, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 523-537
Date: 13 Mar 2007

Imagining a non-biological machine as a legal person

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Abstract

As non-biological machines come to be designed in ways which exhibit characteristics comparable to human mental states, the manner in which the law treats these entities will become increasingly important both to designers and to society at large. The direct question will become whether, given certain attributes, a non-biological machine could ever be viewed as a “legal person.” In order to begin to understand the ramifications of this question, this paper starts by exploring the distinction between the related concepts of “human,” “person,” and “property.” Once it is understood that person in the legal sense can apply to a non-biological entity such as a corporation, the inquiry then goes on to examine the folk psychology view of intentionality and the concept of autonomy. The conclusion reached is that these two attributes can support the view that a non-biological machine, at least in theory, can be viewed as a legal person.