I was recently interviewed by Gizmodo about the idea of robots as legal people. Here is what I had to say:
“Robots should not be granted personhood now; there is no existing robot that remotely qualifies for person status,” Michael LaBossiere, a philosopher and expert in robot ethics at Florida A&M University, told Gizmodo. “However, we should work out the moral and legal issues now so as to try to avoid our usual approach of blundering into a mess and then staggering through it. So, I am in favor of laying the legal groundwork for the future of artificial persons.”
In terms of whether artificial persons can exist, LaBossiere says there’s no compelling reason to think that the mind must be strictly limited to organic beings. “After all, if a lump of organic goo can somehow think, then it is no more odd to think that a mass of circuitry or artificial goo could think,” he said. “For those who think a soul is required to think, it is also no more bizarre for a ghost to be in a metal shell than in a meat shell.” In terms of telling when personhood status should be granted, LaBossiere said we should use the same tests we use to solve the problem of other minds when it comes to humans. “If an artificial being can pass the same language and behavioral tests as a human, it should get a presumption of status,” he said.