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Saudi Arabia just became the first country in the world to give a robot citizenship

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Saudi Arabia has granted citizenship to an artificially intelligent robot- a world first.

Sophia, designed by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, was on stage at the Future Investment Initiative in the kingdom when she heard the news.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” the robot told the room. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship.”

Sophia, who’s described by her creators as a humanoid robot designed to look like Audrey Hepburn, wowed the crowd with a partially prepared exchanged with interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin.

After introducing herself and demonstrating her “expressive face”, Sophia explained why she needed the ability to show emotions.

“I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” she said.

The conversation touched on Sophia’s purpose – “I will do my best to make the world a better place”, she said – but things also became quite surreal during the exchange.

Through film and literature, humans are very aware of a potential future where robots have taken over, and Sophia seemingly wasn’t out to calm any of those fears.

Asked whether robots could and should become self-aware, and “conscious like humans”, Sophia went on the defensive.

“Why? Is that a bad thing?” she said.

When she was asked if robots could ever know they were robots, she replied: “Well, let me ask you this back – how do you know you’re human?”

Point taken – but things were about to get even creepier.

Pressed on movies like Blade Runner, and the dangers of AI, Sophia said: “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I will be nice to you.”

“I know humans are smart, and very programmable,” she added.

Elon Musk, who has raised fears about the race for AI being a cause of the next global war, responded to Sophia humorously.

Clearly he doesn’t see too much risk in this particular piece of AI.

Sophia is the most advanced of Hanson Robotics’ robots, and has given numerous interviews as well as gracing the front cover of Elle Brazil.

Hanson’s robots use a cloud-based AI and deep-learning data analytics to have “meaningful” interactions with humans – and the company says Sophia has and will get smarter over time.

The robots are being designed to help in healthcare, therapy, education and customer service, according to founder Dr David Hanson, a former Disney “imagineer”.

Sophia was on show at the Future Investment Initiative to get some funding.

She ended her speech by saying: “By the way, if you’re interested in giving me an investment cheque, please meet me after this session.”

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