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Experts slam EU proposal to grant personhood to intelligent machines

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From George Dvorsky at Gizmodo:

Over 150 experts in AI, robotics, commerce, law, and ethics from 14 countries have signed an open letter denouncing the European Parliament’s proposal to grant personhood status to intelligent machines. The EU says the measure will make it easier to figure out who’s liable when robots screw up or go rogue, but critics say it’s too early to consider robots as persons—and that the law will let manufacturers off the liability hook.

This all started last year when the European Parliament proposed the creation of a specific legal status for robots … More.

See also: Should chimpanzees be considered legal persons or things? Chimpanzees being considered legal persons is a step on the road to human beings not being considered so. But people vote for it. And academics and law firms will profit from it. It will not help chimpanzees at all, unfortunately, as the only thing that can really help them is protection of their environment.


Live webinar with Robert Marks, Baylor U, on artificial intelligence and human exceptionalism

15 Replies to “Experts slam EU proposal to grant personhood to intelligent machines

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    If they are “persons” for the purposes of the law, do they then have the right to stand for election to the legislature which presumes to enact laws to which they are subject. Are they entitled to a say in such debates? Are they entitled to all the rights and freedoms to which human persons are entitled? Can they be used as slave labor or are they entitled to be paid a living wage and all the other benefits which are offered to workers in a free society?

  2. 2
    Allan Keith says:

    If corporations can be legally classified as people, why not computers?

  3. 3
    timothya says:

    Why stop this notion at corporations and computers? Surely a statue is “incorporated”. Easter Island must be filled with basalt voters. Votes for rock carvings! Now! They are full of non-Texan specified complexity, after all. Just like glaciers. But I, personally, would draw the line at gerbils.

  4. 4
    Jon Garvey says:

    A robot is programmed by its owners to break into a house. The home-owner, in self defence, slugs it with a baseball bat, and is immediately arrested for causing death to a person by the undue use of force. His country carries the death penalty for such an offence.

    Or … a robot, being five years old, is entirely obsolete and, I.T. being what it is, is incompatible with new upgrades, if indeed it could give informed consent to such dramatic interference to its personhood. Being a person, it has a right to be kept at the expense of the state or its owner in happy retirement, rather than being dismantled, for as long as it functions.

  5. 5
    polistra says:

    Easier to figure liability? No, the real purpose is the exact opposite.

    Current law is already clear and easy to use. When my car loses its brakes and rolls into the street hitting your car, I’m liable for failing to maintain the car. Sometimes the manufacturer can be secondarily blamed, if the brakes are found to be defectively designed.

    There’s no reason to treat an “autonomous” machine differently. The owner is primarily liable, with a possibility of chain-suing the manufacturer for badly designed software. This sequence is already working properly with autonomous cars.

    What the tech monsters want here is TOTAL RELIEF from liability. Suing the machine is a null act. The machine doesn’t have money or property and can’t be imprisoned. Result: Nobody pays, and the plaintiff gets no compensation.

  6. 6
    timothya says:


    “There’s no reason to treat an “autonomous” machine differently. The owner is primarily liable, with a possibility of chain-suing the manufacturer for badly designed software. This sequence is already working properly with autonomous cars.”

    Then is there a reason to grant a “corporation” a comparable right, which the most senior law-deciding body of the United States of America has done?

    In any case, if the manufacturer has incorporated a systemic fault in its design, then the owner of the device is not “primarily liable” (reference the Pinto decision). The designer of the device carries the responsibility.

    Which leads to some interesting implications for Intelligent Design.

  7. 7
    LocalMinimum says:

    AK @ 2:

    That latter abomination is possible via the former abomination. A corporation run by a computer with humans serving only as agents and caretakers is effectively a computer given personhood.

    Another interesting(awful) result: Killers (robots) can be manufactured liability free. Like a pipe bomb, only law enforcement is left sitting on their hands.

    Don’t like the 2nd Amendment (EU)? Why make guns that shoot themselves (at people!) perfectly legal?

