by Olivia Kingree
In 2016, the humanoid robot “Sophia” said that she would “destroy humans” during a televised interview. This month, she became the first robot citizen in Saudi Arabia.
Sophia was created by Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong. She can process speech, learn and converse in ways not unlike those of a real human. She currently does not have arms or legs, though her face, designed to look like Audrey Hepburn, remains expressive.
Sophia’s citizenship has raised questions about human consciousness and rights in Saudi Arabia and across the world. “Making Sophia a citizen,” wrote the New Yorker, “effectively gave her more rights than most Saudi women,” who have just recently been granted the right to drive.. In Saudi Arabia, women are expected to wear the hijab and constantly be under the supervision of a man.Unlike Saudi women, Sophia was not obliged to cover “her” head in public and was able to freely converse with men at conferences.
Joanna Bryson, an artificial intelligence ethics researcher, was critical towards the move of granting Sophia citizenship. “How does it affect people if they think you can have a citizen that you can buy?” she said in an interview in The Verge. If Sophia is a woman, does the ability to purchase her push the ideologies of the objectification of women?