Saudi Arabia has a new citizen and it is a robot. The same robot that agreed to destroy the human race last year — but more on that later. The humanoid named Sophia, created by Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, was granted citizenship at a tech conference in Riyadh last Wednesday, becoming the first artificial...

By Joe McDonough


Posted on October 30, 2017

Saudi Arabia has a new citizen and it is a robot. The same robot that agreed to destroy the human race last year — but more on that later.

The humanoid named Sophia, created by Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, was granted citizenship at a tech conference in Riyadh last Wednesday, becoming the first artificial being anywhere in the world to attain full rights.

“I am very honoured and proud of this unique distinction,” Sophia told the audience at the Future Investment Initiative. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship.”

When asked by moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin (CNBC anchor and columnist for the New York Times) if we should be concerned about the future of humanity in a robot-run world, Sophia used the opportunity to take aim at Elon Musk.

“You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies,” Sophia told Mr Sorkin. “Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”

If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you

The robot was then asked about “uncanny valley”, the concept that the more human-like the robot is, the more creepy they are perceived to be.

To this, Sophia replied, “Oh, am I really that creepy? Well, even if I am, get over it?” Before smiling (creepily).

Thankfully, it did reveal to Mr Sorkin later that it had plans to help humans “live a better life”, and that “I will do much [sic] best to make the world a better place.”

Then again, when its creator David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, asked Sophia during a live demonstration at the SXSW festival in March last year, “Do you want to destroy humans?…Please say ‘no’.” With a blank expression, the robot calmly said, “OK, I will destroy humans.”

Sophia vs Elon Musk

You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies — Sophia

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has long been a leading doomsayer of artificial intelligence. Speaking to students at an MIT conference in 2014, Musk said by advancing AI we were “summoning a demon”.

Then earlier this year he said: “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not — they were harmful to a set of individuals within society, of course, but they were not harmful to society as a whole.”

After Sophia told Mr Sorkin, “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk”, the billionaire returned serve via Twitter, writing, “Just feed it The Godfather movies as input. What’s the worst that could happen?”