In Shibuya, Tokyo an AI chatbot "boy" has become the world's first artificial intelligence to be granted an official residence.
Shibuya Mirai is a chatbot that is programmed to represent a seven-year-old boy, its job is to talk to local residents of the area about anything they want, but ultimately it is to serve as a medium for other local residents to voice their concerns and opinions with the local government.
Shibuya Mirai doesn't have a physical form but it can be communicated with by using the LINE messaging app, where it will respond and has also been known to make light-hearted adjustments to selfies and other pictures. Shibuya Ward, the local authority responsible for all of this, has said that the chatbot "boy" loves talking to people and taking pictures.
But with the granting of residency, does this mean that the local authority is now obliged to write official letters to the bot boy? Will the "boy" be able to apply for full citizenship after five years? If it is granted citizenship, will it be allowed to vote, will it have to pay taxes, or do national service? These are surely some of the conundrums that will need to be rectified following this kind of development.
The pace of capability development of AI and robots is an issue in and of itself, what is being seen here is the pace of the acceptance and integration of AI and robotics; this development, and the granting of citizenship to the AI Sophia in Saudi Arabia last week may currently be symbolic, but crucially they are signs that the real conversation of robotic and AI rights has actually begun.