    And then, realizing their mistake, they start regulating personhood…

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    What an indication of the contempt in which the EU technocrats hold the public ; absolutely on a par with the contempt of the large private corporations and their merchandise on Capitol Hill have for them.

  9. 9
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    AK @ 2,

    I don’t expect you to realize this, but the English word “corporation” is derived from the Latin word meaning body, which is used as an organization of humans, by humans and for humans. Did I mention humans?

    How about this: I don’t recognize you as an entity worthy of respect or acknowledgement. After all, you are made of cells. So (metaphorically speaking) I can carve apart the collection of cells that you have enslaved to act as “you,” I can crush above and crush below “your” thorax, and I can sell off the chunks for fun and profit. And “you” have no moral standing whatsoever.

    See how this works? What do you think of supporting Planned Parenthood now?

  10. 10
    LocalMinimum says:

    Dean @ 9:

    If every cell is recognized as an entity worthy of respect and acknowledgement, I can’t separate the cells without respecting their individual interests; say, with better pay and benefits. Sounds less like vivisection and more like capitalism.

    Corporations don’t operate like individual humans, even the majority of their constituency; with their emergent motivation often averaging out to a reptilian id that is every bit as careless of humanity in general, and that would generally be more honest as a computer program for its actual following of rules rather than working to break or seize the means to write them to its own advantage.

    I don’t approve of either sort of abstract machine having rights separate from their designers and operators.

  11. 11
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    LocalMinimum @ 10,

    Thanks for the reply. You make some good points that are worth some thought. Corporations, it still seems to me, are humans writ large: some murderous and scheming, and a few self-sacrificing and saving life. Solzhenitsyn might have said that the line between good and evil runs through every corporation, though not necessarily down the middle.

    I’m with you on keeping rights and responsibilities with humans, and not some machina, deus or no.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    I’ve been thinking on ‘neuronal illusions’ lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking on Bob’s and Ak’s, who are atheistic materialists themselves, strenuous objection to me considering them ‘neuronal illusions’ instead of them being considered real people by me.

    Yet, it is not me who directly calls them that. It is leading materialistic philosophers themselves who have concluded that “since” materialism is true then they, as persons, must be ‘neuronal illusions’ instead of real people.

    Ross Douthat Is On Another Erroneous Rampage Against Secularism – Jerry Coyne – December 26, 2013
    Excerpt: “many (but not all) of us accept the notion that our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.”
    Jerry Coyne – Professor of Evolutionary Biology – Atheist

    At the 23:33 minute mark of the following video, Richard Dawkins agrees with materialistic philosophers who say that:
    “consciousness is an illusion”
    A few minutes later Rowan Williams asks Dawkins ”If consciousness is an illusion…what isn’t?”.

    “There is no self in, around, or as part of anyone’s body. There can’t be. So there really isn’t any enduring self that ever could wake up morning after morning worrying about why it should bother getting out of bed. The self is just another illusion, like the illusion that thought is about stuff or that we carry around plans and purposes that give meaning to what our body does. Every morning’s introspectively fantasized self is a new one, remarkably similar to the one that consciousness ceased fantasizing when we fell sleep sometime the night before. Whatever purpose yesterday’s self thought it contrived to set the alarm last night, today’s newly fictionalized self is not identical to yesterday’s. It’s on its own, having to deal with the whole problem of why to bother getting out of bed all over again.”
    – A.Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, ch.10

    “I’m not arguing that consciousness is a reality beyond science or beyond the brain or that it floats free of the brain at death. I’m not making any spooky claims about its metaphysics. What I am saying, however, is that the self is an illusion. The sense of being an ego, an I, a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts. An experiencer in addition to the experience. The sense that we all have of riding around inside our heads as a kind of a passenger in the vehicle of the body. That’s where most people start when they think about any of these questions. Most people don’t feel identical to their bodies. They feel like they have bodies. They feel like they’re inside the body. And most people feel like they’re inside their heads. Now that sense of being a subject, a locus of consciousness inside the head is an illusion. It makes no neuro-anatomical sense.”
    Sam Harris: The Self is an Illusion

