Are robots more than just 'personal property'? Estonia works toward giving AI legal status

  • Estonia's economic ministry is considering granting AI and robots a legal status
  • This would make them 'robot agents' and not merely someone's property
  • The legislation could help determine responsibility when AI-controlled machinery is involved in an accident

Estonian officials are working on legislation that will grant robots and artificial intelligence (AI) legal status.

The country's economic ministry is considering granting AI and robots a legal status that would make them 'robot agents'.

The status would sit somewhere between having a 'separate legal personality', like a corporation, and being an object that is someone else's 'personal property'.

The legislation could help determine who is responsible when AI-controlled vehicles or machinery are involved in an accident.

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Siim Sikkut, the official in charge of the government's IT strategy, said the move would come with several advantages.

'If we seize this opportunity as a government, we could be one of the trail blazers,' Mr Sikkut said in an interview in in Tallinn on Friday, according to Bloomberg .

Mr Sikkut said he isn't aware of any other government preparing a robotics law outside Estonia.

He said the new rules will hopefully be brought in 'within a couple of years.'

'We need to get plenty of myths and stereotypes out of the way early on,' Mr Sikkut said.

'Like that robots are taking over everything or that we're going too far with computerisation.

'Of course, these questions need to be addressed with all new technologies.'

This is not the first time this year that European officials have debated changing the legal status of robots.

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