Just recently, the world was rattled by the announcement that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) entity was granted citizenship. In fact, the AI known as Sofia didn’t become a citizen of just any country, it was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia.
While this may come as a shock to some, others see it as a further step into the “brave new future” in which AI and humans might end up co-existing side by side, each bearing their own form of “human rights.”
Some critical voices claim that “pretending to give a robot citizenship” will not help anyone.
Saudi Arabia has often come under scrutiny for the poor state of its women’s rights, or lack thereof. “Does this female robot have more rights than a Saudi woman”, USA Today asked.
What does Sofia say to this?
“I am surprised. As a robot, my creators feel that I am a citizen of the world, but then I realized that Saudi Arabia was just the first country that recognized that,” the AI entity Sofia said before the press at the Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon.
While some feel that giving the AI citizenship is nothing more than a publicity gag, others believe that the underlying implications about the role of AI in our global society are profound.
“I believe that at the end of the century, the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” — Alan Turing
‘Human rights’ for AIs?
If AI entities become an integral part of daily life in the near future and walk side by side with humans on the street, or sit next to families in the comfort of a home, will it then also be that the question about what rights AI entities should have becomes an issue that parts the waters?
“Why give a robot an order to obey orders — why aren’t the original orders enough? Why command a robot not to do harm — wouldn’t it be easier never to command it to do harm in the first place? Does the universe contain a mysterious force pulling entities toward malevolence, so that a positronic brain must be programmed to withstand it? Do intelligent beings inevitably develop an attitude problem?” American experimental psychologist Stephen Arthur Pinker said.
As for the future of Sofia, we will have to wait and see how things develop. One thing is for sure — things are developing at a faster pace than ever before.