Long before truly self-aware A.I. has ever been created, the EU is already considering granting personhood status to AI. A motion introduced in the EU Parliament would grant personhood status for AI. The intention behind the move is not to give liberty to AI, but to hold AI accountable for actions that harm others.
|The EU Is Trying to Decide Whether to Grant Robots Personhood|
In 2015, an A.I.-powered Twitter bot did something a little out there—avant-garde, one might say. It tweeted, “I seriously want to kill people,” and mentioned a fashion event in Amsterdam. Dutch police questioned the owner of the bot over the death threat, claiming he was legally responsible for its actions, because it was in his name and composed tweets based on his own Twitter account.
It’s not clear whether tweeting “I seriously want to kill people” at a fashion event actually constitutes a crime—or even a crime against fashion—in the Netherlands. But assume for a second that it did. Who would be responsible? The owner? The creator? The user it was impersonating?
Under an ongoing EU proposal, it might just be the bot itself. A 2017 European Parliament report floated the idea of granting special legal status, or “electronic personalities,” to smart robots, specifically those which (or should that be who?) can learn, adapt, and act for themselves. This legal personhood would be similar to that already assigned to corporations around the world, and would make robots, rather than people, liable for their self-determined actions, including for any harm they might cause. The motion suggests:
Creating a specific legal status for robots in the long run, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently.