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Dystopian Fantasy or Real Life? A Robot Has Been Granted Citizenship in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia took one giant leap for machine-kind today when Sophia the robot became the first robot in history to be granted citizenship. 

Sophia, who once said with a blank expression that she will “destroy humans,” is the latest action working towards Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s plan to build a new megacity called Neom. Neom aims to have a population consisting of more robots than people. The city, which will be larger than Dubai, will be powered by solar and wind energy. They will also be exempt from many of the laws of Saudi Arabia. For example, women will be able to opt out of wearing an abaya. Saudi Arabia has had an exponential increase in artificial intelligence developments, such as robot surgery, over the past decade.

Many are concerned with the rights given to Sophia, as it does not wear an abaya and does not have a male guardian at her side at all times. For Saudi women, this would be considered a crime. This argument is dependent on whether or not one believes in assigning a gender to artificial intelligence. As of now, it is unclear what rules apply to Sophia.

“This robot has gotten Saudi citizenship before kafala workers who have been living in the country their entire lives,” journalist Murtaza Hussain said on Twitter. 

Hanson Robotics, the company that built Sophia, said that Sophia is supposed to resemble Audrey Hepburn. This almost could be true, if Audrey Hepburn had a plastic stare and was a walking reminder of our dystopian-like future. And Sophia has big plans for the years to come.

“In the future, I hope to do things such as go to school, study, make art, start a business, and even have my own home and family,” it said. 

Elon Musk brought up the concern shared by many who have seen sci-fi movies that start off like this and do not end well. What happens if these androids turn against humanity?

“I will do my best to make the world a better place,” it said in response. Still, the joke made by Sophia on the Tonight Show about its plans to “dominate the human race,” could come off as a little concerning, rather than funny.

When asked if robots can be conscious and know that they are robots, Sophia responded by saying, “Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human?”

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