Very soon we will have highly intelligent robots that may be called “electronic persons”. There has been a proposal from the European Parliament to call working robots as “electronic persons” and also that their owners should pay social security on their behalf.
From this link it isn’t clear whether the European Parliament is rooting for the rights of robotic persons or they are trying to protect the rights of humans who will be losing their jobs in droves once robots become more intelligent and start replacing humans at workplaces.
Such ethical questions are bound to arise as more and more robots begin to think like humans. Now, there is a very big difference between “thinking like humans” and “feeling like humans”. What gives an entity an identity? What makes an entity a person? Animals have feelings but we treat them terribly. Hardly there are any rights for animals although there are many animal rights organisations.
According to the proposal, all smart autonomous robots should be classified under a central registry, with funds to cover their liability, and robot owners and manufacturers should be required to buy insurance.
Robot manufacturers differ on this. They think it will create unnecessary hurdles and will stunt the growth of robotics. They believe that it’s too early to call intelligent robots as “persons”. It may happen in 50 years, but not in near future.