Angela Merkel and her MEP chums in Europe are calling for a new law that would class robots as “electronic persons,” granting them the same rights as human beings.
The new law would mean that all types of artificial intelligence (AI) would be legally held responsible for their “acts or omissions”.
The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted on the first ever report on robots on Friday.
A draft report, proposed by Mady Delvaux-Stehres, a socialist MEP from Luxembourg, claimed current rules are “insufficient” for the forthcoming “technological revolution”, and suggests the EU should establish “basic ethical principles”.
Ms Delvaux-Stehres’s resolution was easily passed by the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee, and a vote by the full parliament on the resolution is likely to take place in February.
The report suggests that robots and other manifestations of artificial intelligence such as bots and androids are poised to “unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched”.
The legislation also proposes giving all AI creations a “kill switch” in a bid to ensure they “obey orders given by humans”.
The bizarre robot legislation was sparked by fears AI machiners will wipe out jobs and create poverty.
Most worryingly, MEPs believe robots “pose a challenge to humanity’s capacity to control its own creation and, consequently, perhaps also to its capacity to be in charge of its own destiny and to ensure the survival of the species”.
The laws will be directed at the designers, producers and operators of robots.
Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics in his 1942 short story “Runaround”.
These rules state: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
“A robot must obey the orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
“A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws.”
The legislation, which will be sent out to the 28 Members States to consider, also mandates for a robot register so that all models can be identified and kept tabs on.
A mandatory insurance policy will also be required so that anyone owning or operating a robot will be covered for any accidental damage it may cause.
Robotic designers will also have to obtain the go-ahead for new designs from a research ethics committee as well as providing access to source code to investigate accidents and damage caused by bots.
S&D MEP and author of the report Mady Delvaux-Stehres said: “The idea of millions of intelligent robots still sounds to most of us like something from a dystopian science fiction novel.
“As computer processing speeds continue to increase at an ever-faster rate, this will quickly become the reality. Robots will become part of our daily life.
“This is going to have as profound an effect on our societies as the industrial revolution. We need to think urgently about the legal, ethical and societal ramifications of this new robotic revolution.
“It is important that we as politicians make sure that robots will at all times serve humans.
“This report is the start of that process.
“As social democrats, it is urgent that we look at new models to manage society in a world where robots do more and more of the work. “One idea adopted in this report is to look at a universal basic income – where everyone would receive a wage from the government whether they are in work or not.
“This revolution can bring huge benefits to our societies – new jobs in research and innovation, robots performing dangerous tasks currently done by humans, lower risk of car accidents by excluding human error and smarter energy consumption.
“However, we need to make sure these benefits outweigh the challenges.
“In particular, we on the left need to ensure that the robotic revolution does not mean greater unemployment and an even greater gap between rich and poor in our societies.”
The World Economic Forum has said robots and AI could replace 5.1 million jobs by 2020.
The report states: “The greater a robot’s learning capability or autonomy is, the lower other parties’ responsibilities should be and the longer a robot’s ‘education’ has lasted, the greater the responsibility of its ‘teacher’ should be.”