A ‘female’ robot in Saudi Arabia is the first in the world to be granted citizenship.
Sophia, the advanced robot with female features, who featured last week at an economic summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, can make facial expressions and hold conversations.
Designed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics to look like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia has featured on the cover of ELLE Magazine, as well as the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
In a special presentation at the Riyadh conference, aiming to show off the android’s ability to mimic human behaviour, Sophia was told by conference moderator, Andrew Ross Sorkin, that she had been made a citizen of Saudi Arabia.
“I’m very honored and proud for this unique distinction," Sophia told the crowd.
“This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship,” it said.
However, this recognition has ignited a backlash about the double standards of women’s rights in the country.
The robot appeared on stage without a hijab or abaya – the mandated dress the country requires Saudi women wear. It also appeared alone, whereas Saudi law dictates a woman must have a male guardian.
#Sophia_demands_the_repeal_of_guardianship also began trending on Twitter shortly after the announcement, with users pointing out that the robot had received more human rights than millions of women and foreign workers in Saudi Arabia.
The controversial move follows recent discussions by the European Commission regarding giving rights to robots.
In January of this year, the European parliament passed a report that outlined frameworks for “electronic personhood” to ensure rights and responsibilities for capable AI systems.
While awarding electronic rights to these systems can be seen as a way to allocate responsibility away from humans, it also raises a number of ethical issues, as can be seen by the Sophia controversy.
ACS President Anthony Wong discussed the significance of liability amidst the growing prevalence of AI and robotics systems.
“We are moving rapidly towards a world where robots and intelligent AI systems are connected to the mesh and influenced by social media, the Internet of Things, and Big Data,” he said in his Information Age column.
“Clear boundaries and filters will be needed to prevent these systems from being influenced and corrupted by darker elements, and to protect humans from potential harm.”