Europe: Robots Are People Too

June 22, 2016

1:11 pm

Technology gets more and more advanced every day. Smartphones are faster, apps are more developed, and artificial intelligence is learning more efficiently than ever before. And while we are still years away from a Jetsons-esque future, the gadgets, gizmos, and robots in our lives are beginning to evolve faster than we can regulate them. This concern has taken Europe by storm, and a European Parliament motion looks to keep robots in check in a strange way: they want to classify robots as “electronic persons.”

That’s right, the “corporations are people” argument has taken a futuristic turn and is now being applied to technology. The draft, which was dated May 31st and in no way has been implemented yet, stated that robots and their owners would be liable for a number of “personhood” responsibilities, like paying social security. The reasoning behind the draft is that technology has become incredibly intelligent, overtly pervasive, and extremely automated in the course of their short existence.

The draft came from the growing concern for the economic implications of a robotic society. Technology has taken over a noticeable number of jobs in factories, hospitals, and personal care facilities all across Europe. Citizens and government officials alike have become alarmed at the speed at which technology has taken over the economy, facilitating unemployment, wealth inequality, and overall alienation. Some of these robotic devices are even taking on human form, furthering the obvious need for regulations in the field.

There are, however, people opposing this move. For example, robotic companies are a little peeved at the governments “early” response to technology that is only now beginning to find its legs… literally. Many representatives have spoken out against the regulations, saying they are far too early and far too complicated to accurately and efficiently address the robot issue.

“We think it would be very bureaucratic and would stunt the development of robotics,” said Patrick Schwarzkopf, managing director of the VDMA’s robotic and automation department. “We would create a legal framework with electronic persons – that’s something that could happen in 50 years but not in 10 years.”

The argument will likely rage for a number of years before this draft is ever put in place. The advantage of robots in a society are undeniable. And while regulation is obviously necessary to some level, requiring robots to pay social security this early in the game seems a bit excessive. After all, we are only now getting a hold of artificial intelligence “kill switch” technology. I don’t think giving robots these kind of rights is going to bode well for the future of technology.

(H/T Yahoo Tech)

Photo: Flickr / Michael Dain

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at

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