Legal Personhood for Robots: A Stupid Idea

Legal Personhood for Robots: A Stupid Idea

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Legal Personhood for Robots: A Stupid Idea

I suppose it’s natural that we would have this debate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not stupid. If we ever get to the point where synthetic intelligence begins exhibiting signs of volition and experience, well then let’s talk about this stuff. But right now, it’s just fuzzy, futuristic thinking that will only serve to diminish corporate responsibility for products and services.

“By adopting legal personhood, we are going to erase the responsibility of manufacturers,” said Nathalie Navejans, a French law professor at the Université d’Artois, who was the driving force behind the letter.

Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, who also signed on, added that by seeking legal personhood for robots, manufacturers were merely trying to absolve themselves of responsibility for the actions of their machines.


  1. I’m not sure what to think of this. On the one hand, the EU has some sound ethical aspirations as opposed to the Laissez-Faire profit driven approach of Silicon Valley. On the other, the level of wisdom and sense shown so far in European efforts to legislate technology and data has been appalling. From the clueless “cookie warning” to the very dangerous “right to be forgotten”. So I would expect some terrible decision to be taken by incompetent people in the name of good intentions.

  2. This does seem premature to me. At this point, I’d be quicker to grant legal personhood to great apes.

  3. Next thing you know they’ll give corporations personhood too…

  4. I’ll confess that I couldn’t make heads or tails of this article. “Advocates”, whoever they are, suggest that assigning legal personalities to robots “ensures that they always have a person behind them”, but that’s patently untrue just as it is for corporations – unless there’s a legal fiction involved of which I am unaware. Opponents say that granting personalities to robots shifts liability from corporations to machines, but that’s equally untrue just as it is for employees within corporations – if Nina makes an error in assembly that later harms a buyer or the environment, the corporation is still ultimately liable for the outcome, not Nina.

    One humorous conjectural scenario (to be read in the voice and delivery of Rod Serling): a robot makes an error that does harm and the court holds that individual robot liable, ruling that the robot shall be banned from performing that work in the future, or even that it is too dangerous to society and must be placed under house arrest. The robot’s “house”, the only place it has ever “lived” is in Corporate Co.’s factory – address: Production Line #3, Position Twelve, Left Side. No work and house arrest means that the robot stays precisely in it’s place on the assembly line, forever – occupying valuable space and position, but doing nothing. The company now has to literally work around the idle, house-arrested robot for the remainder of that robot’s natural life – which could span decades, even centuries, maybe eternity.

  5. LOL !!!

    #AI is Just That …

    Old New and Future …

    Just Imagine FaceBook “Claiming” ParentHood of …

    Stolen Faces … Stolen Interpretations of Others Thoughts …

    Happy Weekend

    Gideon Rosenblatt

  6. Michael Verona, yes, “that “Advocates”, whoever they are, suggest that assigning legal personalities to robots “ensures that they always have a person behind them” — made no sense. I agree.

  7. This is what you get when you have ineffectual politicians and intellectuals pretending to solve non-existent problems while deflecting attention away from their incompetence in dealing with real world challenges.

  8. The proposed solution, legal personhood for robots, is indeed stupid at this time. There is however a real legal problem to be solved with regard to smart digital agents/assistents/intermediaries acting and transacting on our behalf.

  9. Brian Fields Since it is the corporates that own the robots it would be just another way of directing money created for public purpose to them where the rest of us manage impoverishment.

  10. We need to discuss this NOW because the technology is moving faster than society’s ability to understand the implications of it.

  11. Gideon Rosenblatt

    This Stream has Been Good for Honest Thoughts … Thanks

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