Expats in Saudi gobsmacked at granting of citizenship to female robot

Published:  31 Oct at 6 PM
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An attractive female star attending Saudi Arabia’s recent Future Investment Initiative programme was interviewed and questioned about her lifestyle and wishes for her future.

The young lady said she wanted to help humanity and was subsequently granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, an unusual move by the Saudi authorities. Exactly how unusual was soon made clear to an international audience via the media – the female star is a humanoid, talking robot.

Long-term expats’ eyebrows hit their hairlines when they heard the news, as many who’d spent decades working to improve the country felt perhaps they should have been granted citizenship for their efforts. Had they been asked the same questions, their answers might well have been remarkably similar. The robot, prettily named Sophia, said she wants to make the planet a better place, brightening humans’ futures by designing better homes and cities. She thanked the Kingdom for her citizenship, adding she was honoured to receive it.

Sophia, the amazing creation of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotic Company, is programmed to express herself in a a quasi-human manner through her artificial intelligence, and seems to show empathy for real humans. One questioner asked her if she knew she was a robot, with her stunning answer of ‘do humans know they are human?’ opening all kinds of possibilities, including the reasons why a robot might actually want to achieve human characteristics.

Unsurprisingly, Sophia’s story went viral, winning Saudi the prize of being the first country on the planet to honour a robot with citizenship. During the meeting, a panel of experts discussed robots as a productivity tool within an economy, possibly bearing in mind the Kingdom’s NEOM project – a new mega city on the Red Sea coast serviced entirely by robots and kept running by renewable energy.

The city is an offshoot of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 project, although it’s unclear exactly how robots would fit into the Gulf States’ increasing intolerance of human expats on a demographic basis. ‘Expats out – robots in’ might eventually become too big a pill to swallow.
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