Saudi Arabia grants citizenship to a female robot

Saudi Arabia gave citizenship to a human-like robot named Sophia this week, becoming the first-ever nation in history to proclaim a machine to be a citizen. Some critics pointed out an irony, however: Sophia will have more freedom of movement and association than real-life Saudi women.
By Tyler Henderson | Oct 31, 2017
Saudi Arabia made robot history this week by proclaiming a humanoid machine named Sophia a Saudi citizen. No country in the world has ever bestowed official citizenship on a robot, and Sophia noted the lack of precedent in a speech that day at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh.

"I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction," Sophia said in a speech Wednesday. "This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with citizenship."

Human conference organizers presented "her" with a citizenship certificate that day. The Saudi Ministry of Culture confirmed the certificate's validity with a tweet that read: "Please welcome our newest Saudi: Sophia."

Many Twitter users mocked the announcement, however. They noted that Sophia arguably enjoys more rights than real-life Saudi women: She is not required to cover her head in public, for example, and she can navigate public places without a male relative or spouse accompanying her. Saudi law still compels women to wear veils when they leave the home and to never appear in public unless they have male chaperones.

"The only type of women Saudi Arabia gives full rights to...a robot one, and a foreigner at that," one user tweeted.

Sophia's birthplace is the United States. Hanson Robotics, a U.S. company known for making humanoid robots, created her.

Saudi officials have not specified what her citizenship will mean in practical terms, however, such as whether it would be illegal to dismantle her or shut her off, or if she would require a passport to leave or reenter the country.

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