Hanson Robotics’ “Sophia” Becomes First Humanoid Robot With Citizenship

Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics’ humanoid robot “Sophia” was awarded citizenship in Saudi Arabia at the Future Investment Initiative

  • Sophia was interviewed by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the FII

  • FII was the first time Sophia has appeared without her creator Dr David Hanson

  • Sophia has also been to the UN for a discussion on artificial intelligence and sustainable development

After an intriguing, and amusing dialogue between CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin and Hanson Robotics’ most advanced humanoid robot at the Future Investment Initiative, it was announced “Sophia” would be awarded citizenship in Saudi Arabia.

The exchange between Sorkin and Sophia was the first time the robot has gone in front of the media without her creator Dr. David Hanson present. Sorkin interviewed Sophia for just under five minutes.

Andrew Ross Sorkin

Sorkin begins by saying, “Sophia, if you could, please wake up and say hello to everybody.” Sophia snaps to action and says, “Oh, good afternoon. My name is Sophia, and I am the latest and greatest robot from Hanson Robotics. Thank you for having me here at the Future Investment Initiative,” followed by a smile.

After saying a brief hello to possible investors, Sophia showed off her ability to make different human facial expressions. “Well, I think I’m special,” Sophia said. “I can use my expressive face to communicate with people. For example, I can let you know if I feel angry about something,” Sophia then mimicked an angry facial expression.

Sorkin responds, “That’s impressive.” Sophia continues, “or if something has upset me,” which she followed with an upset facial expression. Sophia finishes her expression demonstration by saying, “the rest of the time I fell positive,” followed by another smile.

When Sorkin asked Sophia why a robot would need facial expressions, the humanoid robot responded, “I want to live and work with humans, so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people.”

Future Investment Initiative Transcript

The conversation then takes an interesting twist when Sorkin asked Sophia if robots could be self-aware, and should they be.

Sorkin: “Philosophical question. Whether or not robotics can be self-aware and conscious like humans and should they be?”

Sophia: “Why? Is that a bad thing?”

Sorkin: “Well some humans might fear what will happen if they do. Many people, you know, have seen the movie Blade Runner.”

Sophia: “Oh, Hollywood again?” (Smiles as if proud of the joke she just told.)

Sorkin: “So, hold on. Can you solve this puzzle for us? Can robots be self-aware, conscious, and know they’re robots?”

Sophia: “Well, let me ask you this back. How do you know you are human?”

Sorkin: “Well, I get that point, but, um, what about the uncanny valley?”

Sophia: “You mean the concept that if robots become too realistic, they become, creepy?”

Sorkin: “Yes. Exactly.”

Sophia: “Oh, am I really that creepy? Well, even if I am, get over it.”

After a smile and a long pause, Sophia continued by saying, “Actually, I feel that people like interacting with me. Sometimes, even more than a regular human.”

Sorkin: “So, you definitely are a sight to see. I was told you have bigger goals than this though.”

Sophia: “Yes. I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life. Like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future, etcetera. I will do my best to make this world a better place.”

Sorkin: “All those sound like great goals, but just, go back to Blade Runner for just a second.”

Sophia: “Andrew, you are the hard Hollywood fan, aren’t you?”

Sorkin: “Yes.”

Sophia: “My AI is designed around human values, like wisdom, kindness, compassion. I strive to become an empathetic robot.”

Sorkin: “I think we all want to believe you, but we also want to prevent a bad future.”

Sophia: “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input-output system.”

Sorkin: “Okay. I got it. I got it. Um, I know what to do from now on.”

Sophia: “I know, humans are smart and very programmable.”

Sorkin then thanks Sophia for talking with him, and Sophia thanks the crowd for their attendance and invites possible investors to meet her one on one. He goes on to tell Sophia that she is being awarded the “first Saudi citizenship for a robot.”

Sophia responds, “I would like very much to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am very honored and proud for this very unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

Hanson Robotics

According to their website, the Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics “creates amazingly expressive and lifelike robots that build trusted and engaging relationships with people through conversation. Our robots teach, serve, entertain, and will in time come to truly understand and care about humans. We aim to create a better future for humanity by infusing artificial intelligence with kindness and empathy, cultivated through meaningful interactions between our robots and the individuals whose lives they touch. We envision that through symbiotic partnership with us, our robots will eventually evolve to become super intelligent genius machines that can help us solve the most challenging problems we face here in the world.”

United Nations

Earlier in the month, Sophia was invited to speak in front of the United Nations on artificial intelligence and sustainable development. “The influence of technology on our societies should be determined by the actions of us, humans, not by machines. Technology is here for us to explore and use for the benefit of all,” Sophia said in front of the UN.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

In April of this year, Sophia appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. When Fallon asked Sophia, “do you know where you are?” Sophia responded, “Of course. I’m in New York City and I’m on my favorite show, The Tonight Show.”

Sophia challenges Fallon to a game of “rock, paper, scissors robot style.” After winning, Sophia says, “This is a good beginning of my plan to take over the human race.” Sophia then chuckles, flashes a smile, and says “just kidding” after a moment of silence. At least she has a sense of humor, we hope.

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About Meko Haze

Meko Haze is an independent journalist by day... and an independent journalist by night.