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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Saudi Arabia takes terrifying step to the future by granting a robot citizenship

Blade Runner 2049 (Photo: Courtesy of Alcon Entertainment)
Blade Runner 2049 (Photo: Courtesy of Alcon Entertainment)

Every advancement in artificial intelligence technology seems like a step closer to one of Hollywood’s many robot-related dystopias. A robot becomes impossibly good at Ms. Pac-Man? That robot will soon be a Terminator. Robots learn how to track humans even when not on the internet? That will be helpful for when the machines need to herd us together to power their Matrix batteries. Now, the Saudi Arabian government is apparently intent and tossing humanity directly into the Blade Runner future, with CNBC reporting that it has granted citizenship to a “lifelike hot robot named Sophia.” Don’t let the human-like face and voice fool you, though, because—as evidenced by literally everything else—this thing is a machine.

Saudi Arabia is the first nation in the world to grant citizenship to a robot, but as noted by Dezeen, there’s one crucial detail missing here: Does Sophia have the same rights as a human? Would it be illegal to keep her confined and force her to do typical robot tasks like building cars or becoming really good at arcade games? Would she be allowed to vote? Can she get married? Would it be murder to turn her off or erase her memory? And what if someone tried to do that and she resisted? Would she be allowed to fight for survival even if it means going on the run, killing her maker, and then beating the shit out of Harrison Ford?


Of course, Sophia isn’t exactly more human than human yet, and she’s just sort of a gimmick to try and replicate physical human traits and behavior (rather than the human-like ability to beat the shit out of Harrison Ford). Still, though, the robot getting Saudi Arabian citizenship—even if that’s also a gimmick—is going to be a big step to look back on when we’re riding in flying cars and spending the evenings with our holographic spouses.

If you’d like another look at Sophia (especially one that suggests she’s pretty far from becoming Roy Batty), here’s a video of her cracking jokes with Jimmy Fallon:

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