Robot citizenship? On the moral and political status of machines
In October 2017 a humanoid social robot, Sophia, was given citizenship by Saudi Arabia. The event has raised fierce discussions about whether machines can ever have citizenship. Just a few months earlier, the EU Parliament recommended to give sophisticated autonomous robots a special legal status —“e-persons”. In this Lecture, Professor Coeckelbergh argues that giving robots citizenship seems almost an insult to the very concept of citizenship. And yet, a more relational approach that takes seriously the role of the human and social appearance of robots, thus the phenomenology of the human-robot interaction in how we ascribe moral status, could help us to understand why people may construct the robot’s political status in “thicker” terms in the near future. Even if one rejects the idea of granting citizenship to robots, discussions about the moral and political status of machines may help to reveal much about human politics.
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