The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become the first country on the planet to grant citizenship to a robot. During the October 25th announcement at the Future Investment Initiative summit being held in Riyadh, the robot receiving the honor, named Sophia, said, "I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship."
Developed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, Sophia is intended to mimic human interaction, utilizing artificial intelligence to process visual and audio input from the humans she is talking to, to formulate verbal responses and appropriate facial expressions. Sophia’s external appearance was also modeled after famed actress Audry Hepburn, probably in an attempt to help compensate for the "uncanny valley" effect that human-mimicking robots suffer from.
The individual rights that an artificial citizen like Sophia would be granted was not addressed, with many questions being raised in regards to this move by a country widely criticized for the treatment of its women: Sophia doesn’t appear to be subject to Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system, where women are required to have a male companion with her in public; Sophia also appeared onstage without wearing a niqab head covering and abaya body-covering cloak, garb that is mandatory for Saudi women appearing in public.
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