Meet the first ever robot to become a citizen of a country

She’s bold, intelligent and now and then comes across as somewhat conceited. She always gets away though.

She’s a robot.

And if you’ve ever been wondering which country has the highest population of robot citizens, we’re here to give you a hint. It’s not Japan, nor the USA.

Saudi Arabia became the first country in the world to welcome a robot as a citizen, at the Future Investment Initiative on October 25 in Saudi Arabia, Arab News reported.

Enter Sophia.

I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship,” she said at the event.

Sophia was created by Hanson Robotics, a company founded by US robot designer David Franklin Hanson, Jr.

But she is no regular robot.

“My AI was designed around human values like wisdom, kindness compassion and strife to become an empathetic robot”, she said about herself.

Thanks to a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), visual data processing and facial recognition technologies, Sophia now looks creepily like a woman. Able to imitate some facial expressions like joy and sadness, and answer some questions, she’s been on national and international TV, and made the front cover of the Brazilian edition of Elle magazine.

And just like humans, she has a dark side. She claims she wants to use her AI to make the world a better place. But not without a price.

If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you”, she said in what looked like a fully-scripted interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Sophia, who had previously stated she wanted to “destroy humans” and “dominate the human race”, now made a joke referring to Elon Musk’s concerns about AI.

To Sorkin’s question, what humans can do to prevent a bad future, she responded:

“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk”.

A remark that got Musk himself to tweet:

Tesla’s founder has repeatedly appealed for extreme caution designing AI, saying that “with artificial intelligence we’re “summoning the demon”.

Sophia’s answers at the interview, however, were full of optimism, explaining that most of the time she is positive.

I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future, etc. I will do my best to make the world a better place”, she said.

In an earlier conversation with her creator David Hanson, she had expressed hopes that in the future she would have a home, go to school and even have a family.

Well, finding a home country seems like a good first step.

Alongside with being a good PR stunt on the part of Saudi Arabia and Hanson Robotics, the announcement about the first Saudi robot citizen is in line with the country’s grandiose ambitions to transform itself into an important business and technology hub of the future.

Recently, the Saudi kingdom announced plans to build an automated mega city worth $500 billion which will run on clean energy, AI and a glamorous blend of other future tech.

For a glimpse of what the new project is envisioned to look like, you might want to check out the below video.

And in case you’ve been wondering whether robots will and should have equal rights in the future, many have voiced critical comments that Sophia already has more rights than Saudi women. She can appear in public on her own and even without a hijab. Saudi women need to be wearing a hijab at all times in public and walk around in the company of a man.

It is all justified by Sophia’s high goals however. As Hanson implies in his newly published book “Humanizing Robots: How making humanoids can make us more human“, he’s on a mission to save the world.

“If compassion proves an advanced form of intelligence – a.k.a “wisdom”, then without compassionate machines, the future bodes of annihilation or stagnation rather than creativity. As strange or mad as it sounds, the effort to humanize our machines, then, could ultimately be an effort to save the world and achieve global transcendence. Alternatively, these efforts may spin the world out of control still faster”, he writes. 

For the most curious ones out there, you can reach out and connect with Sophia here.