European politicians are going to vote on whether we should rein in the robots and regulate them in some way before they outsmart us and it’s too late.
The vote, set to take place on Thursday, comes after a report from from the Legal Affairs Committee warned that there is a growing need for regulation to address the issue of increasingly autonomous robots and other forms of sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI).
Mady Delvaux, the author of the report, will put forward her recommendations to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
“The next generation of robots will be more and more capable of learning by themselves,” Delvaux said in an interview published on the European Parliament website.
Politicians are concerned that robots will wipe out millions of jobs worldwide. There are also fears that superintelligent machines could harm humanity if they’re not programmed in the right way.
“The most high-profile ones are self-driving cars, but they also include drones, industrial robots, care robots, entertainment robots, toys, robots in farming,” said Delvaux.
“We have to monitor what is happening and then we have to be prepared for every scenario.”
Tech firms and AI gurus who are keen to make the smartest machines possible will likely see any form of government regulation around AI as a set back at this stage.
Delvaux added: “We always have to remind people that robots are not human and will never be. Although they might appear to show empathy, they cannot feel it. We do not want robots like they have in Japan, which look like people. We proposed a charter setting out that robots should not make people emotionally dependent on them. You can be dependent on them for physical tasks, but you should never think that a robot loves you or feels your sadness.”
Delvaux also believes that a separate legal status should be created for robots.
“When self-learning robots arise, different solutions will become necessary and we are asking the Commission to study options. One could be to give robots a limited ‘e-personality’ [comparable to “corporate personality”, a legal status which enables firms to sue or be sued] at least where compensation is concerned.
“It is similar to what we now have for companies, but it is not for tomorrow. What we need now is to create a legal framework for the robots that are currently on the market or will become available over the next 10 to 15 years.”