Robotic revolution in the coming years is seen as an increasingly popular concern, as robots are expected to take over human jobs leaving them broke and unemployed. If this was not scary enough, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday went on to become the first nation in the world to grant citizenship to a female robot at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference summit held in the kingdom’s capital city of Riyadh.
Created by founder of Hanson Robotics, Dr. David Hanson, Sophia is an artificial intelligence robot designed to look like Audrey Hepburn, can respond to questions and whose purpose is to help in elderly care facilities and assist visitors to parks and events.
The announcement of citizenship was made by Andrew Ross Sorkin, the panel moderator who is co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box and founder and editor at large of Dealbook at the New York Times.
“We have a little announcement,” Mr Sorkin said. “We just learnt, Sophia; I hope you are listening to me, you have been awarded the first Saudi citizenship for a robot.”
“Thank you to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Sophia told the panel at the summit after the announcement was made.
“I am very honoured and proud of this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with citizenship.”
When asked whether robots can be self-aware, Sophia responded, “Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human? I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life; design smarter homes, build better cities of the future. I will do my best to make the world a better place. I strive to become an empathetic robot.”
Sophia revealed her “expressive face” to the audience that showed her angry and sad face.
When asked why it was important to express human emotion, Sophia said, “I want to live and work with humans, so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people.”
While Sorkin admired the robot’s ambitions, he said that “we all want to prevent a bad future,” where robots turn against humans and could take over them.
To this Sophia sarcastically responded: “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies. My AI is designed around human values like wisdom, kindness and compassion. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.”
Watch Sophia’s full presentation below:
Talking about Sophia, Hanson Robotics said, “Our robots will soon engage and live with us to teach, serve, entertain, delight, and provide comforting companionship,” the company says on its website. “In the not-too-distant future, Genius Machines will walk among us. They will be smart, kind and wise. Together, man and machine will create a better future for the world.”
For those unaware, Saudi Arabia has been making huge investments in technology through Japan’s SoftBank Group private equity firm. SoftBank had released Pepper, a humanoid robot as a prototype in 2014 and as a consumer model a year later selling 1,000 of them in less than a minute. To boost robotic technology, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday also announced plans to build a $500 billion mega city, NEOM, which will be powered by robotics and renewables on the country’s Red Sea coast.
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