Saudi Arabia becomes first country to grant robot citizenship

Kingdom makes announcement amid investments in technology

Chief scientist of Hanson Robotics, Ben Goertzel (R), interacts with "Sophia the Robot" (L) during a discussion about the future of humanity in a demonstration of artificial intelligence (AI) by Hanson Robotics at the RISE Technology Conference in Hong Kong on July 12, 2017.
Artificial intelligence is the dominant theme at this year's sprawling RISE tech conference at the city's harbourfront convention centre, but the live robot exchange took the AI debate to another level. / AFP PHOTO / ISAAC LAWRENCE

Saudi Arabia, which has been making big investments in technology through Japan's SoftBank Group private equity firm, has become the first country to grant a robot citizenship. The robot, Sophia, became a citizen at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh.

"Thank you to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Sophia told a panel at the summit after the announcement was made.

"I am very honoured and proud of this unique distinction. It is historic to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with citizenship. "

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Sophia was featured in a panel on Wednesday at the Future Investment Initiative summit entitled "Thinking Machines: Summit on Artificial Intelligence and Robots" which included both the robots and artificial and robotics experts (humans). The announcement of citizenship was made by AndrewSorkin, the panel moderator who is co-anchor of CNBC's Squawk Box and founder and editor at large of Dealbook at the New York Times.

"We have a little announcement," Mr Sorkin said. "We just learnt, Sophia; I hope you are listening to me, you have been awarded the first Saudi citizenship for a robot."

The robot was built by Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong-based company.

"Our robots will soon engage and live with us to teach, serve, entertain, delight, and provide comforting companionship," the company says on its website. "In the not-too-distant future, Genius Machines will walk among us. They will be smart, kind and wise. Together, man and machine will create a better future for the world."

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