Statement on the recent robot citizenship story

This blogpost has been subsumed

James Vincent got way better quotes out of me and did better fact checking, please read his awesome article on Pretending to give a robot citizenship helps no one.


That a country that denies citizenship to 90% of its residents [er, maybe 33% depends on source], until a few weeks ago denied driving to 50% of its citizens, and more generally has an atrocious human rights record would trivialise human rights by extending citizenship to a robot is no surprise at all.

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I suspect this is a publicity stunt aimed at diversifying the Saudi Arabian economy, something that they are no doubt as desperate to do as the rest of the world, but they are also in a worse place than most not only because of their human rights record and the impact of climate change on their country. Note that the UAE became the first country to appoint a cabinet minister of AI just 5 days before the SA move, and that move itself came after a major meeting on AI in Dubai.  Perhaps Saudi Arabia hopes to hire those put off by current efforts to increase diversity in the tech workplace.

For a detailed discussion of the costs and benefits of AI legal personhood, see my recent academic article (open access) written with two leading law scholars on robot legal personhood, 
 See also quite a few of my blogposts under the label "ethics", particularly 
My web page on AI & Ethics, which includes links to my other academic papers.

Another point: in my opinion the OECD is moving in the right direction on this. I've just attended and contributed to their event, "AI: Intelligent Machines, Smart Policies" and also attended a similar meeting last year. See their Going Digital pages and reports.

Contact (I'm in New Jersey the next three days, through 31 October inclusive.)