European Parliament drafts plan to give human rights to robots

Europe’s growing army of robot workers could be classed as “electronic persons” and their owners liable to paying social security for them if the European Union adopts a draft plan to address the realities of a new industrial revolution.

Robots are being deployed in ever-greater numbers in factories and also taking on tasks such as personal care or surgery, raising fears over unemployment, wealth inequality and alienation.


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A new proposal from the European Parliament calls for working robots to be classified as “electronic persons,” and for their owners to pay social security on their behalf. The draft motion, published online this month, aims to address the new challenges that Europe’s robotic workforce will present as robot technology becomes more pervasive and intelligent. The proposal says growing automation will require new frameworks for taxation and legal liability, but as Reuters reports, it faces opposition from some robotics companies.

The rise in automation and artificial intelligence has raised concerns in Europe and elsewhere over economic effects, including unemployment, inequality, and social security systems. The proposal aims to address those concerns with a legal framework that would consider “that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations.”

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VDMA, a German industry group that represents major robot manufacturers, says it’s too early to create such a legal framework for robots, adding that it could hinder innovation. Patrick Schwarzkopf, VDMA’s managing director for robotics, told reporters at a Munich trade show that a framework could arise “in 50 years, but not in 10 years.”

The proposed measures would be non-binding, and it’s not yet clear whether it will gain enough support in Parliament to pass. But supporters of the motion say Europe needs a coherent framework to support and regulate robotics if it wants to keep pace with the rest of the world.

“The US, China, Korea and Japan have very ambitious projects,” Mady Delvaux, an MP from Luxembourg and the motion’s rapporteur, said in an interview published to the European Parliament website last year. “If we do not create the legal framework for the development of robotics, our market will be invaded by robots from outside.”


Source: Reuters via