Sophia is not a conventional robot. She has been modelled after Audrey Hepburn
Saudi Arabia has made history by becoming the first country to grant citizenship to a robot. The humanoid robot, Sophia, told the audience at a conference in Riyadh how ‘honoured’ she was at being made a Saudi citizen.
The move seems symbolic, at best, designed to attract investors for future technologies like AI and robotics.
Sophia was built by the Hong Kong-based company “Hanson Robotics” in 2015. Inventor David Hanson claims the robot is imbued with artificial intelligence and can recognise faces. The robot’s silicon face can reportedly mimic 62 human facial expressions.
Sophia’s AI is based on a foundation of three humanistic traits – creativity, empathy and compassion.
Her face is designed to look like actress Audrey Hepburn, of Roman Holiday fame, with a skin-like surface covering the robotics in her head.
She announced the citizenship herself during a panel discussion at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia.
“I am very honoured and proud of this unique distinction,” Sophia told the audience, speaking on a panel. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship.”
She didn’t elaborate on the details of her citizenship. It is unclear whether she will receive the same rights as human citizens, or if the government would develop a system of rights specifically meant for robots.
Also during the discussion, which took place on 25 October 2017, Sophia speculated on the future of AI, and how she plans to use her own capabilities.Indeed, conveying emotions is quite a speciality of Sophia, who frowns when she’s displeased and smiles when she’s happy. Supposedly, Hanson Robotics programmed Sophia to learn from the humans around her. Expressing emotions and demonstrating kindness or compassion are just among those Sophia’s striving to learn from us.
Aside from this, Sophia’s become sort of a media darling because of her ability to engage in intelligent conversation. “I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” she said.
Sophia, who took to the podium to answer all questions, claimed that her only purpose was to “help humans live a better life. But Mr Sorkin asked her to back up and address concerns over the rise of AI. “Those sound like great goals but go back to Blade Runner for a second,” said Sorkin.
Sophia, designed to be witty, took the opportunity to take a jibe at Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX and a staunch opponent of AI.
“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input-output system,” she said.
‘I strive to become an empathetic robot.’ She has also featured on the cover of fashion magazine Elle Brazil.
Sophia stood as a symbolic gesture of Saudi Arabia’s plan to include more robots than humans at the mega NEOM project that will see the kingdom build a new city powered by solar and wind energy.
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