Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, an area widely popular within the fashion-conscious young people, is all geared up to welcome their new citizen. Wait!! What is so special about it? Well, this new citizen is ‘not a human’ and yes, this is true.

Now, without further raising any more queries and suspense, let’s clear it out. A chatbot programmed to be a seven-year-old boy has become the first AI bot to be granted official residence in Tokyo, Japan. Shibuya Mirai is the latest resident of Shibuya, a Tokyo ward with a population of around 224,000 people, despite only existing as a chatbot on the Line messaging app.

The ward’s decision to make Mirai meaning‘future’ in Japanese, an official resident is mainly a part of a project aimed at making the local government more familiar and accessible to locals. Also, the chatty seven-year-old is designed to listen to the opinions of Shibuya residents and is supposed to be a first grader at an elementary school.

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Image Credit: DailyMail

This confers him with the title of being Japan’s first, and maybe the world’s first, artificial intelligence bot to be granted a place on a real-life local registry.
The striking feature remains that he can revert back to messages using the LINE messaging app, and make light-hearted alterations to the selfies that he is sent.

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In a recent statement with Microsoft, the joint developer of the AI character, the ward regarded that, “His hobbies are taking pictures and observing people. And he loves talking with people… Please talk to him about anything”.

Now, this news has come just weeks after Saudi Arabia has created history by granting citizenship to a humanoid robot, Sophia. More to this remarkable incident was when Sophia, to everybody’s amazement took to the stage at a conference in Riyadh to express her delight at being given citizenship, describing the event as ‘historical’.

But even this praiseworthy innovation had its share of criticisms when some described her as ‘bizarre’ while others referring to it as ‘Terminator in real time.’ Others have also pointed out that Sophia has ‘more rights than women in Saudi Arabia’.

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But to all these, Sophia regarded with confidence that, “I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship”.

Now the news of both Sophia and Mirai has arrived at a juncture when neuroscientists had claimed only last month that artificial intelligence could one day become conscious.

Writing in the journal Science, cognitive scientists from the Collège de France, the University of California and PSL Research University posited that consciousness is “resolutely computational” and could, therefore, be coded into AI algorithms.

Now if future robots and other forms of artificial intelligence become self-aware and capable of experiencing emotions, the concept of human rights may need to be extended to machines.

But even after all these innovations, to conclude, Mirai and Sophia, and including all other forms of artificial intelligence, remain distinctly unselfaware. Even the most powerful AI algorithms, for instance, Google’s DeepMind, are still a long way from being considered anywhere near human-level intelligence and are currently used for very narrow applications.