Recently Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a very advanced robot:

A humanoid robot took the stage at the Future Investment Initiative yesterday and had an amusing exchange with the host to the delight of hundreds of delegates.

Smartphones were held aloft as Sophia, a robot designed by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, gave a presentation that demonstrated her capacity for human expression.

Sophia made global headlines when she was granted Saudi citizenship, making the kingdom the first country in the world to offer its citizenship to a robot.

Being a citizen involves both rights and responsibilities, and (debatable) Sophia might be in trouble with some of her responsibilities.

Question: Why would a country grant citizenship to a robot?

  • 6
    Because they can. That's it. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 20:58
  • 3
    Because they have low standards. Such grants could be the delight of a democratic tyrant, who could mass produce voters for their own party, (preferably nanobots, so the tyrant could keep them in their pocket), while outlawing the production of any other political variety.
    – agc
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 21:12
  • 19
    If they granted it all of the rights that they grant to a Saudi woman, then I wouldn't worry too much about the consequences. Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 0:30
  • 7
    Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, so being a citizen there is less impressive than being a citizen in, say, a republic. Also, since Sophia doesn't have free will or desires, it's not like it's going to exercise its citizenship rights in any meaningful way.
    – user2565
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 13:52
  • 1
    Doesn't Islam have some rules about making things that don't have souls but look like they might.
    – user9389
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:28

3 Answers 3


I think you have answered your own question (emphasis mine):

Sophia made global headlines when she was granted Saudi citizenship, making the kingdom the first country in the world to offer its citizenship to a robot.

  • Headlines? Check.

  • Sounds cool? Check.

  • No risk of actual damage? Check.

  • Does not offend anybody? Check.

  • Free publicity for an event inside the country? Check.

This is just a publicity stunt.

  • 6
    Inside their borders, a country may grant almost whatever they want to (there are limitations due to international pressure, human rights and the like). Of course, that does not mean that it is meaningful.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 19:54
  • 17
    If they gave her a driving license, that would be something.
    – ugoren
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 20:48
  • 3
    This was like the awarding of a residence card to a seal (tama-chan) that swam up one of Japan's rivers by one of Tokyo wards. It has the potential to offend if, as with the seal, it is denied to humans with a much better claim.
    – James K
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 21:13
  • 1
    @Alexei: certainly a country could grant citizenship or other rights to a non-human. What makes this just a publicity stunt is the fact that we are nowhere near being able to create anything other than a human, that is ABLE to claim and deliver on the rights and duties of a citizen. This "robot" can no more commit a crime by itself than a gun can or earn money than a vending machine can. If it was actually able to do so, then it's creator should be jailed for enslavement.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 0:46
  • 3
    "Does not offend anybody? Check." I think you underestimate the capability of people to get offended. ;)
    – jpmc26
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 2:42

As clearly evident, its a publicity stunt.

If its seen along with the context of the newly appointed Crown prince and its efforts to grab headlines abroad, will give some insights.

After the Saudi's "failed" military campaign in Yemen & Syria, embargo on Qatar, etc., there is effort to project the kingdom in good light

The much publicized recent interviews of the Crown Prince Salman about his plans to modernize and also "to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam" is noteworthy.

The irony is in a country which recently gave driving rights to Women is granting a citizenship to "female named humanoid" Sophia :)

If things happen as he says, well and good..


The example case is a publicity stunt, as others have pointed out.

But the question is general enough that I think another answer is in scope:

When and if robots become sufficiently smart, countries will give them citizenship for the same reasons they now give citizenship to humans.

To protect them, to expect them to contribute to society, to advertise the country to other robots elsewhere who may be sick of having no rights.

  • 1
    This answer is assuming that robots began to have free will of their own - which goes against what it means to b programmed
    – Burt
    Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 22:02
  • 1
    Sufficiently advanced programming cannot be distinguished from free will. And what evidence do you have that humans have free will?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 23:31

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