The European Parliament Is Unsure If Robots Are People. No, Really.

Nick Kangadis | April 13, 2018
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Is Europe crumbling under the weight of its own stupidity? Or is there a shred of credibility to the question they're currently facing? 

The latest debate? Whether or not robots are people.

Yes. I just wrote that.

The European Union (EU) — in particular the European Parliament — proposed in 2017 that robots be granted some sort of legal personhood in order to be able to collect insurance should the robot inflict any damage on things or people.

Call me crazy, but if you were the owner of the robot, couldn’t you insure the robot like you insure a car? Or does robot insurance not exist yet? Google makes it seem like you're telling it a joke when you ask whether or not robot insurance exists.

Experts in the field of artificial intelligence don’t think there’s much of a debate on whether robots are people.

According to POLITICO:

In a letter to the European Commission seen by POLITICO and expected to be unveiled Thursday, 156 artificial intelligence experts hailing from 14 European countries, including computer scientists, law professors and CEOs, warn that granting robots legal personhood would be “inappropriate” from a “legal and ethical perspective.”

Emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield Noel Sharkey gives a somewhat plausible rationale for why there's even confusion in the first place.

“By seeking legal personhood for robots, manufacturers were merely trying to absolve themselves of responsibility for the actions of their machines,” Sharkey `said.

It makes sense that manufacturers would attempt to legally protect themselves from a lawsuit should the owner of one of their robots cause damage of any kind, especially with the lawsuit-happy society we live in.

But — put simply — robots aren’t and never will be people.