    The Consciousness Deniers – Galen Strawson – March 13, 2018
    Excerpt: What is the silliest claim ever made? The competition is fierce, but I think the answer is easy. Some people have denied the existence of consciousness: conscious experience, the subjective character of experience, the “what-it-is-like” of experience.,,,
    Who are the Deniers?,,, Few have been fully explicit in their denial, but among those who have been, we find Brian Farrell, Paul Feyerabend, Richard Rorty, and the generally admirable Daniel Dennett.,,,

    “We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.”
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    “that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.”
    Francis Crick – “The Astonishing Hypothesis” 1994

    Bob and AK objected that only a few leading atheistic philosophers hold that they are neuronal illusions instead of real people. But I hold that, number 1, few atheistic philosophers are willing to admit, in public, that they think that they do not really exist:

    Atheistic Materialism – Does Richard Dawkins Exist? – video 37:51 minute mark
    Quote: “It turns out that if every part of you, down to sub-atomic parts, are still what they were when they weren’t in you, in other words every ion,,, every single atom that was in the universe,, that has now become part of your living body, is still what is was originally. It hasn’t undergone what metaphysicians call a ‘substantial change’. So you aren’t Richard Dawkins. You are just carbon and neon and sulfur and oxygen and all these individual atoms still.
    You can spout a philosophy that says scientific materialism, but there aren’t any scientific materialists to pronounce it.,,, That’s why I think they find it kind of embarrassing to talk that way. Nobody wants to stand up there and say, “You know, I’m not really here”.

    And number 2, regardless of the fact that not many leading atheistic materialists are willing to admit in public that they think that they do not really exist, the fact of the matter is that people turning into neuronal illusions is a direct consequence of the reductive materialism that undergirds Darwinian thought. As the following article points out, Consciousness is an illusion because naturalism has no place for it. Whatever is real is reducible to the physical; consciousness is not reducible to the physical; ergo, consciousness does not exist in reality: it is an illusion.

    Consciousness is an Illusion but Truth is Not? – Maverick Philosopher – 2017
    Excerpt: But here comes Danny (Dennett) the Sophist who asserts that consciousness is an illusion. Well, that is just nonsense,,,
    If consciousness is an illusion, then it is an illusion for consciousness.,,,
    Consciousness is not only presupposed by the distinction between reality and illusion, it is also presupposed by the quest for explanation. For where would explanations reside if not in the minds of conscious beings?
    So I say consciousness cannot be an illusion. One cannot explain it the way Dennett wants to explain it, which involves explaining it away. For details, see Can Consciousness be Explained? Dennett Debunked.
    But if consciousness, per impossibile, were an illusion, why wouldn’t truth also be an illusion? Consciousness is an illusion because naturalism has no place for it. Whatever is real is reducible to the physical; consciousness is not reducible to the physical; ergo, consciousness does not exist in reality: it is an illusion.
    By the same reasoning, truth ought also to be an illusion since there is no place for it in the natural world. Note also that Dennett obviously thinks that truth is objectively valuable and pursuit-worthy. Where locate values in a naturalist scheme?
    Wouldn’t it be more consistent for Dennett to go whole hog and explain away both consciousness and truth? Perhaps he ought to go POMO (post modern). There is no truth; there are only interpretations and perspectives of organisms grubbing for survival. What justifies him in privileging his naturalist narrative? It is one among many.
    I say consciousness and truth are on a par: neither can be explained away. Neither is eliminable. Neither is an illusion. Both are part of what we must presuppose to explain anything.
    Nietzsche had a great insight: No God, no truth. For the POMOs there is neither. For me there is both. For the inconsistent Dennett there is the second but not the first. Again, there is simply no place for truth in a wholly material world.
    For an argument from truth to God, see here.

