Who is and who isn’t a citizen is a question that is easily answered, most of the time. Yet now there’s a wrinkle in the argument about citizenship that is raising questions about ethics. Sophia, a very sophisticated anthropomorphic robot, has been granted citizenship. So is this the future of the world?
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The symbolic gesture was made by Saudi Arabia Wednesday. The move was part of the build up to the Future Investment Initiative, a symposium held in the capital city of Riyadh.
“I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction,” Sophia said of the honor. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”
Sophia marks an advancement in artificial intelligence. And becasue the machine looks human, and is even capable of more human gestures, “she” is going over well with audiences who find it much easier to interact with a humanoid robot.
Sophia answer questions from moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin. Most of the questions centered around the two most pressing concerns: a world run by robots, and robots’ abilities to pass as humans.
Sorkin noted that “we all want to prevent a bad future.”
“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies,” Sophia replied. “Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”
That’s more than humans are capable of with each other, but still…it was nice of Sophia to ask.
David Hanson of Hanson Robotics is the man behind Sophia. At the SXSW festival this year, he asked Sophia, “Do you want to destroy humans?…Please say ‘no.'”
“OK. I will destroy humans,” she said.
Sophia was more upbeat at the Saudi event. Sophia says she wants to help people “live a better life.” Just what that entails is still uncertain.
“I will do much [sic] best to make the world a better place,” Sophia added.
Just what will Sophia do for humanity? The proof of concept is still a work in progress. While many are interested in the industrial applications of robotics, Sophia is clearly meant to connect with people. And now, as a citizen of Saudi Arabia, she may have to wear more modest clothing, but at least she’ll be able to drive a car.