The political choreography of the Sophia robot: beyond robot rights and citizenship to political performances for the social robotics market

Paper by A humanoid robot named ‘Sophia’ has sparked controversy since it has been given citizenship and has done media performances all over the world. The company that made the robot, Hanson Robotics, has touted Sophia as the future of artificial intelligence (AI). Robot scientists and philosophers have been more pessimistic about its capabilities, describing Sophia as a sophisticated puppet or chatbot. Looking behind the rhetoric about Sophia’s citizenship and intelligence and going beyond recent discussions on the moral status or legal personhood of AI robots, we analyse the performativity of Sophia from the perspective of what we call ‘political choreography’: drawing on phenomenological approaches to performance-oriented philosophy of technology. This paper proposes to interpret and discuss the world tour of Sophia as a political choreography that boosts the rise of the social robot market, rather than a statement about robot citizenship or artificial intelligence. We argue that the media performances of the Sophia robot were choreographed to advance specific political interests. We illustrate our philosophical discussion with media material of the Sophia performance, which helps us to explore the mechanisms through which the media spectacle functions hand in hand with advancing the economic interests of technology industries and their governmental promotors. Using a phenomenological approach and attending to the movement of robots, we also criticize the notion of ‘embodied intelligence’ used in the context of social robotics and AI. In this way, we put the discussions about the robot’s rights or citizenship in the context of AI politics and economics….(More)”