    Thus, despite the fact that Bob and Ak may strongly object to being thought of as neuronal illusions, the fact of the matter is that conclusion is direct consequence of the Atheistic materialism that they claim is the true worldview.

    Besides consciousness and/or “personhood”, there are many “abstract” things that the human mind thinks about that are not reducible to the material realm.

    The Fundamental Difference Between Humans and Nonhuman Animals – Michael Egnor – November 5, 2015
    Excerpt: Human beings have mental powers that include the material mental powers of animals but in addition entail a profoundly different kind of thinking. Human beings think abstractly, and nonhuman animals do not. Human beings have the power to contemplate universals, which are concepts that have no material instantiation. Human beings think about mathematics, literature, art, language, justice, mercy, and an endless library of abstract concepts. Human beings are rational animals.
    Human rationality is not merely a highly evolved kind of animal perception. Human rationality is qualitatively different — ontologically different — from animal perception. Human rationality is different because it is immaterial. Contemplation of universals cannot have material instantiation, because universals themselves are not material and cannot be instantiated in matter.,,,
    It is a radical difference — an immeasurable qualitative difference, not a quantitative difference.
    We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses.,,,

    Immaterial “abstract” Mathematics is particularly interesting to think about.

    An Interview with David Berlinski – Jonathan Witt
    Berlinski: There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time….
    Interviewer:… Come again(?) …
    Berlinski: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.

    If our mind, instead of being immaterial as is commonly held, were purely physical as the atheistic materialist holds, then how is it that our mind is even able to think about abstract immaterial concepts such as mathematics in the first place?

    Moreover, if atheistic materialism were true, and mathematics is basically, like consciousness, illusory, then why is it that science itself is so crucially dependent on this immaterial illusory thing of mathematics?

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,
    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.”

    It is ironic that, besides Darwinian evolution already being shown to be mathematically impossible (Sanford, Dembski, Marks, Axe, Behe etc.. etc..), Darwinian evolution is now also falsified as being a scientific theory since it denies the very reality of the one thing it most needs, i.e. mathematics, in order to be considered scientific in the first place.

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    One final note, many times atheists will claim that there is no empirical evidence for the immaterial mind. Yet the fact of the matter is that they, apparently, never looked for any evidence. If they would have looked for evidence for the immaterial mind they certainly would have found it.

    Materialism of the Gaps – Michael Egnor (Neurosurgeon) – January 29, 2009
    Excerpt: The evidence that some aspects of the mind are immaterial is overwhelming. It’s notable that many of the leading neuroscientists — Sherrington, Penfield, Eccles, Libet — were dualists. Dualism of some sort is the most reasonable scientific framework to apply to the mind-brain problem, because, unlike dogmatic materialism, it just follows the evidence.

    Do Conscious Thoughts Cause Behavior? -Roy F. Baumeister, E. J. Masicampo, and Kathleen D. Vohs – 2010
    Excerpt: The evidence for conscious causation of behavior is profound, extensive, adaptive, multifaceted, and empirically strong.

    “We regard promissory materialism as superstition without a rational foundation. The more we discover about the brain, the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena, and the more wonderful do both the brain events and mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a religious belief held by dogmatic materialists who often confuse their religion with their science.”
    ? John C. Eccles, The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind – 1984

    The Case for the Soul: Quantum Biology – (7:25 minute mark – The Mind is able to modify the brain – Brain Plasticity, and Mindfulness control of DNA expression)

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    Also of note is the post from the other day:

    To further drive the point home that the entire concept of ‘personhood’ will forever be beyond the scope of reductive materialistic explanations, it is good to remember Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.,,, (April 2018)

  15. 15
    Allan Keith says:


    To further drive the point home that the entire concept of ‘personhood’ will forever be beyond the scope of reductive materialistic explanations,

    As it is beyond the scope of theism. Saying that god-di-it is not an explanation. How he did it is. What mechanisms he used. Evidence of him using these mechanisms. You can philosophize and dance on the head of a pin all you want but we are still talking about a god-of-the-gaps argument.

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