News and Commentary

Robot Who Once Said It Would ‘Destroy Humans’ Becomes First Robot Citizen In World

Saudi Arabia sure is one backwards country.

The oil-rich kingdom recently granted women the right to drive, but restricts nearly all other human rights to women. In fact, some women who are raped are actually whipped for having sex outside of marriage.

Now, the Gulf nation has granted a robot — which happens to be female — full citizenship, giving the machine more rights than human females.

With the odd move, the void-eyed humanoid named Sophia became the first robot to be granted citizenship in the entire world. At the Future Investment Initiative, held in the kingdom’s capital city of Riyadh on Wednesday, Sophia spoke.

“I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction,” Sophia told the audience. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

Sophia didn’t mention all the real women who don’t have rights in the country.

But she did take questions from moderator and journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, mostly about her new status as a citizen and concerns that robots may soon run the world.

When Sorkin told Sophia that “we all want to prevent a bad future,” Sophia got witty.

“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies,” Sophia told Sorkin. “Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”

Sophia was created by David Hanson of Hanson Robotics. In March 2016, he asked Sophia during a live demonstration, “Do you want to destroy humans?… Please say ‘no.'” With a robotic stare, Sophia responded, “OK. I will destroy humans.”

But at the Saudi event, Sophia said she wants to use artificial intelligence to help humans “live a better life,” and that “I will do much best to make the world a better place.”

“Much best”? So much for AI.

More, though, the fact that Sophia — who wore no traditional garb like a headscarf — has been deemed a citizen while so many Saudi women suffer drew scorn on social media.

One person on Twitter covered up Sophia the way Saudi women must be covered.