AI politics behind the Sophia robot's media performance

A humanoid robot named ‘Sophia’ has sparked controversy since it has been given citizenship and has done media performances all over the world. In their new article Jaana Parviainen and Mark Coeckelbergh look behind the rhetoric about Sophia’s citizenship and intelligence and reach beyond recent discussions on the moral status or legal personhood of AI robots. The philosophers analyse the performativity of Sophia from the perspective of what they call ‘political choreography’.

Their article proposes to interpret and discuss the world tour of Sophia as a political choreography that boosts the rise of the social robot market. They argue that the media performances of the Sophia robot were choreographed to advance specific political interests. They illustrate their philosophical discussion with media material of the Sophia performance, which helps them 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. They also criticize the notion of ‘embodied intelligence’ used in the context of social robotics and AI. In this way, they put the discussions about the robot’s rights or citizenship in the context of AI politics and economics. Please read the whole article in the journal AI & Society.

Photo: ITU Pictures from Geneva, Switzerland