Saudi Arabia becomes first country to grant citizenship to a robot

Sophia the android addressed the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh yesterday to the delight of hundreds of delegates. (Courtesy of FII)
Updated 26 October 2017
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Saudi Arabia becomes first country to grant citizenship to a robot

LONDON: 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.
“I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” she said in an exchange with moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Asked whether robots can be self-aware, conscious and know they're robots, she said: “Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human?” “I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future. I will do my best to make the world a better place,” she said.
Her desire to achieve more human-like characteristics was rewarded by being granted the first Saudi citizenship for a robot.
“I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship,” Sophia said.
A panel made up of experts from some of the world’s leading companies and research institutions discussed the scope for innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, quantum computing, machine learning and mixed reality to yield the next generation of products and services, paving the way for productivity and progress in emerging economies. The session, called “Thinking machines: Summit on artificial intelligence and robotics,” explored the potential uplift for businesses that harness AI and robotic technologies.
Marc Raibert, Founder & CEO of Boston Dynamics, pinpointed entertainment, security, emergency response and construction as just a few of the sectors that stand to be revolutionized by robotics.
“I happen to believe that robotics will be bigger than the Internet,” he said. Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB Group in Switzerland anticipated “the new normal in which humans and robots work together.” “I think we have an exciting future in front of us” he added before conducting a demonstration of a robot solving a Rubik‘s cube in a matter of minutes.
Keynote speaker Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group Corp, a Japanese telecommunications and Internet company, which is working with Saudi Arabia on the development of a new business and industrial city, discussed the future of mankind in relation to AI and robots.
“Every industry will be redefined,” he said, describing the “great opportunity” that lies ahead. “These computers, they will learn, they will read, they will see by themselves. That’s a scary future but anyway that’scoming,” he said.
Touching on concerns that robots could eventually outsmart humans and pose a threat, he added: “They are so smart they will understand it is meaningless to attack humans.” “We (will) create a new happier life together.” On Tuesday Saudi Arabia announced plans to build a $500 billion mega city powered by robotics and renewables on the country’s Red Sea coast. Majid Alghaslan, a young Saudi chairing a growing company in energy services and innovative technologies said: “Saudi Arabia is in the midst of an unprecedented economic, social, and development-accelerated transformation and it’s now clear that it’s more open than ever for business, especially for dreamers, and it is all in the context of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.” “Innovation will be the major foundation of our transformation and this is another major factor for sustainable economic prosperity and development for the future generation of Saudis and the world.”


Jeddah has never been greener, but authorities say their work has just begun

These green spaces have become a recreational resource for residents in Jeddah. (SPA)
Updated 19 October 2018
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Jeddah has never been greener, but authorities say their work has just begun

  • Jeddah mayor: The secretariat has signed partnership agreements with the private sector and institutions for initiatives to develop parks, buildings and pedestrian walkways
  • The city has organized a number of cultural and recreational events for visitors to the parks

RIYADH: Five hundred parks in Jeddah have contributed to softening the public face presented to the world and its visitors by the Bride of the Red Sea. 

These green breathing spaces have become a resource for Jeddah locals and visitors alike. They are vital pieces in the patchwork of green spaces that are estimated to cover 20 million square meters.

Jeddah municipality has a commitment to increasing green spaces in Jeddah through garden and reforestation projects throughout the province.

The mayor of Jeddah province, Saleh Ali Al-Turki, said that the Secretariat is in the process of improving and developing the parks and increasing green spaces. 

He added that the secretariat has signed partnership agreements with the private sector and institutions for initiatives to develop parks, buildings and pedestrian walkways.

Al-Turki stressed that public parks are important elements to improve the environment and the quality of life. As such it is important to foster partnerships between the public and private sectors to develop this environmental element.

These efforts are supported by the work of Friends of Jeddah Parks, within the framework of social responsibility and with a strong partnership with governmental bodies and donors to create and care for public gardens and open spaces and benefit from them while promoting recreational, cultural, sporting, health and intellectual activities and contributing to bond with members of society.

Park expansion

The province of Jeddah has managed to expand the establishment of such parks throughout the province’s neighborhoods, taking into account the geographical scope and urban sprawl, amid strengthening the role of the private sector and civil society institutions in supporting, caring for and establishing public parks in the context of social responsibility. 

It has also succeeded in organizing a number of cultural and recreational events for the parks’ visitors, and maintaining them as a social forum for a number of families and children.

There is ongoing work to establish short- and medium-term plans to improve the parks, in addition to expanding green spaces throughout the province through implementing additional projects so that these resources are able to cater for a large number of visitors and citizens. The parks need to be maintained as social, recreational, sporting and environmental outlets.

In addition to the parks, there are recreational clubs and centers, which provide children, young people and families with playgrounds, green spaces, playgrounds, and paved areas.

Dhaban Marine Park, which is located 40km north of Jeddah, is part of the government’s initiative to provide appropriate environmental and recreational places for Jeddah’s citizens and visitors. It covers an area of 110,000 square meters along the waterfront. It is equipped with recreational facilities and football fields for children, in addition to a mosque, pathways, a versatile football field, children’s games, sandy beaches and a fishing area that includes tools and sporting equipment on the pedestrian’s walkway.

Best in Jeddah

The park’s landscaping and green areas cover 38,000 square meters with 312 palm trees, 5,000 trees and bushes, children’s play areas for 25 different sports. 

As one of the best parks in Jeddah, this is a beautiful recreational area where all family members can spend a special day and young people can benefit in a space dedicated for them. It also offers a sandy beach equipped for fishing.

Jeddah’s landmark Al-Saif Beach covers an area of 500 square kilometers and stretches over three kilometers. It was created as part of the initiative to develop the southern corniche to serve a large segment of citizens. It is equipped with public utilities to attract tourists and become an outlet for families and visitors of Jeddah.

Al-Saif Beach is a maritime façade that attracts all segments of society with its infrastructure, recreational areas and green spaces, family areas and children’s play areas. Not only does it offer public facilities such as automated smart toilets, parking lots and specialized prayer areas it also has a sandy beach for beach ball games.