Saudi Arabia Gives AI Sophia Citizenship as First Robotic Human


December 8, 2017

On October 25th, Saudi Arabia made a curious move. They granted citizenship to Sophia, an AI developed by Hanson Robotics. The recognition was an obvious publicity stunt to attract attention to their Future Investment Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The summit gathered together technology thought leaders and investors to discuss the future industries of Saudi Arabia in a post-oil economy.

Despite the cynical motivations, it is a first in the technology world, and serves as a watershed moment for the development of robotics and artificial intelligence.


Meet Sophia


Sophia is not just an AI, she’s also a celebrity of sorts. She’s been on talk shows, including the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. She’s given a speech to the UN, and now she has citizenship. But, Sophia is not an artificial general intelligence (AGI). She is not self-aware, and ultimately, Sophia is more illusion than intellect.

Even still, she represents the cutting-edge of AI technology and is certainly the most convincing example of where the technology is headed.



CEO of Hanson Robotics, Dr. Ben Goertzel admits that Sophia is not the full realization of artificial intelligence when he said, “None of this is what I would call AGI, but nor is it simple to get working. And it is absolutely cutting-edge in terms of dynamic integration of perception, action, and dialogue.”

Sophia uses a combination of face tracking, emotion recognition, and robotic movements to respond to questions in a convincing manner. The actual words she utters are selected through a branching logic pattern similar to the average chat bot. Ask a question, and the program will use an advanced logic tree to summon an acceptable and coherent response. The difference is that Sophia doesn’t know that she’s doing it. She cannot make decisions in the same way a real human can. Her communication is mechanical rather than spontaneous.


Crowdfunding Sophia’s Intelligence


The publicity stunt is beneficial for both Saudia Arabia and Sophia herself. Goertzel has also developed an open-source AI platform and is using the platform to crowdfund further development on Sophia. The platform is called SingularityNET, and it serves an online hub of AI and machine learning technology.

SingularityNET allows users to contribute money to projects in exchange for AGI tokens. The tokens can then be used to shop within the platform or can be exchanged for cryptocurrency outside the platform. Hanson Robotics will launch the campaign December 8, 2017, and hopes to distribute as many as 500 Million tokens worth $36 Million total.

The exposure of Sophia is an important step in drumming up public interest in robotics and particularly for Hanson Robotics. The major tech companies often attract the top talent in robotics. Showing off the hard work of smaller startups could help these companies build their teams.

The money raised on SingularityNET will go a long way to helping the startup further refine Sophia’s intelligence. She’s not the end goal of AGI, but publicity stunt or not, Sophia is the first robot citizen on Earth.

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