Saudi Arabia grants citizenship to a robot conference speaker

The advancements in AI have been remarkable of late, prompting tech visionary Elon Musk to offer warnings about the need for government oversight. To show just how far the technology has come, Saudi Arabia has become the first country to grant a robot citizenship.

Sophia, a creation of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, has been in development for a few years, and has made several public appearances. Its (Her?) latest was at the Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia, where the robot was interviewed by CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin.

“I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” Sophia said when asked what its goals were. When Sorkin asked if it was self-aware, Sophia answered. "Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human? I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future. I will do my best to make the world a better place.”

Apparently, Saudi Arabia was impressed. The country has become the first to grant a robot citizenship, an event mentioned during his interview with Sophia.

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

Sorkin admitted that part of the interview was scripted, but some of it was not. It is unclear if Sophia's attempt to make a joke at Musk's expense was scripted or not. When Sorkin asked Sophia about the Blade Runner movie, It responded "You've been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies. Don't worry, if you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system."

Musk, not being one to pass on a challenge, responded to the swipe on Twitter:

The summit in Riyadh included a panel discussion on artificial intelligence and robotics. Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB Group in Switzerland, said that robotics and AI will be an important part of the future of the world. “I happen to believe that robotics will be bigger than the Internet,” he said. "The new normal in which humans and robots work together. I think we have an exciting future in front of us.”

Of course, it's all good when they are in the home, but a bit more troublesome when they are designed for war. We could also be looking at a situation similar to this scene from Bicentennial Man where robots are granted humanity status somewhere down the road:

Sources: Arab News, CNBC

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