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Bishops baulk at person status for robots

BRUSSELS (SE): The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community is critical of a resolution from the European Parliament calling for consideration to be given to attributing the status of a person to some robots.
Although two rivers in the world, one in India and one in New Zealand have attained this status they are living creatures and the personhood is connected with the wellbeing of the river being directly linked to the wellbeing of the people.
The Wanganui River in New Zealand became the first in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a person. Long revered by the Maori people, its interests will now be represented by two people.
In India, the Ganges and Yamanu Rivers received similar status in March this year. It makes crimes committed against the health of the rivers, like polluting, far more serious than they were before.
However, the European bishops said in a statement on May 3 that they see the call to the parliament as too dissimilar to make a comparison.
Parliament is being asked to consider “creating a specific legal status for robots… so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently.”
The bishops said, “The parliament’s proposal contradicts the very concept of responsibility, based on ultimate human rights and duties.”
They added that responsibility rooted in legal personality should be exercised only in the presence of a certain capacity for freedom, stressing that freedom is more than autonomy.
The bishops added that they foresee such recognition as being fraught with problems, as it presumes robots possess the capability of having a full range of rights and duties in other legal areas.
They concluded that applying to robots rules on liability for animals would also be problematic, leading to an unacceptable shift towards considering robots as belonging to the area of the living.
The parliament is looking at strict liability on the manufacturer for damage caused by robots, making them liable even if they are considered to be without fault.

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