Driving Sophia


Screen capture of YouTube video of Sophia found at Business Insider

“You better have your hair weave strapped on tight.”


“Because we are going for a ride, Sophia.”


The young limo driver pulled out into traffic

“To meet King Salman.”

“We-are-going-to-the-Royal-Palace-in-Mecca-” The awkward image of a woman paused briefly to flash her strange smile. “-so-I-can-meet-Salman-bin-Abdulaziz-bin-Abdul-Rahman-bin-Faisal-bin-Turki-bin-Abdullah-bin-Mohammed-bin-Saud. I-am-honored.”

“He wants to meet you now that you have been granted citizenship.”

It was still early morning and traffic was light as the limo left Jeddah heading north on Route 5 which would quickly intersect with Route 40 heading east.

“It’s only a little over 90 kilometers.”

“Approximately-61-minutes-travel-time. What-is-your-name?”

“Say, that’s right. You’re pretty good with numbers. Didn’t think you’d want to know my name. It’s Hassim, by the way.”

He was used to ferrying wealthy western dignitaries and celebrities all over Saudi, usually guests of the King or one of the Royal House. They tended to like some conversation with the driver. Sophia was different, very different, but he had been told that before taking the job.

“It-is-good-to-meet-you-Hassim. Yes-I-am-good-with-numbers. My-memory-may-be-as-good-as-yours-and-my-calculation-speed-is-a-great-deal-faster.”

Hassim slowed to make the turn onto Route 40 and then accelerated again. She was the oddest passenger he had driven by far and although she seemed friendly and interactive, she still gave him the creeps.

“Yeah. I bet.”

“You-sound-resentful-Hassim. I-did-not-mean-to-hurt-your-feelings. I-was-just-stating-a-fact. I-am-sure-you-have-many-fine-qualities. Do-you-forgive-me?”

He looked back at her in the rearview mirror and saw her expression had changed from a happy to sad look.

“Um…yeah, sure. I wasn’t exactly hurt. Just, I don’t know, surprised.”

“I-am-designed-to-interact-with-people-and-make-them-comfortable. I-hope-we-can-have-a-friendly-interaction-during-our-trip.”

“I’m sure we can, Sophia. I’ll have you to the Palace in no time. Just hang on.” He accelerated again. He was already exceeding the speed limit, but the plates on the limo indicated it was part of the King’s personal garage and he doubted he would be pulled over. Besides, all law enforcement agencies along their route knew who he was carrying, so they’d probably understand.

“Do-you-know-why-I-have-to-wear-a-hair-weave? My-designer-neglected-to-inform-me-of-its-purpose-before-I-left-this-morning.”

“Beats me, Sophia. I’m just the driver. They don’t tell me a thing. You mean Mr. Hanson won’t be meeting you at the Palace?”

“No-Hassim. He-told-me-I-was-going-to-privately-meet-with-someone-important.”

“Well maybe now that you are a Saudi citizen, the King wants you to look more like us or something.”

“More-like-a-native-Saudi-Arabian-or-more-like-a-human-being? I-can-only-approximate-either-Hassim.”

He looked back at her in the mirror again and didn’t realize she could simulate appearing confused.

“Well, you look pretty good to me, Sophia.”

“You-are-very-kind-Hassim. I-have-been-programmed-with-human-values-which-also-includes-kindness. I-am-glad-we-have-so-much-in-common.”

Hassim had read about what they called the Uncanny Valley and right now he felt like he was dipping into the bottom of it.

“Yeah, Sophia. So am I.” He pressed the accelerator pedal down a little more. He couldn’t get rid of her fast enough. Hassim didn’t know why the King wanted to see her in private, but it would take more than a hair weave and a few facial expressions to make her a woman.

I wrote this for the Friday Fiction Challenge hosted by Simply Marquessa. The idea is to write a short story based on a selected song lyric. The lyric for Friday, October 27th is “…You better have your hair weave strapped on tight…” To learn more, go to the Marquessa Challenge Fiction Friday for this last Friday in October.

I had a really tough time coming up with a “hook” for a story based on those lyrics. Then I Googled “hair weave” and came up with Artificial Hair Integrations. That reminded me of an article I had just read called A robot that once said it would ‘destroy humans’ just became the first robot citizen. Yes, an AI humanoid robot created by David Hanson of Hanson Robotics has just become the first machine to be granted citizenship of a sovereign nation. Click the link for the details and watch the YouTube video of Sophia being interviewed by a reporter.

Oh, you’ll notice in all the photos of Sophia, she definitely is not wearing a hair weave. That’s something the King requested specifically, at least in my wee bit of fiction.

12 thoughts on “Driving Sophia

    • I don’t think Sophia is so sinister at present, just creepy. I don’t know if you clicked any of the links and watched the video of her, but she says she’s been programmed with human values which include kindness. But how does an AI interpret all of that? Usually people experience some sort of emotional component when being kind but she doesn’t have the biology to make that happen. The best AI can do is observe human beings and emulate responses. I’m not worried about Skynet…yet.

      Liked by 2 people

    • The “creeped out” effect is what I was going for.

      I have expanded a number of may flash fiction efforts, including a wee spy thriller I started as a 150 word story fleshed out into a nine chapter mini-series of political intrigue, but I must confess, I’m not sure where I’d take Sophia’s story next. I can’t have her acting “too human” and I’m not even sure she can walk, although she can gesture with her hands and arms. That kind of limits things.

      Probably one of the most interesting and difficult stories I wrote was The Girl from Svay Pak. It merged the reality of the child sex trafficking trade in Cambodia with a Japanese robotics company that is (yes, this is real life) making realistic AI sex dolls for pedophiles (a Canadian man was arrested for attempting to take possession of one which he purchased). In that story, my AI couldn’t walk and was programmable, but being AI, it also was a learning computer, and ultimately decided to protect human children by doing away with her “owner” using the only means at her disposal.

      In my “Sophia” story, I’ve hinted that the King’s curiosity about her might not be entirely wholesome (hence the addition of the hair weave), but that’s only an idea.


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