Traditionally, the world of law has distinguished between two types of persons: the natural person and the legal person.
The notion of a natural person need not be explained in detail. It denotes a human person subject to legal rights and duties. However, we do need to explain the reasons for the emergence of the notion of a legal person.
Unlike a natural person, a legal person is not something that we can see or touch, but a fiction created by the law maker. In ancient Rome, the jurists who laid the foundations of our law, saw the need to create a new institution subject to rights and obligations.
The notion of a legal person was invented in order to resolve the practical needs of a group of people who wanted to conduct their business transactions through a non-human entity. A legal person is not a human person but a legal entity such as a company. Without this invention, the capitalist society that we live in today would surely not exist.
I now wish to suggest that a third type of person may enter our legal world in the future. It will be: – the electronic (robotic) person. If this happens, we will be moving towards humans and humanoids enjoying equal rights by giving legal personality to robots.
Before I am accused of being over enlightened, I would like to remind the reader that, since the 1930s, robots have gone from being the stuff of science fiction to becoming part of our everyday lives. It is in the late thirties when electronic assistants begin to appear such as coffee machines, vacuum cleaners, kitchen robots, etc.
Since then, robots have evolved in leaps and bounds to coexist with self-driving cars, nano-robots that explore the human body to diagnose diseases, 'chatbots', unmanned drones, and robotic arms in factories and industries, etc.
The main difference between the robots of the 30s and those of today is the development of artificial intelligence and, consequently, robots have increasing autonomy and independence from human beings.
It is precisely the progress of artificial intelligence that has caused many experts in the field to ask with one voice for legislation that regulates what the legal relationship between humans and robots will be like.
In this regard, there is a motion for a resolution of the European Parliament 2015/2109 (INL) with recommendations to the Commission on civil law rules on robotics.
This report maintains the opinion that "The more autonomous robots are, the less they can be considered simple tools in the hands of other actors (such as the manufacturer, the owner, the user, etc.); ...this, in turn, questions whether the ordinary rules on liability are insufficient or whether it calls for new principles and rules to provide clarity on the legal liability of various actors concerning responsibility for the acts and omissions of robots; that, as a consequence, it becomes increasingly urgent to address the fundamental question of whether robots should have legal personality. "
The report opens the possibility of creating a new legal personality, as follows from the following paragraph: "Create a specific legal personality for robots, so that at least the most complex independent robots can be considered electronic people with specific rights and obligations, including the obligation to repair the damages they may cause; the electronic personality would be applied to the assumptions in which the robots can make intelligent autonomous decisions or interact with third parties independently. "
Although all this may seem like science fiction, we cannot ignore that the impact of robots in our society will increase. While it is true that currently there is no artificial intelligence that can give them complete autonomy, it is necessary for the world of law to investigate the possibility of creating a new entity that is subject to rights and obligations, in order to adapt to the social reality of each moment and encourage progress.
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