Should A Robot Be Given Human Rights? European Lawmakers Debate

Lawmakers in Europe have put forward a rather odd proposal concerning robots. The legislators want every robot to be equipped with a kill switch, or a mechanism to disable them in case of an emergency, in order to prevent them from causing excessive harm, CNN Money reports.

Along with the proposal for the kill switches in robots, the lawmakers are also demanding that all robots should be insured like humans are and even be made to pay taxes. Yes, you read that right. Furthermore, they will also be debating on whether advanced robots should be granted human-like status/rights.

This proposal on the regulation of robotics was presented to the legal affairs committee of the European Parliament. The committee approved the proposal on Thursday. The proposal will now be reviewed by the top regulator of the bloc, the European Commission.

Mady Delvaux, the parliamentarian who devised the proposal, had the following to say about it.

“A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics. To ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework.”

The following are in the proposal put forward by the legislators.

Kill switch

All robots must have “kill switches” such that they can be turned off in emergencies, if and when they start misbehaving or in more technical terms, if they stop performing as designed. These robots must also be re-programmable, such that the faulty software can be modified.

This proposal puts forward a new guidance for engineers in order to design safer and more ethical robots.

Do not humanize robots

Another aspect in the proposal focuses on the idea that robots should always be identified as mechanical creatures. The proposal states that it could prove harmful for human beings to humanize the machines as it could lead them into developing emotional attachment towards them. The proposal cites one particular example of care robots, pointing out that those who depend on these machines can easily develop emotional attachment towards them.

Mady Delvaux, the legislator who authored the proposal, described this section of the proposal as below.

“You always have to tell people that robot is not a human and a robot will never be a human. You must never think that a robot is a human and that he loves you.”

Stopping killer robots

robots kill switch
[Image via M-SUR/Shutterstock]

This section of the proposal addresses the frightening future scenario so often addressed in fiction – robots turning against humans, and eventually wiping mankind off the face of the planet.

The proposal demands that the designers, producers and the operators of robots consider the “laws of robotics” put forward by the great science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov.

Simply put, Asimov’s laws states that a robot must never harm or kill a human being, and that it must always obey the commands of its operator. The law allows for a robot to defend itself, so long as that does not involve harming a human being.

Robot Insurance

This section of the proposal puts forward the idea of a mandatory insurance plan that would require the owner of any robot to pay for the insurance coverage of their machine that would cover the potential damages caused by the machine. This would be very similar to a car insurance.

Taxing Robots

In this section, lawmakers have proposed that should advanced robots replace the human work-forces in an excessive amount, the owners of these robots should pay taxes and contribute to social security.

This could also help the EU implement a universal income plan in order to address potential job losses.

Robot Rights

This section explores whether or not advanced robots with human-like sentient behaviors should be considered as an “electronic person” with rights similar to human rights.

[Featured Image by AnggaR3ind/Shutterstock]