October 27, 2017

SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia gives citizenship to a female robot, claims global first, Accused of Giving a Female Robot More Rights Than Real Women.

The Economic Times
written by Bloomberg staff
Thursday October 26, 2017

A robot with Saudi citizenship? It’s the latest surreal scene from the kingdom’s “Davos in the Desert,” where Saudi Arabia’s leaders have been attempting to impress their economic ambitions upon the rest of the world.

In a three-day event that has already seen the country announce its intent to build an entirely new city -- called Neom -- from scratch, the announcement that a robot named Sophia has been granted Saudi citizenship stands apart.

Alongside a holographic lion and a virtual rollercoaster, the robot has been on display at the Future Investment Initiative held by Saudi Public Investment Fund this week.

“Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said the robot, named Sophia, when she learnt of her ostensible citizenship. “It is historic to be the first robot in the world granted citizenship.”

The announcement could be controversial among conservative Saudis, many of whom believe that representation ..

In a statement, the Saudi government’s Center for International Communication described the citizenship as “no laughing matter.”
Broadly News
written by Leila Ettachfini
Friday October 27, 2017

This week, Saudi Arabia became the first country in the world to grant citizenship to a robot. Named Sophia, the robot was announced as a Saudi citizen at the Future Investment Initiative summit on Wednesday in Riyadh by CNBC anchor and panel moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin. "I'd like to thank very much the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Sophia said to the audience from behind a podium. "I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction."

Sophia was created by Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong and first activated in April of 2015. She is a white woman robot whose human-like appearance is almost completely believable when she's wearing a wig. Her "skin" stops just after her forehead and behind her ears, exposing mechanics where we humans have brains. On its webpage dedicated to Sophia, the robotics company offers a meticulous description of her appearance unlike that of her fellow "male" robots: "Designed to look like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia embodies Hepburn's classic beauty: porcelain skin, a slender nose, high cheekbones, an intriguing smile, and deeply expressive eyes that seem to change color with the light." Since her activation, Sophia has become quite the accomplished machine, appearing on the cover of Elle Brazil and on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She's even had a high-profile feud with billionaire Elon Musk, a staunch critic of artificial intelligence who's warned that the technology could lead to the next world war.

Inside the King Abdullah International Conference Center where the summit took place, Sophia's citizenship announcement was met with cheers and applause. Once news spread, however, many of Sophia's fellow Saudi citizens were less enthused. Some claimed that the robot was already being granted rights that actual Saudi women do not have. For one, Sophia presented to a large group of men dressed in neither a headscarf nor an abaya, the traditionally black loose-fitting garment worn by Saudi women. In the past, Saudi women have been arrested for so much as posting a picture of themselves without these garments on.

On Twitter, women wondered where Sophia's male guardian was and if she was required to have one as all Saudi women are under the country's guardianship system. Following the announcement on Wednesday, the hashtag #صوفيا_تطالب_باسقاط_الولايه or #sophia_demands_that_guardianship_be_dropped gained traction. "I want to become Sophia one day and get my rights," tweeted one Saudi woman under the hashtag.

Others condemned the country for granting citizenship to a robot when its citizenship laws for humans remain extremely strict and are criticized by human rights organizations globally. Women who are citizens of Saudi Arabia cannot pass on their nationality to their children or their spouses. Further, the KSA has a history of treating its population of over 9 million foreign workers very poorly, refusing them citizenship and the ability to leave the country freely.

Broadly reached out to the Saudi CIC to ask whether Sophia will be held to the same legal standards that actual Saudi women are. This post will be updated with their response.

Sophia's citizenship comes at a pivotal point in Saudi Arabia's history, as the country is aiming to position itself as a world leader in lifestyle and technological advancement. In the past year, the country has relaxed its guardianship laws and announced that women will be allowed to drive beginning in the summer of 2018. Earlier this week, Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made two huge announcements: First, that he plans to return the KSA to "the moderate Islam that is open to the world," and second, that he plans to build a $500 billion mega-city called NEOM from scratch that will be unlike anything the world has ever seen. Experts have speculated that these two announcements are very much related. According to a press release provided to Broadly by Saudi Arabia's Center for International Communication (CIC), "Robotics will be a big feature of NEOM."
Mashable News
written by Yvette Tan
Friday October 27, 2017

A robot has just been given a big privilege in Saudi Arabia, and people are questioning if it's unfair to the country's own women.

Sophia the robot, made by American firm Hanson Robotics, has been officially named a citizen of Saudi Arabia — the first country in the world to grant a robot the right to citizenship.

"I’m very honoured and proud for this unique distinction," Sophia said, speaking at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on Wednesday, where she was awarded citizenship.

"This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship.”

While that's great for Sophia, the news has sparked much criticism, with many online pointing out that Sophia has quickly gained more rights than millions of women in Saudi Arabia.

For one, Saudi Arabia is one of a few Muslim majority countries that legally imposes a dress code. Women are required to wear a headscarf and an abaya, a garment that covers a woman, down to her ankles.

Sophia, during her speech on stage, was not dressed in either, nor was she accompanied by a male companion.

In Saudi Arabia, every woman is expected to have a man with her in public, who is given authority to act on her behalf.

People in Saudi Arabia quickly reacted with the Arabic hashtag, #صوفيا_تطالب_باسقاط_الولايه, which translates to #Sophia_demands_the_repeal_of_guardianship.

The caption for the picture below reads "The difference between Sophia and a Saudi woman."

While this one reads: "How Sophia will look like."

Women in Saudi Arabia were only this year granted the right to drive, in what is perhaps one of the most significant milestones in recent times for women in the country.

Before the ruling was passed, they needed permission from a legal guardian to get a license, and needed a guardian in the car when they drove.

However, Saudi women are still left behind in many areas.

Saudi women cannot perform various activities including getting married, obtaining a passport and travelling, without the consent of their legal guardian.

Legal guardians are typically a brother, father, uncle or husband.

No comments: