Can AI and robots have rights, duties? The EU’s legal approach
By Claudia Schettini  |  Sep 30, 2022
Can AI and robots have rights, duties? The EU’s legal approach
Image courtesy of and under license from Shutterstock.com
Some researchers suggest so-called ‘electronic persons’ will surpass humans in intelligence by 2050, potentially rendering humans obsolete.This scenario prompts a needed discussion on whether a universal standard of rights and obligations must be devised for robots and artificially intelligent persons. This article will focus on the current legal approach proposed by the EU.

ROME - At an information technology conference in late 2017, Sophia, an artificial intelligence (AI) humanoid robot built by Hanson Robotics, was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia, becoming the first ‘non-human’ to have a nationality. Furthermore, Sophia was appointed the UN’s first non-human ‘innovation champion.’ Sophia’s citizenship status, along with the rapid development of advanced and human-like AI machines, has brought to the fore an even more pressing issue, which is the question of whether robots should be given human rights.

Can self-learning robots be granted ‘personhood’? Does this then mean that robots could hold rights and obligations, be insured individually, and even be held liable for damages?

According to some researchers, the so-called ‘electronic persons’ that more often appear in the shape of humanoid robots will potentially surpass human intelligence by 2050, possessing not only the same capabilities and emotional intelligence as humans but also making humans obsolete. In effect, there are some scenarios in which robots can appear to be more advanced and ‘smarter’ than humans, such as detecting diseases with much higher accuracy or performing certain tasks more quickly and efficiently than humans.

Although there is no doubt that robots still lack the dexterity, intelligence, and empathy typical of humans, scientists and engineers have predicted that very soon robots will be able to match humans when it comes to meaningful qualities such as creativity, intelligence, awareness and emotions, areas that today make robots less useful than humans. In effect, humans’ emotional intelligence and ability to feel and empathize with other people is what sets humans apart from other sentient beings like animals. Therefore, if another species can match humans’ abilities, then shouldn’t that species also be able to claim the same rights, freedoms, and protections that humans have?

Today, machines ha

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