BlogLegal ResourcesArtificial Intelligence: Dwelling Robots into Law

July 2, 20210

Any fan of Robin Williams’s filmography probably recalls the Bicentennial Man‘. The movie where a robot became part of a family’s life only to perform every days’ chores, but the interaction with human- life converted him into a humanoid.

Two decades later, the idea of having a robot to perform from basic to vital functions is not science fiction anymore. By dint of Artificial Intelligence (AI), smart engines can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. Such machines can even be granted citizenship, a status reserved for humans only. Regardless of being a very debatable issue, Sophia – the hybrid of real AI and human input- has been bestowed the citizenship of Saudi Arabia in 2017. She is the first and only robot in the world to have this status.

In the same year, the European Union was driven by the question “If the robots are artificial intelligent machines created and operating following the tasks given by the AI engineer, can they be acknowledged as a separate legal entity from their creators?.” On that ground, the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Union Parliament proposed a motion for Resolution on the regulation of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Precisely, it was an attempt to grant a sui generis personhood to robots, by acknowledging them hence- as an entity separated from their engineers. Mainly when the robot enters into a specific relationship with a third part- whether a person, a legal entity or another robot. Briefly: who will be held liable if the robot causes damage? The engineer or the robot itself?

Right after, an open letter from AI and robotics engineers, law, medical and ethics experts addressed the incentive. The European gumption was considered as inappropriate and biased. For them, the proposed electronic personality has nothing in common with the natural person or legal entity in order to be considered as an ad hoc legal creature. The opponents establish their viewpoint under the EW law. That it is up to each member state sovereignty to define in its domestic law what a natural person is. This is affirmed also by the EU Court of Justice, back in 1980.

For all that matters, this European legal ambition shall be discussed at the light of Mady Delvaux words. “The idea behind coming up with an electronic personality was not about giving human rights to robots — but to make sure that a robot is and will remain a machine with a human backing it.” The initiator of it strongly believes that an optimal arrangement is needed in a world where the consumer robot market is expeditiously growing. By 2023 it is expected to reach a market size of US$14.911 billion.

Digital ever-growing progress needs the adequate legal framework in order not to be assessed as a threat to the existing social, economic, scientific and legal background.  For this reason, the EU structures have undertaken various actions for facilitating this transformative process across the union. Foreseeing the assistance on medicine, responsiveness in combating climate change, preservation towards any cyber hazard-  the other side of the coin might be undoubtedly the disappearance of certain job profiles. Therefore, to forestall it all- modernization of the actual education system and job training are needed in order for the labor market to be supported in time.

The proposal laid the path of a hybrid form- not of a human responsibility nor of a legal entity. E- Person will not grant the right to marry or have the right for a private life (as humans enjoy under the Article 8 of European Convention of Human Rights). They might only be held responsible for their actions, as natural persons and legal entities are held answerable in law.   

Any robot of possessing the qualities of being smart, hence being capable of performing tasks by sensing its environment and/or interacting with external sources and adapting its behavior, or autonomous – able to take decisions and implement them in the outside world, independently of external control or influence; whereas this autonomy is of a purely technological nature and its degree depends on how sophisticated a robot’s interaction with its environmental has been designed to be might be registered in a peculiar Register in the Union. Then, if any damage occurs it shall be insured by a compulsory insurance scheme.

Civil liability lies at the core of all the discussion. And how the EU will solve it, is still a hot topic in academia and between State’s leaders. Ergo, a strong collaboration between the lawmakers and engineers is much needed for making the AI’s usage a safe and trustable space for all. Laws shall serve as the background of smoothing this process and making it easier for all the humans and robots to interact together.

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