, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 523–537 | Cite as

Imagining a non-biological machine as a legal person

Original Article


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.



This article is derived from prior papers delivered at a number of conferences held in 2005. The primary papers have appeared in print in Proceedings of the Symposium on Next Generation Approaches to Machine Consciousness sponsored by The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behavior (SSAISB), and in the AAAI Fall Symposium 2005, Machine Ethics, sponsored by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Permission to use those papers is appreciated. Likewise, the comments and suggestions from attendees at those conferences have been helpful in refining the ideas.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Law, Science and Technology College of LawArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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