Sophia robot Saudi citizenship fuels controversy

Occurred: October 2017

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A decision by Saudi Arabian government to grant citizenship to the humanoid Sophia robot fueled controversy about the merits of robot rights and resulted in accusations of hypocrisy. 

The decision prompted commentators and social media users to point out that Sophia would have more rights than the country's women, who must have a male guardian, wear a hijab, cannot mix with unrelated males, and are unfairly represented in the justice system.

The move also resulted in accusations that Saudia Arabia was likely primarily looking for positive publicity. The country claimed to be the first nation to bestow citizenship upon a robot, despite it being designed and developed in Hong Kong.

The European Parliament had earlier released a report (pdf) proposing to grant autonomous robots 'personhood' or legal status in order to establish liability, but not confer rights given to humans.

Operator: Hanson Robotics
Developer: Hanson Robotics

Country: Saudi Arabia

Sector: Technology

Purpose: Multi-purpose

Technology: NLP/text analysis; Facial recognition
Issue: Robot rights; Hypocrisy

Page info
Type: Issue
Published: August 2023