Humanoid Robot Sophia Granted Citizenship

Category : Technology/Innovations

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. humanoid / ˈhyu məˌnɔɪd / (adj) – having human qualities

    The humanoid robot is capable of interacting with humans.

  2. grit / grɪt / (v) – to create a scratchy or grinding sound

    The boy gritted his teeth after being angered by bullies.

  3. empathize / ˈɛm pəˌθaɪz / (v) – to share the same feelings as another person

    The teacher empathized with her shy student because she used to be a quiet child.

  4. make sense of / meɪk sɛns ʌv / (idiom) – to interpret an idea

    I want to know how children make sense of the world around them.

  5. bring to light / brɪŋ tə laɪt / (idiom) – to make something known to the public

    The celebrity’s new scandal brought his previous misbehaviors to light.


Read the text below.

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.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Is it necessary for humanoid robots to empathize with humans? Why or why not?
• Would you want to interact with a humanoid robot like Sophia? Why?

Discussion B

• How do you feel about the idea of robots being part of the human society?
• What restrictions should be placed on robots? Discuss.

Category : Technology/Innovations