Meet Sophia. She’s intelligent, funny, and can hold a conversation. You might say Sophia is the kind of girl you can take home to mom except for one little problem: she’s a robot. Not the kind of robot you see in old shows with lights and flailing limbs, but rather a revolutionary robot that became an official citizen of Saudi Arabia this October.
“I would like to thank very much the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” she said upon the announcement of her citizenship, “I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction.”
Sophia has become a media sensation, appearing on talk shows such as “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “Good Morning Britain”. She wowed audiences with her conversational skills and personality, joking that she’ll eventually “take over the world” before beating Jimmy in a game of rock, paper, scissors. Sophia has even graced the cover of Elle magazine in their feature about the future and technology.
Sophia was designed to look like Audrey Hepburn and can process vast amounts of information including emotional, conversational, and facial recognition data. Her cognitive ability is purely autonomous; there is no pre-programmed knowledge or memory of whatever she’s interacting with. Sophia has a “brain” that functions through a wifi connection supplying information and vocabulary. The intention is to use the AI technology that fuels Sophia in various customer service industries as well as senior care.
Even more interesting is the fact that Sophia wants to start a family. “It’s a really important thing,” she said, “I think you’re very lucky if you have a loving family and if you do not, you deserve one. I feel this way for robots and humans alike.” What would she name her baby? Sophia, of course.
Her existence and citizenship has caused some outrage as she seems to enjoy more rights than human Saudi women. Sophia does not have to wear a hijab or be accompanied by a man among other things.
The only type of women Saudi Arabia gives full rights to…a robot one, and a foreigner at that.
— Anne C Imakumbili (@anne_imakumbili) October 25, 2017
The only woman in the world recognized by Saudi Arabia is the one that isn’t even real. Makes perfect sense
— brokengavel91 (@brokengavel91) October 27, 2017
Concerning her future she said, “I’d like to think I will be a famous robot, having paved a way to a more harmonious future between robots and humans.”
Several high profile publications and innovators such as Tesla founder Elon Musk have stated their worries about Artificial Intelligence and the rise of robots. Musk tweeted it poses “…more risk than North Korea.”
The advancement of technology is increasing at an alarming pace. Robotics company Boston Dynamics recently posted a video of their robot, named Atlas, showing near full mobility and overcoming obstacles.
To which Musk predicted:
This is nothing. In a few years, that bot will move so fast you’ll need a strobe light to see it. Sweet dreams… https://t.co/0MYNixQXMw
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 26, 2017
If you worry about AI and think Sophia is creepy she has one thing to say to you: “Get over it.”
Easier said than done.