AI-Update: Recent Developments in Artificial Intelligence and the Law

Two weeks ago, I argued that society should start to protect AI under our law. Key to this argument is an artificial intelligence competent to develop consciousness comparable to human double awareness.

In January, the European parliament officially started pondering “electronic personhood” for robots and artificial intelligence. Within their Draft Report the Committee on Legal Affairs recommended to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics. Luxembourg’s MEP Mady Delvaux was quoted “What we need now is to create a legal framework for the robots that are currently on the market or will become available over the next 10 to 15 years”.

The Committee highlights numerous aspects of Civil Law Rules on Robotics, including registration, liability, disclosure of use of AI by businesses, as well as a Charter on Robotics. The latter states principles, such as a code of ethical conduct that has a complementary function.

Most interesting is their definition and classification of what they call “smart robots”, taking into consideration:

  • The capacity to acquire autonomy through sensors and/or by exchanging data with its environment and the analysis of those data
  • The capacity to learn through experience and interaction
  • The form of the robot’s physical support
  • The capacity to adapt its behaviors and actions to its environment.

This approach tends to be more focused on the robots’ interaction than on their cognitive capabilities. Objectively it can be argued, that the Committee is creating a new legal approach, comprising a distinct ethical group of robots, rather than to merge laws for humans with laws for robotics into universal codification. One can surely be skeptical about this decision, since we will increasingly discover humans and robots drawing closer to each other over the next century. Both will more and more think alike, look alike and act alike.

It will be quite a challenge to distinguish between the two kinds of sentient beings once they cannot be distinguished straightaway by a human’s/robot’s “eye”. Furthermore, it is quite doubtful whether it can be ethically justified to have robots and AI working like slaves for humans, whilst they cannot be distinguished from a human being without performing major medical diagnosis.

This is an important question regarding “Cyborgs”. Imagine a young man experiencing a major car accident putting him into critical condition. Surgeons would not be able to help him other than to take out his brain, putting it in a life enhancing nutrient solution. His body would be replaced by robotic arms, legs, sensory cells, etc. Now ask yourself: Is this sentient being to be judged under robotic law or under human law? This is why we should refer back to the mind capable of double awareness rather than to the nature of the individual subject.

What is your opinion on this developments? Feel free to tell us in the comment section of our Facebook posting!


Philip J. Hattemer is in his second year at Bucerius Law School. Before University, he has been trained to be a Hypnotist and partly trained in Neurolinguistic Programming. In this time his penchant for psychology led him into Rational Thinking.

The contents of this article do not reflect the position of the RTT but solely the author’s.

(Photo courtesy of pixabay)      

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