Artificial Intelligence and the Limits of Legal Personality

Sophia (Hanson Robotics Ltd) speaking at the AI for Good Global Summit, 2017. © ITU/R.Farrell


As artificial intelligence (AI) systems become more sophisticated and play a larger role in society, arguments that they should have some form of legal personality gain credence. It has been suggested that this will fill an accountability gap created by the speed, autonomy, and opacity of AI. In addition, a growing body of literature considers the possibility of AI systems owning the intellectual property that they create. The arguments are typically framed in instrumental terms, with comparisons to juridical persons such as corporations. Implicit in those arguments, or explicit in their illustrations and examples, is the idea that as AI systems approach the point of indistinguishability from humans they should be entitled to a status comparable to natural persons. This article contends that although most legal systems could create a novel category of legal persons, such arguments are insufficient to show that they should.

This article has been published in International & Comparative Law Quarterly, vol 69(4), pp 819-844 (2020) and is available in full here. The author’s original version is available on here.

I was honoured to give the ICLQ Annual Lecture for 2021, based on the article. You can watch it here: