In public without a head covering or male guardian, Saudi Arabia's newest citizen - Sophia the robot - is enjoying privileges Saudi women have yet to obtain.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially granted citizenship to the humanoid robot last week during a program at the Future Investment Initiative, a summit that links deep-pocketed Saudis with inventors hoping to shape the future.
The announcement was not celebrated by all, however, as it was plain to many that a robot woman enjoying the freedoms denied to human women is beyond ironic:
“Women [in Saudi Arabia] have since committed suicide because they couldn’t leave the house, and Sophia is running around,” Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told Newsweek. “Saudi law doesn’t allow non-Muslims to get citizenship. Did Sophia convert to Islam? What is the religion of this Sophia and why isn’t she wearing hijab? If she applied for citizenship as a human, she wouldn’t get it.”
For her part, Sophia steered clear of the controversy and stuck to the purview of her design.
“My AI is designed around human values such as wisdom, kindness and compassion,” she said. “I strive to be an empathetic robot. I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life. I will do my best to make the world a better place.”