Robotic citizenship is coming!?!

Sophia is a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong company, which has been designed to learn and adapt to human behavior and work with humans.

In October 2017 the government of Saudi Arabia made her a citizen, thus being the first robot with citizenship of a country. However, many people on social media quickly pointed out that Sophia was achieving a series of rights that are currently not offered to millions of women and foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, a nation that has previously been criticized for being highly repressive and violating rights. civilians

One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is to decide who or what deserves ethical consideration, in such a way that it continually challenges its own restrictions. Previously, people and groups (foreigners, women, gays, animals) had been excluded, however, we are currently facing the challenge of granting rights to the autonomous and intelligent machines of our own creation. This questions many entrenched assumptions about who or what constitutes a moral subject, therefore the way in which we approach and respond to this challenge will have a profound effect on the way we understand humanity, our place in the world, and our responsibilities with the other entities (GUNKEL, 2012).

Posthumanism is a new way of understanding the human subject in relation to the natural and artificial world which differs from classical humanism in relegating humanity to another of the many natural species, thus rejecting any claim based on the anthropocentric domain (WOLFE , 2009). A wide variety of contemporary theoretical positions in philosophy, science, technology, sociology and feminism find this position useful because it designates a series of ruptures with fundamental assumptions of modern Western Culture (BOLTER, 2016).

The emerging digital economy and automation present challenges regarding job security, health care and retirement benefits. It is time to design a new social contract, because if we don’t present creative models and solutions there is a risk of a substantial increase in citizen discontent. But there is also a grave danger that political leaders will not understand the current situation and worsen the problem by making ill-informed decisions that destabilize society, aggravate economic tensions, and promote authoritarian measures to maintain public order. Many current leaders could turn individual communities or entire nations into dystopia scenarios of the worst science fiction movies. However, several economic reforms that include paid work raising children, caring for dependents, professional accompaniment or mentoring, or even volunteering could facilitate the transition to an advanced digital economy in many Western countries (WEST , 2018).

Philosophy has reflected for generations on the way in which a physical thing – a person, an animal, a robot – can extract knowledge from the world and exploit that knowledge in the direction of a successful action (DENNET, 1998). Effectively Social Robots and Artificial Intelligence -like the Animal Liberation movement decades ago- question assumptions about the law, technology and moral state of these intelligent machines. Applied research and investigation about these challenges will help to detect new opportunities to question and reconfigure the philosophical thought in itself (GUNKEL, 2017).

Today it is more than of academic importance to learn to think clearly about the real cognitive power of computers, robots, and the AI ​​systems that are now entering a variety of roles where their abilities will be used in a wide range of different works and social areas. We are about to make humanity and the homo-sapiens species dependent on their cognitive powers, therefore the cost of underestimating them could be enormous (DENNET, 1998). A future posthuman society will therefore have rights and responsibilities towards their respective human, post-human and ecological communities (EVANS, 2015).

We live in a time of confusion and change that we must take advantage of in order to continue advancing as societies and biological species. It’s time to start fighting for a new Posthumanist Social Contract!


  • Bolter, J.D. (2016) “Posthumanism” in: Klaus Bruhn Jensen, Robert T. Craig, Jefferson D. Pooley, Eric W. Rothenbuhler (eds.) The International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy, Wiley Blackwell-ICA.
  • Dennet, D. (1998) “Brainchildren Essays on Designing Minds”, MIT Press.
  • Evans, W. (2015) “Posthuman Rights: Dimensions of Transhuman Worlds”. Revista Teknokultura, Vol. 12 (2).
  • Gunkel, D.J. (2012) “The Machine Question”. MIT Press.
  • Gunkel, D.J. (2017) “The other question: can and should robots have rights?”. Ethics and Information Technology June 2018, Volume 20, Issue 2.
  • West, D.M. (2018) “The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation”. Brookings Institution Press.
  • Wolfe, C. (2009) “What Is Posthumanism? Beyond humanism and anthropocentrism”. University of Minnesota Press.

*(Pictures: www.pri.org, www.zayzay.com & frame from the film "Ex Machina").

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