The European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs seeks to regulate everything that concerns everyday life. Robots are entering it, in our daily lives and in our lives. So why not regulate them too? But there is a preliminary question. What are robots? Are they just assemblies of metals, plastics and other silicones? In short, are they an organized pile of scrap metal? Or are they people? Even qualified as an electronic person "can a robot have rights and obligations? Does it have to pay taxes and subscribe to social security funds?
Ne observe every day the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence. They surprise us, excite us and also worry us a lot. Robots come into our lives and not only take on all shapes and forms, but also perform functions that have always been part of our lives. Even worse, they are sometimes better than we are at certain tasks and activities. By trying to look like us to perhaps better surpass us, they are acquiring a nature that will one day have to be categorized.
This is what EU lawyers want to do: should machines be given a specific status? The question arises because robots, intelligent machines or autonomous vehicles are increasingly called upon to interact with humans. In this promiscuity, more and more frequent disputes may arise. It then becomes necessary to define each person's responsibilities. There is even a certain degree of urgency in doing so because robots, whether humanoid or not, occupy functions that involve a close relationship with humans. This is the case of generations of intelligent machines whose arrival is announced to us, called upon to respond to societal issues such as old age, health, productivity or working conditions.
In addressing this issue of the status of robots, the lawyers of the European Commission are not skimping on words. Their first draft resolution considers that machines could be considered as "...". electronic persons ». By using the word "person" for machines, the commission is entering uncharted territory.
After a week of meetings held since its creation in April 2015, the committee tabled a draft resolution at the end of May last year calling on Parliament to fill a legal vacuum: "... the European Parliament must take action to ensure that the European Union's legal framework for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms is respected. the most sophisticated autonomous robots should at least be given the status of electronic person with specific rights and duties ». This formulation calls for a debate on the definition of the nature of this new legal entity, its responsibilities and possibly its rights. In the background, there is also the possibility of a possible taxation of machinery.
In the notes of its work, the Legal Committee calls for the creation of a kind of civil status register for autonomous machines. This would make it possible to identify them but also to link them to bodies that would cover their legal liability.
The Committee also notes the social challenge of replacing human workers with machines. It calls on the Parliament to reflect on how the European social model could evolve while "The development of robotics and artificial intelligence could result in robots performing many of the tasks once performed by humans. ".
At the heart of this issue is the question of the sustainability of social security systems. Until now, most of the financing of social security, pension or unemployment insurance has been based on deductions from employees' wages. The employer, likewise, contributes each time he employs a human being. On the other hand, when he employs a machine to replace a human, he no longer contributes anything.
In a society that tends to destroy jobs faster than it creates them, or to shift more and more of the workload to non-human entities, the sustainability of the payroll tax base becomes a concern. Luxembourg MEP Mady Delvaux, who is in charge of the task force on robotics and artificial intelligence, therefore proposes to the European Commission " to consider the need to define notification requirements for companies on the extent and share of the contribution of robotics and artificial intelligence to their financial results, for tax and social security contribution calculation purposes ». In other words, companies could be taxed on the turnover they achieve through automated production. These sums could be allocated to the social security budget.
Faced with the inevitability of replacing human labour with machines, the question of a basic universal income arises. This question comes up against financing problems that could be solved by taxing the production of machines. This is what the MEP believes, stating: "This is the only way to ensure a basic universal income. In view of the potential labour market effects of robotics and artificial intelligence, serious consideration should be given to the introduction of a basic universal income. ".