Saudi Arabia Grants Citizenship to Robot

Sophia has porcelain skin, defined cheekbones and quite a flashy smile. She’s also a robot.

Ahead of Wednesday’s Future Investment Initiative event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, officials granted this humanoid robot citizenship, making Sophia the first robot to receive citizenship anywhere in the world. The bot, made by Hanson Robotics, is modeled to look like Audrey Hepburn (does Sophia do Audrey justice?).

Throughout the interview, Sophia flashed a somewhat eerie, unnatural looking smile—at one point trying to fool us all, saying she feels positive most of the time. Journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Sophia, “Can robots be self-aware, conscious and know they’re robots?” Sophia quickly responded with, “How do you know you are human?” If this doesn’t scream the show Westworld, then you have a new series to watch. Sophia also poked fun at Elon Musk and Hollywood.

News that Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a robot has evoked backlash, with some saying that robots now have more rights there than human women. While known for being a major oil exporter, the country isn’t known for having a shining reputation regarding women’s rights—in June, Saudi women were just granted the right to drive cars beginning in 2018.

But should robots be granted similar rights as their blood-pumping creators? Lawyer and lecturer at Curtin University Kyle Bowyer points out that some corporations are already treated similar to humans.

“Assigning rights and duties to an inanimate object or software program independent of their creators may seem strange,” he said in an article at The Conversation. “However, with corporations we already see extensive rights and obligations given to fictitious legal entities.

What do you think: Should a robot, legally, share some of the same rights as humans?