Give Robots ‘Personhood’ Status, EU Committee Argues

Give Robots ‘Personhood’ Status, EU Committee Argues

Published By: The Guardian, 1/12/2017

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The European Parliament is considering a proposed legal framework to define the rights and responsibilities of autonomous artificial intelligences and of the companies and engineers who make them, including who is responsible for errors and who benefits from products created by AIs. The framework also suggests measures to reduce the negative economic impacts on the human labor force.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of Article: 15.4

Extended Discussion Questions

  • If you were creating a code of conduct for roboticists to guide “the ethical design, production, and use of robots”, what are some guidelines you would include? Why?
    • If you’ve ever built a robot, did you think about any ethical issues when you designed it? Why or why not?
  • The EU report suggests defining what would count as a “smart, autonomous robot” that could have its own legal rights and responsibilities.  Based on what you’ve learned about AI and about software development, where would you draw the line? What are some questions you might ask to help you decide?
  • Commentators in the article mention patents and intellectual property as possible rights someone might want to grant to certain robots and AIs. What other rights might be relevant to robots and AIs?
  • The report suggests companies should carry insurance for damage caused by AIs they produce. What would it mean for the AI itself to be responsible for damages?
  • One of the authors of the report said the goal is to make sure that robots “will remain in the service of humans” — but the report also talks about giving robots some rights analogous to human rights. Are these two goals in conflict? Why or why not?

Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.
  • LO 7.4.1 Explain the connections between computing and real-world contexts, including economic, social, and cultural contexts.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.3.1A Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.

Banner Image: “Network Visualization – Violet – Offset Crop”, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0

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