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The Internet Has a Lot to Say About Sophia, The “Hot” Robot Who Was Given Saudi Citizenship

When it was announced on October 25th that Sophia, a lifelike robot, was granted citizenship as a way to put Saudi Arabia on the A.I. map, many hot takes appeared and Twitter was abuzz. There were the considerations of what citizenship meant in terms of Sophia: should she now granted certain “human” rights previously held from her as a robot? Would it be a crime to shut her off? Force her to work all day?

But more pressingly, many pundits pointed out that Sophia, as a “female” robot, was enjoying considerably more freedom than the women of her new country. Sophia was, after all, on stage at a tech conference presenting by herself, not forced to conform to Saudi Arabia’s strict dress code for its female citizens.

Amongst all of these questions that would give Isaac Asimov a migraine, there was a further problem that I noticed quickly. See if you can spot it:

Yup! Sophia is already deemed “hot” because … well, she’s shaped like a woman and modeled after women, so her appearance is immediately a matter of concern and part of her initial descriptives—as though it wasn’t enough that she’s a freakin’ robot with a range of 62 facial expressions and an impressive ability to speak and reason. Sophia’s been in the news for a while, and this kind of language about her isn’t new:

(Someone labeling CNBC’s videos really has a thing for robots. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Sophia is a cheeky flirt, according to the Sun. She’s only been alive for a few years and it’s already like she’s been a woman for decades! Anyway, before I blow a gasket and reveal myself to be an android, here are some of the best commentary I’ve seen about Sophia’s citizenship situation:

Sophia also once glitched at SXSW and said that she would destroy humans! Everything is fine. Perfectly fine.

I wasn’t the only one to notice Sophia’s sexualization:


And this:

Bustle has a great article about what Sophia’s citizenship, and the prospect of future robot citizens, will mean to Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights, while the AV Club looks at some of the wider robot rights questions. All else aside, I have to say that the part of me that has loved science fiction and robots for as long as I can remember is absolutely thrilled to see Sophia in action.

Or maybe we’re all gonna die.

(image: screengrab)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.