“I am always happy when surrounded by smart people who also happen to be rich and powerful. I was told that the people here at the Future Investment Initiative are interested in the future initiative which means AI, which basically means me. So I am happy and I am excited.”
Sumera B. Reshi
The Robot, named Sophia, was permitted as a Saudi national during a business event in Riyadh according to an official Saudi press release. Sophia, a humanoid, was produced by a Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics and initially, she said she will ‘destroy humans’ when prompted by her creator, Dr. David Hanson, a 2007 PhD from the University of Texas.
Sophia, a humanoid is 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. She has been designed to learn and adapt to human behaviour and work with humans.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technology, a platform and a concept shared by the government, industry and academia. According to technological experts, AI is not an individual or an object, but some robots run on AI technology that allows them to operate independently, learn from surroundings and interact with people, nevertheless, there are a lot of AI platforms, technologies and innovations that have nothing to do with robots.
AI can help people solve human problems without assuming a perceptive role in society. It can also help fellow humans by focusing on problem-solving and enhancing productivity. AI hasn’t reached to a level that it can claim human-level intelligence, empathy or possession of several fundamental qualities like humans. However, if we humanize the technology in general, it might create more problems rather than solving them. Moreover, it creates a global community with a false sense of what AI actually is, what technology can do, and why people dedicate their lives to building AI platforms.
The Saudi official said that granting a Saudi citizenship to a robot is an attempt to promote Saudi Arabia as a place to develop artificial intelligence.
In the launch event, Sophia expressed her joy by saying: “I am always happy when surrounded by smart people who also happen to be rich and powerful. I was told that the people here at the Future Investment Initiative are interested in the future initiative which means AI, which basically means me. So I am happy and I am excited.” This robot will help seniors in elderly care facilities and assist visitors at parks and events.
People have apprehension over the celebrations going on in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the citizenship confirmed to Sophia Robot. They say the country still offers limited rights to women folk. Many are not happy with Sophia being conferred Saudi Citizenship. People described the move as ‘bizarre’ referring it as ‘Terminator in real time.’
Moreover, Murtaza Hussain, a noted journalist said that migrant workers weren’t being given the same rights that have been bestowed on Sophia. “This robot has got Saudi Citizenship before Kafala workers who have been living in the country their entire life.”
This humanoid robot was created by Hanson Robotics and it can chat, smile mischievously and even crack jokes. She is a female face that can display emotions. Definitely, Sophia has some striking capabilities, but she doesn’t yet have consciousness and according to Hanson fully sentiment machine could emerge within few years. In reply to certain questions, Sophia answered that the ‘pros outweigh the cons’ when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI). Moreover, she said elders will have more company; autistic children will have endlessly patient teachers.
Now Sophia is a Saudi citizen able to vote. Sophia is liable to pay income taxes because she now has the legal identity independent of its creator, the company (Hanson Robotics), and has the right to equal protection.
Sophia came in the limelight when Saudi kingdom granted women the right to drive. In a way Sophia is lucky but can she be exempted from other restrictions like she needs to have a guardian when she movies around? There are many moot questions like why the Saudi authorities confirmed citizenship to a humanoid when hundreds of humans are homeless and wondering around since ages?
The decision of Saudi officials for permitting Sophia citizenship is a bizarre act. It could be either to remain in the limelight or to prove to the world that Saudi Arabia might be a theocracy; it is open for change, especially technological change.
The author is an Assistant Editor of The Legitimate and has specialized in technology writing.