Digital assistants should discuss with ‘moral AI’ whether to report illegal or immoral activity

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The question of whether robots are people has European lawmakers and other experts at loggerheads. 

The issue first arose in January 2017, thanks to a paragraph of text buried deep in a European Parliament report, that advised creating a ‘legal status for robots’.

A group of 156 AI specialists from 14 nations has written an open letter to the European Commission in Brussels denouncing the move. 

Writing in the statement, they said: ‘We, artificial intelligence and robotics experts, industry leaders, law, medical and ethics experts, confirm that establishing EU-wide rules for robotics and is pertinent to guarantee a high level of safety and security to the European Union citizens while fostering innovation.

‘As human-robot interactions become common place, the European Union needs to offer the appropriate framework to reinforce Democracy and European Union values.

‘In fact, the artificial intelligence and robotics framework must be explored not only through economic and legal aspects, but also through its societal, psychological and ethical impacts.

‘In this context, we are concerned by the European Parliament resolution on civil law rules of robotics, and its recommendation to the European Commission.’ 

They say that the creation of a legal status of an ‘electronic person’ for self-learning robots is a bad idea, for a whole host of reasons. 

This includes the fact that companies manufacturing the machines may be absolved of any legal liability for damage inflicted by their creations.

They added: ‘Legal status for a robot can’t derive from the Natural Person model, since the robot would then hold human rights, such as the right to dignity, the right to remuneration or the right to citizenship. 

‘The legal status for a robot can’t derive from the Legal Entity model,’ as afforded to businesses, ‘since it implies the existence of human persons behind the legal person to represent and direct it. This is not the case for a robot.’ 

‘Consequently, we affirm that the European Union must prompt the development of the AI and bobotics industry insofar as to limit health and safety risks to human beings. 

‘The protection of robots’ users and third parties must be at the heart of all EU legal provisions.’ 



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