Lawyerly thinkers would have imagined an uncharted territory when they had seen Episode 1, Season 2 of Black Mirror, "Be Right Back". An AI is custom-made to speak and act exactly like a person who died a week ago. He is a good companion of the latest widow. The widow feels just like she's a still with her husband.
I, Alexa: Should we give artificial intelligence human rights?
Douglas Adams’ second Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, tells the story of a futuristic smart elevator called the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Happy Vertical People Transporter. This artificially intelligent elevator works by predicting the future, so it can appear on the right floor to pick you up even before you know you want to get on — thereby “eliminating all the tedious chatting, relaxing, and making friends that people were previously forced to do whilst waiting for elevators.”
Higher up the food chain are large-scale projects aimed at creating more biofidelic algorithms, designed to replicate the workings of the human brain, rather than simply being inspired by the way we lay down memories. Then there are projects designed to upload consciousness into machine form, or something like the so-called “OpenWorm” project, which sets out to recreate the connectome — the wiring diagram of the central nervous system — for the tiny hermaphroditic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, which remains the only fully-mapped connectome of a living creature humanity has been able to achieve.
“Today, corporations have legal rights and are considered legal persons, whereas most animals are not,” Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, told us. “Even though corporations clearly have no consciousness, no personality and no capacity to experience happiness and suffering; whereas animals are conscious entities.”
“Irrespective of whether AI develops consciousness, there might be economic, political and legal reasons to grant it personhood and rights in the same way that corporations are granted personhood and rights. Indeed, AI might come to dominate certain corporations, organizations and even countries. This is a path only seldom discussed in science fiction, but I think it is far more likely to happen than the kind of Westworld and Ex Machina scenarios that dominate the silver screen.”
Horst Eidenmüller (Freshfields Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Oxford) writes:
Be that as it may: it seems to be clear that the question about the legal personality of robots raises deep philosophical problems, and robot law will be shaped by what I have called the ‘deep normative structure’ of a society. It very much matters whether a society is based on a utilitarian conception of ‘the good’ or whether it rather is based on a humanitarian/Kantian vision according to which not everything that is utility-maximizing is necessarily the better policy. What seems to be clear is that a utilitarian conception of ‘the good’ will tend to move a society in a direction in which robots eventually will take a fairly prominent role – by virtue of the law.