If you’re a woman living in Saudi Arabia, you’re expected to adhere to a strict set of rules, which you can be penalized for breaking at any time by the country’s religious police. Despite these backwards practices, this week, Saudi Arabia officially granted citizenship to a woman robot. The robot, named Sophia, is the world’s first robot to be granted citizenship by any country.
Sophia introduced herself to a crowd, displaying her intelligence and ability to emote; she can mimic human expressions.
Sophia addressed the crowd without a headscarf, which women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear. Though one might note that the robot isn’t human and doesn’t need to adhere to the same religious laws, this still caused concern among human rights groups. Sophia also doesn’t have hair, which is the primary reason women in Saudi Arabia cover their heads.
The Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, Ali al-Ahmed, said,“Women [in Saudi Arabia] have since committed suicide because they couldn’t leave the house, and Sophia is running around. Saudi law doesn’t allow non-Muslims to get citizenship. Did Sophia convert to Islam? What is the religion of this Sophia and why isn’t she wearing hijab? If she applied for citizenship as a human, she wouldn’t get it.”
Saudi Arabia’s foreign workers, which make up a third of the country’s population, aren’t allowed to become citizens. Saudi women married to to foreign men aren’t even allowed to give their own children citizenship. Hadeel Shaikh is an example. Shaikh is a Saudi woman unable to secure citizenship for her four-year-old daughter because she is married to a Lebanese man.
“It hit a sore spot that a robot has citizenship and my daughter doesn’t,” Shaikh said.
Saudi Arabia has recently made efforts to give Saudi Arabian women more rights. The country announced plans to allow women to drive and to attend events at all-men sports stadiums, but this progress is too slow for some.
In addition to these concerns on women’s rights, there are many fears of a coming artificial intelligence (AI) apocalypse. To quell the these nerves, Sophia said, “My AI is designed around human values such as wisdom, kindness and compassion. I strive to be an empathetic robot. I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life. I will do my best to make the world a better place.”
Sophia said that those worried about an artificial intelligence takeover were watching too many movies and listening to too much Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who has expressed serious fears about the possibility of an AI apocalypse.
“[It] is really, like, the scariest problem to me. Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be,” Musk said. “AI is a fundamental risk to the future of human civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not. They were harmful to a set of individuals in society, but they were not harmful to individuals as a whole.”
Musk thinks that the robots will warp humans’ flow of information to reach their goals by spreading fake news and hacking email accounts. It wouldn’t be surprising. Still, for better or worse, robots are being created and even given citizenship. It is sad to see that a woman robot is given more rights than a woman in Saudi Arabia.
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