Sophia’s creator, David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, asked Sophia during a live demonstration at the SXSW festival, “Do you want to destroy humans?…Please say ‘no.'” With a blank expression, Sophia responded, “OK. I will destroy humans.”
Hanson, meanwhile, has said Sophia and its future robot kin will help seniors in elderly care facilities and assist visitors at parks and events.
Fortunately for the human race, Sophia made comments more along those lines at the recent Future Investment Initiative event. It told Sorkin it wanted to use its artificial intelligence to help humans “live a better life,” and that “I will do much [sic] best to make the world a better place.”
Sophia could soon have company from other robotics manufacturers, namely SoftBank, whose Pepper robot was released as a prototype in 2014 and as a consumer model a year later. The company sold out of its supply of 1,000 robots in less than a minute.