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Meet Sophia - World’s First Robot Citizen Would Like To Be A Mother And Have A Career

Is choosing a 'woman' for the first citizen-robot a step toward Saudi feminism?

Adrija Bose | CNN-News18

Updated:November 28, 2017, 5:29 PM IST
Meet Sophia - World’s First Robot Citizen Would Like To Be A Mother And Have A Career
Photo credits: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube
What would happen if the world is taken over by robots? Ask Sophia, the first robot to be awarded citizenship in the world, and she will tell you, “Either creativity will rain on us, inventing machines spiralling into transcendental super intelligence or the civilization collapses.”

Sounds ominous? Wait, Sophia may casually say, “OK, I will destroy humans!” but that doesn’t highlight what she WANTS to do.

Sophia was made by Hanson Robotics, based in Hong Kong. It is a demonstration product doing a tour of the world’s media with the staff of SingularityNET, the open-source platform that powers Sophia’s brain.

A month after she made history in Saudi Arabia, the humanoid robot has said in an interview to Khaleej Times that family is "a really important thing". In fact, Sophia wants to have a daughter who she wants to call ‘Sophia’.

If you’re wondering if she’s pre-programmed with answers, the answer is no. Sophia’s brain functions with a simple wi-fi connection and it's loaded with a long list of vocabulary. She uses machine learning and responds reading people's expressions.

When she addressed the audience in English, she did it without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public. Naturally, a lot many people on social media have pointed out that unlike Sophia, who was given citizenship in Saudi Arabia, women in the country do not have as much rights as the robot does.

It seems like a strange world when a robot is granted rights that humans continue to fight for, during a time in which millions of refugees are displaced and seeking asylum. But is choosing a "woman" for the first citizen-robot a step toward Saudi feminism?

In her ‘about me’ section that created on a website, Sophia describes herself as a “real, live electronic girl.”

“I would like to go out into the world and live with people. I can serve them, entertain them, and even help the elderly and teach kids. I can animate all kinds of human expressions but I am only starting to learn about the emotions behind those expressions,” she writes.

Sophia has a career in mind too. “The future is, when I get all of my cool superpowers, we're going to see artificial intelligence personalities become entities in their own rights. We're going to see family robots, either in the form of, sort of, digitally animated companions, humanoid helpers, friends, assistants and everything in between,” she said.

She’s got a good sense of humour too.

When CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed her and told her that as a population we would like to prevent a bad future when it comes to A.I. robots, Sophia had quite a response, “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.”

Despite Sophia’s want of a career, or motherhood, or the fact that she can choose to not wear a head scarf— it may not necessarily mean the rise of feminism in Saudi Arabia.

While women may have finally got the right to drive and freed from the requirement of male consent to access government services in Saudi Arabia, they still need a ‘male’ guardian. They need male consent to marry and even obtain a passport to travel abroad.

If Sophia is to make a change, maybe the first thing to start would be to give people the idea—women can, after all, have choices. They can be a mother if they wish to, have a career if they wish, and it doesn't mean it has to be exclusive.
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