The Corner

EU, Robot

Asimov’s three laws are not, apparently, enough.

The Guardian:

The European parliament has urged the drafting of a set of regulations to govern the use and creation of robots and artificial intelligence, including a form of “electronic personhood” to ensure rights and responsibilities for the most capable AI.

In a 17-2 vote, with two abstentions, the parliament’s legal affairs committee passed the report, which outlines one possible framework for regulation.

“A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics,” said the report’s author, Luxembourgish MEP Mady Delvaux. “In order to address this reality and to ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework”.

Because robust regulation is always urgently needed, and because it must, of course, be “European”. This is not something that nation-states can be left to decide upon for themselves.

Some of the proposals, such as a make-work scheme for bureaucrats (“the creation of a European agency for robotics and AI”) and the imposition of more paperwork (“a legal definition of “smart autonomous robots”, with a system of registration of the most advanced of them”) are pretty much what would be expected from the legislative annex (it cannot initiate legislation) of the EU’s command-and-control regime. Others, somewhat presumptuously, seem to contemplate a spot of moralizing: “An advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots”.

More interesting, though, is this (my emphasis added):

A new reporting structure for companies requiring them to report the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions.

This builds on earlier work from the same committee that (as CNN put it last year) was arguing that, “if robots are going to steal human jobs and otherwise disrupt society, they should at the very least pay taxes.”

That’s an argument with implications that would be bad news for the EU’s economic competitiveness, but it hints at growing political unease over the implications of the current automation wave, implications too easily ignored in societies that have forgotten the birth pangs of the nineteenth century technological revolutions. It took longer than is generally understood to prove Ned Ludd wrong, and what happened in the interval—and what flowed from it—wasn’t pretty (I touched on this topic during the course of an article for NRODT last year).   

 The Guardian adds:

[The report] also addresses the risk that overly competitive robots could result in large-scale unemployment, and calls for the “serious” examination of a general basic income as one possible solution.

The use of that “overly” is telling….

This debate isn’t going away.