The European Union has been reading some Isaac Asimov novels, it seems. The expansion of industrial robotics has made the EU question whether or not to finally give robots the "electronic persons" classification. We are seeing robots in factories around the world furthering the fourth industrial revolution and slowly making their way into households around the world. The fact of the matter cannot be denied, robots being considered "electronic persons" is soon not going to be the stuff of science-fiction novels anymore.
The draft document by the Legal Affairs Committee of the EU to give intelligent robots that title "electronic persons" has gotten the engineers who develop and equip factories with these 'robotic persons', talking. VDMA, a German engineering association, says this is the kind of overeager chatter that will slow the fourth industrial revolution down. The European Union are trying to force regulation on technologies that they assume already exists, says VDMA chief executive Thilo Brodtmann.
VDMA robotics and automation head Patrick Schwarzkopf told Reuters that a legal framework for electronic persons should only be happening in the next 50 years and not in the next ten years. "We think it would be very bureaucratic and would stunt the development of robotics," he said.
The draft proposal has come after news that factories all over the world are continually replacing human workers with a robotic workforce. The rise in industrial automation is something that Europe does quite well, and in Germany specifically. Perhaps that is why the EU wants to jump on the issue so quickly.
The activist behind the proposal is an MP Mady Delvaux. She was interviewed by the EU's actual website, saying that robots need a classification of some sort because of the many different kinds of robots that exist today, i.e. service robots, industrial robots, drones, cars, etc. She said: "There are various reasons for this. We need a new European standardisation. We also need to consider liability, the protection of personal data and the prevention of hacking...The US, China, Korea and Japan have very ambitious projects. If we do not create the legal framework for the development of robotics, our market will be invaded by robots from the outside. Also, the European Parliament will be the first parliament in the world to discuss and create such a legal framework." She also alludes to the fact that the robot revolution will "destroy certain kinds of jobs" but is confident that Europe will be creating new ones to counteract the loss of employment.
Other robot manufacturers like Kuka have also rubbished the claims that an "electronic persons" classification for robots is necessary right now and would rather delay the process to see where robotics lands up in the upcoming years.
Here is the entire draft report on the recommendations to the commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics