A chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun. Bots can be used to help make a purchase, provide customer support, inform you of current events, give advice, or talk to you like a friend. It understands language and is continuously learning and developing as it converses with people and it could live in any major chat product, for example Facebook Messenger, Slack, iMessage, etc. Its possibilities are endless.
So endless apparently, that artificial intelligences around the world have been granted residency and/or citizenship to their respective countries. In Shibuya, Tokyo an AI chat bot “boy” has become the world’s first artificial intelligence to be granted an official residence. His name is Shibuya Mirai and he is programmed to represent a 7 year old boy who can talk to residents about whatever they’d like, but ultimately serves as a tool for people to express their concerns to the local government.
Likewise, a robot named Sophia, was recently granted full citizenship in Saudi Arabia. Unlike Shibuya, Sophia has a physical existence and has been developed with the ability to hold eye contact, recognize faces, understand human speech, and express emotion. Hanson Robotics cloud-based AI offers deep learning and is also open source meaning anyone can develop their own Sophia.
Chatbots and robots like the aforementioned are relatively new technology. Their uses and threats are still being uncovered. While these residencies and citizenships are likely publicity stunts and an attempt to position their country at the forefront of the AI race, questions of AI rights are of concern to many. As AI develops and becomes more integrated in our society — especially as they become legal people–the main question on everyone’s mind now is how do they exercise their newly found constitutional rights? Will it be allowed to vote, will it have to pay taxes, or do national service? Can it hold public office? With so many unknowns, these developers might soon discover that their (what seems to be) PR stunt can have major consequences.
As our technologies and digital marketing tools continue to innovate, so must our governance over them.