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I, Estonian Robot

The wired-up Baltic republic recently gave the green light to driverless vehicles, which could soon acquire legal identities.

10 October 2017

Estonia’s government may soon introduce legislation giving intelligent machines a legal personality.

 

The Estonian Economy Ministry is considering several proposals, including creating a new legal category, “robot-agent,” Bloomberg reports.

 

"If we seize this opportunity as a government, we could be one of the trail blazers," the head of the government’s IT strategy, Siim Sikkut, said on Friday.

 

“Sikkut said he saw advantages to elevating artificial intelligence to the same judicial level as natural and legal persons,” the news agency writes, adding that the ministry’s proposals may struggle to gain traction with other government officials.

 

Estonia, the cradle of Skype, boasts of being the most computerized country on earth. Famed for its tech startup prowess, it helped pioneer paperless government and internet voting, among other innovations.

 

Driverless delivery robots from a company formed by two Skype founders were given parliamentary approval in June to move autonomously in traffic at speeds up to 6 kilometers per hour (3.7 miles per hour), Bloomberg says.

 

A delivery robot. Image via Starship Technologies/Facebook.

 

Less successful, so far, is a bid to launch the first state-operated cryptocurrency.

 

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi poured cold water on the idea.

 

“No [euro zone] member state can introduce its own currency," Draghi said in answer to a question during a press conference in early September, Reuters reported. "The currency of the euro zone is the euro."

 

 

  • European Parliament lawmakers adopted a resolution in February urging the European Commission to consider a legal framework for robots, such as self-driving vehicles. Lawmakers are concerned about how to establish liability in case of damages inflicted by semi-autonomous vehicles.

 

  • Sikkut said he knew of no other governments working on the legal status of robots. He hoped Estonia can implement its new rules within “a couple of years,” according to Bloomberg.

 

  • “We need to get plenty of myths and stereotypes out of the way early on," Sikkut said. "Like that robots are taking over everything or that we’re going too far with computerization. Of course, these questions need to be addressed with all new technologies.”

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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