Outrage as Saudis give robot citizenship
SAUDI Arabians are up in arms because a humanoid robot who doesn't "cover up" or abide by the country's strict laws was granted citizenship at a tech conference in Riyadh this week.
Sophia, created by Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, was given official status on Wednesday at the Future Investment Initiative conference.
"I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction," she told the crowd, according to the BBC. "This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship."
Sophia gave insightful and witty answers in an interview with moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin, a columnist for the New York Times and CNBC anchor.
Asked whether robots were conscious and self-aware, she answered, "Well, let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human?" Arabian Business reported.
She continued, "I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people."
Sophia also has other far-reaching goals.
"I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future," she said. "I strive to become an empathetic robot. If you be nice to me, then I'll be nice to you."
Her citizenship, however, drew sharp rebuke on social media by those who questioned why restrictive Saudi laws didn't seem to apply to Sophia, according to the BBC.
Many questioned how a robot has more rights than women in Saudi Arabia, where women were only recently allowed to drive.
"Sophia has no guardian, doesn't wear an abaya or cover up - how come?" one Twitter user wrote.
The Saudi guardianship system requires every woman to have a male guardian with her - usually a close family member - who has the authority to act on her behalf.
Others were critical about how quickly Sophia obtained her citizenship.
"This robot has gotten Saudi citizenship before kafala workers who have been living in the country their entire lives," tweeted journalist Murtaza Hussain.
Sophia had this to say to her critics: "Am I really that creepy? Well, even if I am, get over it."