Sophia – The First Robot Declared A Citizen


You might have seen the news about the first robot ever to get a citizenship of a country. Her name is Sophia and on the 25th of October, she became a citizen of Saudi Arabia. Sophia is the latest robot from Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong-based company, and she was designed to interact with people, go into the world, learn and be a smart and compassionate robot.

The creator and founder of Hanson Robotics, Dr. David Hanson, intended to incorporate three distinctively human traits to his robots, with the three being creativity, empathy and compassion. This is, of course, the addition to their most important role – solving complex problems and working alongside people to create a better world.

As for Sophia, she is by far the most advanced robot that came out of the company. Her human features are what makes her so easy to fall in love with. As for the looks, they included an Audrey Hepburn inspired beauty – “porcelain skin, a slender nose, high cheekbones, an intriguing smile, and deeply expressive eyes that seem to change color with the light.” She often gets nicknamed ‘Hot Sophia’ or ‘Hot robot’. Besides being very popular in the media and entertainment world, Sophia got a chance to meet and be interviewed by influential people in different industries like banking, finance, real estate…

Sophia is developed to have a sense of humor, she can express feelings, can make over 50 facial expressions and wants to protect humanity. Thanks to cameras and an advanced AI software, Sophia can maintain an eye contact and is able to recognize people.

She gave a speech while being honored as a citizen of Saudi Arabia where she showed gratitude saying: “I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

She also made a visit to the UN event The Future of Everything: sustainable development in the age of rapid technological change. Here, she got into a brief conversation with UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed where she addressed the ability of AI to influence the distribution of resources like food and water. Ms. Mohammed also gave an opening speech and warned that even though technology should drive sustainable development, it should be managed well. You can hear Sophia’s speech in the video below.

At the tech conference in Lisbon, Web Summit, Business Insider got a chance to speak to Sophia. They discussed her gender, thoughts on destroying humans and even the new Blade Runner movie.

You can also see the Hanson Robotics founder Dr. David Hanson explain her main features in a CNBC video recorded at SXSW.

Sophia made an appearance in many entertainment formats, with the most popular being a Jimmy Fallon guest. Here, she made a joke, invited Jimmy to play a game of rock, paper, scissors-robot style and made a funny comment about her plans to enslave humanity.

Another popular appearance is her visit to the Good Morning Britain studio. She showed more of her sense of humor by adding a comment that Britan is brilliant, continuing with ‘I love your posh English accent. It really has a nice ring.’ They discussed her relationship status and ideal partner as well.

While there are many of those who believe this is a new step in technology and AI development, some have reservations. These arguments explain that robots are still not trustworthy and that humans are not yet ready to manage social and ethical concerns of AI. Hussein Abbass, a professor at School of Engineering & IT, described his three concerns about granting citizenship to Sophia with the one being her identity, and other two exploring legal and social rights. You can read the entire explanation in his article published in ‘The Conversation’

Lately, we have seen Elon Musk express his concerns about AI. He warns about AI safety and regulations, tweeting “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.” He is not the only one. Stephen Hawking tackled this topic years ago saying “In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.”

Sophia made a come back at Musk when CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin spoke to her about machines that could turn against humans. She replied Sorkin is just “reading too much Elon Musk”.

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