One Very Special AI Robot is Granted Saudi Citizenship

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Sophia, a humanoid robot internationally acclaimed for her advanced artificial intelligence, has become the world’s first AI device to receive a national citizenship. That news is more baffling than it might already sound, because granting her citizenship last week was the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country that rarely gives foreigners citizenship and notoriously denies women rights to those of men… It’s unclear what great significance this announcement holds, as it resembles a bizarre PR stunt more than anything else.

Cellphones in Hand, Saudi Women Challenge Notions of Male Control

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The three cases are part of a campaign by Saudi women, who have been broadcasting daring videos with their cellphones, using Facebook to organize street protests and posting Twitter messages to challenge the very idea of male supremacy in their famously patriarchal society.

The campaign, started by a loose network of activists who have enlisted young, media-savvy women, has gone far beyond earlier protests against the kingdom’s reaffirmed ban on female drivers, and has become a challenge to the pervasive guardianship system. In this entrenched system of guardianship, a male relative — usually a father or a husband, but sometimes a brother or even a son — has the legal right to control a woman’s movements.

What use is the right to drive, the young activists ask, if a woman still needs a man’s permission to leave the house?

Even among some of the activists themselves, there has been surprise at the response. “I’m very impressed; a few years ago I thought I was the only one who thought this way,” said Moudi al-Johani, 26, a Saudi woman who said she was locked up by her family when she returned from Florida during a college vacation.

London’s Gold Car-Driving Arab Prince

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Because just as tricking out sports cars and flying them to Europe has become something of a national hobby for the mega rich youth of Saudi Arabia, rather like hunting or shooting would be for their counterparts in the UK, it is in press coverage and social media attention that the kids who own the cars measure their success.

In this case the owner of the cars has been identified as Turki Bin Abdullah, a rich young Saudi with a heavy footprint on Instagram, where there are dozens of pictures and videos of his life, including shots of him posing with a pet cheetah in his car—but most of the wealthy Saudi playboys who flaunt their cars in London are difficult for outsiders to identify.

They come from deeply conservative families, and are often explicitly forbidden from speaking to the press by their families back home before they depart for London. We may think of them as liable to be involved in debauched partying but many of the ‘playboys’ are said by those close to them to be shy, naïve and immature.