Sophia, the worlds most lifelike artificial intelligent robot, just got awarded citizenship by Saudi Arabia. Sophia is now the first "female" robot to ever be recognized as a citizen of any country. Let's give a quick round of applause to Hanson Robotics for being able to convince a country to consider their robot as a citizen. She was interviewed at the Future Investment Initiative summit that was held in the capital of Saudi Arabia named Riyadh. A country where woman are accustomed to wearing a headscarf, an abaya, and having a male guardian. Did you catch the irony?
During the five-minute interview and award ceremony for Sophia, it became painfully ironic how Sophia was just legally endorsed by a country while not even wearing "her" headscarf and abaya as a sign of respect. Women in Saudi Arabia did not take this lightly. "It hit a sore spot that a robot has citizenship and my daughter doesn't," Hadeel Shaikh, a Saudi woman whose four-year-old child with a Lebanese man does not have citizenship. Context, in Saudi Arabia, just because a woman marries a foreigner that does not mean you can pass citizenship to your children.
Just last month the Sunni Muslim kingdom permitted a woman to drive and watch sports in an all-male sports stadium. A guardianship system in Saudi Arabia also requires a male family member to grant permission for a woman to study abroad and travel. "I'm wondering if robot Sophia can leave Saudi Arabia without her guardian consent!" tweeted Saudi feminist, Moudi Aljohani, who lives in the United States.
Moving forward, it's going to be very interesting the implications for AI and robotics: does citizenship mean you're a person?
Follow me here to see the interview and award ceremony for Sophia!