Legal personality of robots, corporations, idols and chimpanzees: a quest for legitimacy
Robots are now associated with various aspects of our lives. These sophisticated machines have been increasingly used in different manufacturing industries and services sectors for decades. During this time, they have been a factor in causing significant harm to humans, prompting questions of liability. Industrial robots are presently regarded as products for liability purposes. In contrast, some commentators have proposed that robots be granted legal personality, with an overarching aim of exonerating the respective creators and users of these artefacts from liability. This article is concerned mainly with industrial robots that exercise some degree of self-control as programmed, though the creation of fully autonomous robots is still a long way off. The proponents of the robot’s personality compare these machines generally with corporations, and sporadically with, inter alia, animals, and idols, in substantiating their arguments. This article discusses the attributes of legal personhood and the justifications for the separate personality of corporations and idols. It then demonstrates the reasons for refusal of an animal’s personality. It concludes that robots are ineligible to be persons, based on the requirements of personhood.