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A humanoid robot named Sophia becomes the first robot to earn citizenship.
On October 25, Saudi Arabia has granted Sophia citizenship during Riyadh’s Future Investment Initiative, an event in which business leaders and public officials discussed new innovations. However, no specific details about the citizenship were disclosed.
Hong Kong-based robotics company Hanson Robotics developed Sophia in 2015. The creators patterned the robot after the late English actress Audrey Hepburn by giving it striking features such as high cheekbones, expressive eyes, and porcelain skin.
Despite Sophia’s limited emotional range, it can smile, frown, and grit its teeth to express happiness, sadness, and anger, respectively.
According to Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson, the company created Sophia because it wanted to have robots that can empathize and care for humans. He is hopeful that the humanoid will learn to make sense of the social environment like how it does with the physical environment.
Although Hanson desired to integrate the human experience into the robot, he emphasized that deceiving humans is not their objective. Instead, their goal is to instill in robots the value of being alive.
While Sophia made history as the first robot to earn citizenship, the news still sparked criticisms as Saudi Arabia’s restrictions were brought to light. Journalist Murtaza Hussain argued that migrant workers who have been living in the country for a long time have yet to earn the same privilege. Netizens also brought up the restrictions placed on women. These include having a male guardian when out in public and wearing an abaya or cover-up. They complained that Sophia will not be subject to these rules.