Jan 13, 2017

The EU is voting on the future of robots

Jae C. Hong / AP

Members of the European Parliament have put together a report calling for new legislation on how humans will interact with artificial intelligence and robots. It looks at whether robots should be given legal status as "electronic persons," and states that designers should ensure that all robots have a kill switch — in case things go haywire.

Why this matters: Europe is more aggressive than the U.S. about regulating technology, and they're hoping to get a jumpstart on laying the ground rules for (what that they see as) an upcoming industrial revolution that is likely to "leave no stratum of society untouched."

The BBC has reported the full breakdown, but here are the main takeaways:

  • There is a strong possibility that within the space of a few decades, AI could surpass human intellectual capacity.
  • If robots become self-aware, Issac Asimov's "Three Laws" will kick in.
  • Robotic research should be conducted in the interests of the wellbeing of humans.
  • Designers may be required to register their robots and provide access to their source codes.
  • New robotic designs will need the go-ahead from a research ethics committee.
  • A European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence will be created to provide technical, ethical and regulatory expertise.
  • Producers or owners may be required to take out insurance to cover the damage potentially caused by their robot.

What's next: MEPs still need to vote on the legislation, but if it's approved it'll go to individual governments for further debate before becoming EU law.

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