From John Danaher’s Philosophical Disquisitions.
Danaher offers his incisive analysis of recent additions to the debate on legal personhood re. “robots”. Seems interesting (to me) in relation to two things: agency, and how we imagine automation – since we don’t actually have such ‘robots’ at the moment. It’s quite a long post (so only a snippet below), but worth working through… not least because in geographyland it seems to me many of us have a very narrow understanding of these sorts of things from a fairly narrow (simplified) post-structuralist account of ‘subjectivity‘.
The EU parliament attracted a good deal of notoriety in 2016 when its draft report on civil liability for robots suggested that at least some sophisticated robots should be granted the legal status of ‘electronic personhood’. British tabloids were quick to seize upon the idea — the report came out just before the Brexit vote — as part of their campaign to highlight the absurdity of the EU. But is the idea really that absurd? Could robots ever count as legal persons?
A recent article by Bryson, Diamantis and Grant (hereinafter ‘BDG’) takes up these questions. In ‘Of, for and by the people: the legal lacuna or synthetic persons’, they argue that the idea of electronic legal personhood is not at all absurd. It is a real but dangerous possibility — one that we should actively resist. Robots can, but should not, be given the legal status of personhood.
BDG’s article is the best thing I have read on the topic of legal personhood for robots. I believe it presents exactly the right framework for thinking about and understanding the debate. But I also think it is misleading on a couple of critical points. In what follows, I will set out BDG’s framework, explain their central argument, and present my own criticisms thereof.
Read the full blogpost.
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