Can Sophia have a (the) citizenship ?

Can Sophia have a (the) citizenship?

In the past days, an event took place with great repercussions in the media. Saudi Arabia declared that citizenship is confered to a humanoid robot. In the face of this event some were excited and the others watched worryingly.  No doubt, conferring citizenship to a robot brings along some problems. Can a robot have right to a citizenship and in connection, can it have responsibilities? In order to give answers to these questions, first, we must find an answer for a single question: Can a robot have capacity to have rights? Law regards the world from two perspectives: humans and goods. But, it should be noted that, modern law systems include also approaches relating to non-acceptance of animals in the status of goods. At the same time, we have some rights because of being human. This is the starting point for analyzing the personhood. According to F. Patrick Hubbard, for having personality rights, an entity must have: 1) the ability to interact with its environment and to engage in complex thought and communication, (2) a sense of being a self with a concern for achieving its goal of or purpose in life, and (3) the ability to live in a community based on mutual self-interest with other persons.  1

An entity that passes this test is, unlike animals, entitled to at least a prima facie right to be treated as a person rather than property. When considering, interaction with the environment seems to be a minimum requirement for robots, nowadays. Besides, Hubbard’s point is that the question of how much we can add to the sense of a self-being and the desire to live in a community by programs is unanswered for now. In this respect, it is unlikely to confer personality to artificially produced robots

Regarding which criteria the law gives priority to personality recognition, Chopra and White indicate these as: capacity of performing cognitive tasks, capacity of controlling the money, and consciousness. 2

But, these approaches include some points open for? criticism. For example, people who are inadequate in fulfilling cognitive tasks, also can have personality.  Besides, legal regulations accept some people and goods communities as a legal subject, such as legal entity, and accept that some of them may be eligible for rights and debts- except from the human specific ones-.

Rapid developments in the field of robotics, fires the idea that artificial intelligence robots can be legal subject. As a result of this, various arguments are suggested about the personality of robots.  Some of them are artificial representative, electronic personality and slavery. According to Calo, robots exist somewhere in the twilight between person and object. 3

No doubt, the position, which the robots will take place as a legal subject, will have important role for identifying their rights and responsibilities. Regarding the robots with increased autonomous levels and which have human appearance and take decisions and apply by themselves, , it must not be expected to be subjected to ill-treatment based on the property rights. Hence, this can be lead us to the right for them to be treated with respect as it is in animal rights.

Well, beyond this: What can we base on, when we confer right to citizenship to a robot? Here, it is briefly necessary to mention the citizenship right. In the present day, citizenship identifies situation of a natural person, who benefits from all the rights recognized by the legal arrangements in the country. 4 Besides, citizenship bears both the rights and the obligations. For example: Can a robot have the right to vote or taxation obligation? So, from this point of view, for a robot, that we can not call natural person, we can only use the concept of an “origin”. Because the origin refers to the  legal or political ties that connects a person (natural or legal)or a thing (ships and air vehicles) to the state. 5 Therefore, we can reach this result by also beginning from the accounts above regarding the personality.

Besides, citizenship is a statue in the society. In general, it  defines a person who has legal rights in a political system, and  it always includes an exclusion element, for some people are not citizens. When we look at Saudi Arabia, Sophia has the right to not to wear the burka and the right to go out without man. If we assume that she gets these rights because of being robot, we can generate  two arguments:

  1. Should a robot have gender?
  2. Can robots be superior to some groups of humans?

In conclusion, it should not be forgotten that some political reasons lie under similar legal arrangements. Considering expansions/developments that the Crown Prince would like to achieve, on the basis that the robot is designed as a woman, or even that the hair is not added to the design, the “citizenship” given to such an entity may have been envisaged to prepare the society for some radical innovations. Besides, Prince prepared a pretentious program called Vision 2030, for his country’s economy to go beyond the petrol. The aim of this program is to create the world’s best business center with advanced production, biotechnology, media and airlines. Taking such steps may appeal to the companies interested in making investments to the country. 6


For References :

Selin Cetin
"Can Sophia have a (the) citizenship ?"
Hukuk & Robotik, Friday November 10th, 2017 27/06/2022


  1. (HUBBARD, F. Patrick, “Do Androids Dream?”: Personhood and Intelligent Articafts, sf.419)
  2. (Chopra, White; Artificial Agents: Personhood in Law and Philosophy, sf.5)
  3. (CALO, M. Ryan, “Robots and Privacy”, Robot Ethics, The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics,sf.57)
  4. ( Vahit Doğan, Türk Vatandaşlık Hukuku, sf.5)
  5. ( V. Doğan, sf.5)
  6. (

2012 yılında Japonca eğitimim sonrasında hukuk fakültesine başladı. Jürging-Örkün-Putzar Rechtsanwalte (Almanya), Güler Hukuk Bürosu ve Ünsal & Gündüz Attorneys at Law' da staj yaptı. Japon dili sertifikası aldı. Ayrıca arabuluculuk- tahkim ve ceza hukuku gibi alanlarda sertifika programlarına katıldı.Bunların akabinde Bilişim ve Teknoloji Hukuku alanında yüksek lisans yapmaya başladı. Köksal & Partners hukuk bürosunda avukat olarak çalışmakta. Büyük bir merakla, robotlar, yapay zeka ve onların hukuksal durumları ve problemler ile ilgili çalışmalar yürütmekte. She studied law following herJapanese education on 2012. She fulfilled her internships in Jurging-Orkun-Putzar Rechtsanwalte(Germany), Guler Law Office and Unsal&Gunduz Attorney at Law . Also she has certificate of Japanese language and she has mediation and arbitration certificates and criminal law certificates from law workshops. Afterwards, she started the master program on information and technology law, at Istanbul Bilgi University. She works as a lawyer at Koksal & Partners law office. Her goal and ambition is the working in the field of Robotics, AI and their legal statutes and problems and exploring the relevant necessities where no women has ever gone before... Yazarın diğer yazıları için ayrıca bakınız: For further works of the author: