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Artificial intelligence

Europeans are arguing over whether robots should have rights

April 12, 2018

European lawmakers are trying to sort out the legal future of AI and robots. Easier said than done.

Background: A 2017 European Parliament report suggested that advanced robots could be granted “electronic personalities.” This status could give robots access to certain kinds of insurance normally reserved for people and let them be held liable if they damage property or even “go rogue.”

Not so fast: In a letter to the European Commission due out today, over 150 experts from 14 EU countries warn that granting robots legal personhood would be “inappropriate” from a “legal and ethical perspective.” They argue that doing so would let manufacturers off the hook.

Legalese: Eventually, liability laws where the owner, the manufacturer, or both are responsible for accidents will need a refresh when truly autonomous robots come online. But that should be a long way off. In the meantime, one lawyer quoted in the Politico story says that giving robots similar legal rights to those held by companies could solve the problem.

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