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Proposal Seeks Giving Robots Legal Status As Electronic Persons With Rights And Obligations

13 January 2017, 12:48 am EST By Allan Adamson Tech Times
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The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs voted in favor of a draft report that proposes to give robots legal status. The report calls for giving the machines rights, obligations and kill switches to prevent dangerous damages.   ( Oli Scarff | Getty Images )

With the growing popularity of artificial intelligence and advancements in the field of robotics, Europe is now making the necessary preparation for a robot revolution.

European Parliament members on Thursday warned that the inevitable rise of robots in human lives calls for urgent EU rules, which include giving robots legal status and kill switches that would prevent them from causing dangerous damages.

Mady Delvaux, a Socialist MEP from Luxembourg, noted of the increasingly powerful role that robots take in human lives which could grow stronger with the advent of driverless cars.

Robots As Electronic Persons With Rights And Obligations

Delvaux authored a report that proposes giving legal status to robots and categorize them as "electronic persons."

The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs has voted in favor of this draft report, which also calls for giving the most sophisticated autonomous robots specific rights and obligations.

The proposal details steps that humans can possibly take to mitigate potential issues with robots such as creating a registration for smart robots that will be managed by the EU Agency for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for tracking purposes.

The document proposed the creation of tracing tools that will track the particular design period of a robot so it would be possible to explain and account a robot's behavior particularly when the machine goes haywire.

Humans Need To Know When They Are Interacting With Robots

An interesting suggestion proposed by the legal document is for the designers of the machines to ensure that humans can tell that they are interacting with robots when they interact or talk with them.

"You always have to tell people that robot is not a human and a robot will never be a human," said Delvaux. "You must never think that a robot is a human and that he loves you."

Humans Developing Human Attachment To Robots

The report says that the rising interaction and communication between humans and robots may possibly lead to some humans developing emotional attachments to robots. Individuals who have become physically dependent on their robots are particularly vulnerable to this.

Concerns over humans developing attachment to robots are not baseless. Humans have the possibility to get attached emotionally to machines and robots. The development of such an emotional attachment has been dubbed the Tamagotchi effect.

"Increasing communication and interaction with robots have the potential to profoundly impact physical and moral relations in our society. This is especially the case for care robots towards which particularly vulnerable people can develop emotional feelings and attachment, thus causing concerns over human dignity and other moral values," the draft report reads.

Kill Switch To Terminate Robots

The proposal also suggests implementing a kill switch that would allow human operators to terminate a robot quickly and possibly remotely if the need arises.

It also recommends that the "decision-making steps" of robots be traceable and can be altered and that machines be made with operations that comply to all applicable laws and ethical principles.

The report likewise calls for the EU to find a means to help millions of workers who may lose their jobs as industries become automated.

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