Robots could be given ‘electronic person’ status

Politicians should consider whether robots are “electronic persons with specific rights and obligations”, a draft European Parliament report has said.

The Committee on Legal Affairs said potential robotic autonomy “raises the question” of them being regarded as “natural persons, legal persons, animals or objects”.

It was passed by 17 votes to 2, with the full European Parliament voting on the proposals next month.

‘Kill switches’

The Committee also drafted a robotics charter, which said designers must place obvious “kill switches” on the machines.

Its 22-page report notes that “ever more sophisticated robots, bots, androids and other manifestations of artificial intelligence”, seem “poised to unleash a new industrial revolution”.

Such an outcome requires legislators to “consider all its implications” including what to do if “robots become or are made self-aware”.

Until such a time, the report said, laws created by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov surrounding human safety should be considered by the human creators and designers of robots.


Patrick Schwarzkopf, an expert in robotics, said a legal framework for robots was possible, but was more likely in 50 years than ten.

In 2015 a court in New York ruled on the unique status of people.

The Nonhuman Rights Project brought a case calling for chimpanzees being kept at a university to be labelled as people.

‘Success one day’

Justice Barbara Jaffe rejected the claims – but said such a move could be possible in the future.

In her ruling, she said that previous mistreatment of people, “whether slaves, women, indigenous people or others, as property” is not a reason for extending human rights to animals.

However, Justice Jaffe also said that efforts to extend legal rights to chimpanzees ‘may succeed’ one day.

Image of God

Read why mankind has an entirely different status from animals and objects in The Christian Institute’s Sanctity of Life apologetic.

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