Robot Sophia Now Has More Human Rights in Saudi Arabia Than Women
Saudia Arabia has officially granted citizenship to robot Sophia, effectively giving more rights to an artificially intelligent machine than human women can enjoy in the country.
Only a few short months ago, Sophia the Robot's greatest achievement was slowly trading awkward banter with Jimmy Fallon.
Earlier this month, Sophia showed up just how much she'd learned by speaking publicly at the UN, and now, she's been given Saudi citizenship.
In an unprecedented move that is the first of its kind around the world, Saudi Arabia has granted the robot citizenship.
This is the first time an artificial intelligence has been given the rights of a human citizen within any country around the world, and there's no doubt a political minefield ahead in order to figure out exactly what Sophia can and can't do while she's within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia.
Sophia already isn't being treated the same as human woman are in Saudia Arabia.
She was allowed to appear in public without a headscarf (the better to show off the funky LED lights in her scalp that prove that she's not a real person), and she also appeared to accept her citizenship without the supervision of a male guardian. Both of these acts are illegal for Saudi women under the country's national law.
This seems like something of a publicity stunt for both Saudi Arabia, and for Hanson Robotics, the company that built and programmed Sophia.
All of the public appearances Sophia's been making lately are no accident - Hanson stands to gain a lot of power from convincing people that its robots are real, and apparently deserving of very human rights, and it looks like the company is lobbying hard to control the discussion surrounding the regulation of artificial intelligence and the specifics of robot rights.
Getting Sophia recognized as something approaching a human being may be in Hanson's interests, but it won't be popular among the company's clients.
Disney, for example, is looking to use Hanson's robots as animatronic cartoon characters in their theme parks, and the House of Mouse probably wouldn't be thrilled if it was required to pay their machines wages or give them lunch breaks.
It's unlikely at this stage that other countries will follow Saudi Arabia's example in giving citizenship to a robot. As much as Sophia looks the part, and as easy as it is to anthropomorphize her, it's important to remember that she doesn't currently enjoy free will - her programming is dictated by her owners.
Perhaps the first and most important robot citizenship right is the right to not have your brain regularly dismantled and rebuilt by engineers.
It's not a right that Sophia will get to enjoy any time soon, but if we're to start anywhere in defining what robot rights should be, this would be a good initial point to debate.