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MEPs’ report calls for discussion of robot rights, risks of AI development

MEPs are discussing rules for human-robot interaction, including whether robots should come with a kill switch to allow them to be shut down in an emergency.

A report from MEPs claims there is a “new industrial” robot revolution on its way, and calls for rules to be put in place ahead of its arrival.

Specifically, the report explores whether to give robots legal status as “electronic persons”, which would see them given human-style rights.

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It also discusses the rise of artificial intelligence: “Now that humankind stands on the threshold of an era when ever more sophisticated robots, bots, androids and other manifestations of artificial intelligence (“AI”) seem poised to unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched, it is vitally important for the legislature to consider all its implications.”

The report goes on to recommend a ‘general basic income’ for robots and AI, inviting member states to ‘seriously consider’ the reccomendation.

Much of the discussion echoes sentiments from prominent tech leaders such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk, who have been warning of an impending AI takeover for some time now.

MEPs have reccomended the inclusion of “opt-out mechanisms (kill switches)” on robots in an effort to safeguard against any possible malfunctions or, dare we say ‘uprisings’.

It all feels a little premature, but the report itself is not without basis. Prominent individuals from Oxford philiosopher Nick Bostrom, to neuroscientist Sam Harris have publicly warned of the threat of developing artificial intelligence to a state where it exceeds human capabilities.

MEPs are concerned about this too, acknowledging in the report that AI could “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 EU report goes on to call for the creation of a “European Agency for robotics and artificial intelligence” which would provide technical, ethical, and regulatory expertise to member states.

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