Home » Opinion: Was Sophia the Saudi Arabian Robot Citizen a PR Stunt?

Opinion: Was Sophia the Saudi Arabian Robot Citizen a PR Stunt?

Last week, we brought you the bizarre story that Sophia the robot had been awarded honorary citizenship by Saudi Arabia. This caused widespread uproar amongst human rights groups and on social media, and it was picked up by many of the big media outlets, but it turns out that the whole affair was just one great big PR stunt.

AI Robot, Sophia, became the first robot citizen. But was there more to the story and, although impressive and featuring genuine AI, do the animatronic features of Sophia suggest the goal here is the appearance of humanity – rather than an extension of it?

This caused widespread uproar amongst human rights groups and on social media, and it was picked up by many of the big media outlets, but it turns out that the whole affair was mainly a PR stunt.

The eye-grabbing headlines were a well strategised ploy to promote a tech summit in Saudi Arabia, but some experts say this sort of approach to robot rights is actively damaging, both to public understanding of technology and to civil society itself.

So what about Sophia’s amazing conversational abilities that led to the robot having an argument with Elon Musk?

Sophia can hold a stilted conversation, but critics have argued that it seems to be prewritten responses to key words programmed into it.

And while Sophia does look sort-of-human, it turns out the robot’s creator David Hanson spent years working as a Walt Disney imagineer making “characters and props.” Is Sophia as life like as the animatronics at theme parks? Or a genuine look to the future?

Is a lot of this one big illusion? But the question still remains: if Sophia really was a conscious entity, would it be right to give it citizenship?

What do you think? Is this a legit ethics question, or was this PR stunt just a step too far? Tweet us @disrutpivelive or using the #disruptivelive with your comments.

It started with a tweet:

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Analyst, broadcaster and occasional tweeter.

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